I’m sitting at Panera on a Sunday afternoon. I got here early enough to snag a booth for my laptop and me, but as the lunch crowd has grown I’ve grown self-conscious. People are probably mad that I’m taking up a whole booth, I think. I should get up and move. But as I crane my neck to look for a smaller table, preferably one near an outlet, I only see people settling into chairs or carrying trays of sandwiches and salads.
No problem. I’ll just get up to refill my cup, and while I’m walking to the drink station, I’ll look for a table.
So I do. I slide out of my booth, refill my cup with iced tea, eyes darting around the restaurant to locate a seat that won’t impose on other customers quite as much. I don’t see anything, so I go back to my booth, slide in and start to stick my earbuds back in my ears. That’s when she tapped me on the shoulder.
I look up into the smiling face of an older woman who says, gently, “I’d want someone to tell me . . . so . . .”
She then kindly informed me that the back of my skirt — an overly long, full affair that had been annoying me all day long — was caught in my waistband. As she saw the horror appear in my eyes, she reassured me that nobody had seen a thing because (thankfully) I was wearing a slip. We chuckle about how my mom raised me right (right = wearing a slip under skirts, obviously), and I thank her profusely. She walked back to her table, and I sat at mine, no longer worried about offending customers by taking up a table meant for four.
Clearly, I had bigger, more humiliating offenses to worry about!
The coincidence — or more accurately — the painfully tangible confirmation of something God has recently taught me makes me chuckle. I’m here, now at a corner table near an outlet, to work on a writing project, one that relies on Scripture more than anything I’ve ever written. Just a few weeks ago, I messaged my manager, double checking that an editor would carefully review my work before it reaches the public. I’ve grown up in the church and know Scripture fairly well, but a biblical scholar I am not. Not even close! And the thought of making a mistake with the Word of God and of that mistake being left uncovered or un-fixed for all the world to see was enough to bring on small bursts of panic (and not a small amount of writer’s block!). My manager assured me that editors and experts would check my work; they wouldn’t publish any heresy with my name on it.
It wasn’t long ago that asking for an editor would be the last thing this perfectionistic and prideful writer would have done. After all, I’m not just a writer; I’m also an editor. What could anyone possibly teach me?!
Yikes. I know. That line of thought is ugly, but it’s real. Thankfully, though, it’s growing faint as God teaches me to be teachable, as He’s showing me to hold my words and my knowledge and even my convictions loosely in light of His Truth. It’s not been easy; peeling off layers of pride never is. But it’s been good. It’s been good to recognize my sin and feel God’s prompting to let it go and to grow into someone who may not know everything but truly knows the One who does.
When the woman at Panera pointed out my exposed backside, I was mortified. I could feel my face burn bright pink as she patted my shoulder, and I couldn’t decide if her kindness made the whole situation better or worse. When she left me alone, I sat staring at my laptop screen. What do I do now? I wondered. I could have buried my head, I could have gathered my misbehaving skirt and left, I could have texted my friend who convinced me to buy the skirt and inform her that my humiliation was all her fault.
Instead of all that I chose to covertly (ha!) yank my skirt back into respectability and move across the aisle to the table with the outlet for my low-battery laptop. I wouldn’t say I held my head high, but I did think for a while about how many people saw me and didn’t say anything, about how one woman braved an uncomfortable conversation with a stranger and did.
As she finished her lunch and left, she stopped by my new table. I pulled out an earbud and looked up. She smiled and said, “Remember our deal.” I smiled politely and nodded, not sure what she meant at first. But then I realized she meant that we’d made a deal to tell someone when her slip is showing. And then I smiled for real.
Though embarrassing, a twisted skirt, a tag on the outside, or a typo are easy gaffes to point out or to have pointed out to us. But sometimes we need our sisters to gently tell us we’ve made larger mistakes. When a friend keeps making excuses for her harmful choices, we need to be brave enough to talk to her about it. And when a friend approaches us about our recent slide back into old habits, ones we vowed to never pick up again, we have a choice. We can react with anger or run and hide, or we can thank her for having the courage to say something.
Sometimes we need to be guided or reminded; we need to be taught the Truth or pulled back to what we knew deep down. And sometimes we need to be the brave one to tell someone else. It’s easy to notice and look away, to snicker or point, to assume it’s not your problem or your business. It’s much harder to gently let someone know her slip is showing.
But as my new friend in Panera reminded me today, “I’d want someone to tell me.” And like I told her (and repeated to myself), I’m so glad she did.We may not know everything, but we know the One who does. - @marycarver: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Whoa! I didn’t see that one coming! Thank you for going beyond gratitude to “deal”making with this post. I want to be the kind of friend who speaks brave truth into a life that has gone off the rails in little ways and in catastrophic ways, and I know this has to happen in uncomfortable space, at least initially.
But, as your good Panera friend said, “I’d want someone to tell me . . .”
Mary Carver says
Her words have just rung in my ears since that afternoon. I’m terrified of confrontation, but I really WOULD want someone to tell me…
Jolene Underwood says
LOVE! I think of this phrase often and have been planning a post around it so yours caught my attention right away. I had my slip and dress caught many years ago. Oh my goodness, it was so embarrassing. Your story shares how we need sisters to help us see the things we cannot and I just love that! It’s hard to do, but so helpful when it’s the loving way to grow alongside of each other. When we have safe and intimate friendships, we have a place for growth to flourish.
Thank you for sharing this story and for saying, ” we need our sisters to gently tell us we’ve made larger mistakes.” Thank for giving us an idea of what that looks like.
Mary Carver says
Yes, you’re so right – we desperately need safe, close friendships for just this reason (and more, obviously)!
Sarah Geringer says
This is such a true and funny story, because I can imagine myself in the exact same situation. Thank you for reminding me to be humble and teachable, Mary!
Mary Carver says
You’re welcome, Sarah! I’m definitely “preaching” to myself, too! 🙂
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
You know that I’ve gone to stores and asked where I can find slips and they look at me like I’m from another planet??!! I’ve had to settle for wearing a spanx slip under skirts (two for one, right?). Well, one morning I walked into church, much like you paraded in Panera, and thank goodness a sister in Christ pointed out my embarrassing Vogue faux-pas. It is truly humbling!! But, maybe we need to be humbled before the Lord every now and then. We can gloss over our sins, but we can’t gloss over out backsides hanging out for all to see lol. I love this quote: ” It’s been good to recognize my sin and feel God’s prompting to let it go and to grow into someone who may not know everything but truly knows the One who does.” Amen! As I get older, God has been molding this stubborn, know-it-all perfectionist into someone who can admit she doesn’t know the answers but can point with assuredness to the One who does! Love this post and your ability to laugh at yourself. I see God winking 😉
Mary Carver says
Oh yes, the need to be humbled. How hard that is for us know-it-all perfectionists! Of course, that’s why we need it all the more, right? Thanks for getting me, Bev. <3 (Also, full disclosure, my "slip" is actually nylon pettipants – which are just as hard to find as a regular slip!)
Priscilla McKnight Randle says
Such a good article. Thank you for your transparency – it brings more healing than you may ever know.
Mary Carver says
Thank you for your kind words, Priscilla. I’m so glad this was encouraging to you!
This was so refreshing, and the simple act of kindness from a stranger stood out. While I don’t know everything, (not even close), as I learn new things, I am grateful to know God, who does.
Thank-you Mary for sharing your words with us.
Have a blessed day all,
Mary Carver says
Yes! I’m so grateful to know the God who knows it all, too. Thank you for being part of the community here, Penny!
WOW. I loved this. Your real honesty. At 66 yrs, i think i know a lot but in reality, what do i really know? But we do KNOW the ONE who KNOWS it ALL. THANK YOU MARY for this great post.
Mary Carver says
Oh, you’re so welcome, Missy. Thank you for reading and commenting here!
Beth Williams says
Thanks for sharing that funny, humiliating story with us. So grateful for Godly Christian women who come to us & tell us like it is. They don’t judge condemn they just tell you the truth. We all need to better know the One who does know it all! This reminds me of a devotional in my Women’s Devotional Bible “Cramming for Finals”: A ninety-six year old lady was a faithful attendant at women’s club Bible studies. She came with lessons prepared and knew all the answers. One day a tactless member asked her, ‘Why do you work so hard on these lessons when you’re so old and it doesn’t matter?’ Little Bess Elkins looked up and said confidently, ‘I’m cramming for my finals.’ It is never too late to get ready for finals. It takes desire to learn and it does take preparation so when the great target appears we’ll be able to hit the bull’s eye. We must always be prepared to give an answer for our hope. We must be ready to help other women in their walk also!
Pearl Allard says
Beth, that is an awesome story! “Cramming for finals”! I love it! Thanks for sharing that.
Mary Carver says
Beth! I love that story, too. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to remember that – cramming for finals!! 🙂
Marie Bungard says
Speaking truth into my life or someone else’s is often difficult. The perspective you shared makes it worth the time to listen.
Blessings to you and yours!
Nicole Goodly says
Excellent and thought provoking read! It’s not easy to hear that “your slip is showing” but you definitely gain a newfound respect for the person that cared enough to tell you and guide you in the right direction.
I love this so much! I feel exactly the same in my writing. I want to make sure I only speak truth, but that also means being humble enough for correction. And I need to remember to choose it, because willingly humbling myself is always more comfortable than being humbled by force!
Thank you for these very wise words!
Theresa Boedeker says
Yes, we need to lovingly point out things to one another. When our slip is showing and when we are straying off course. I know I have shown my slip and even less before.
This story reminded me of the time I was a teen and my mom went out to nurse my newest sibling during church. Well, she must have caught up my sibling and her skirt and slip all at the same time. She marched into church and down the isle to our seats exposing more of herself than I had seen, even in shorts. I was mortified and thought mom was embarrassing. She sat down and one of us whispered to her that she had grabbed up more than the baby. “Well,” she said, “if no one had seen underwear before today, well now they had.” Her answer mortified me even more as a delicate teen. But now I applaud her for not letting her mistake ruin her day.