So, today was the third of the annual meetings of this year’s dinner club . As it happens, one of the people in our group forgot which weekend the dinner club meeting was, and went out of town for an anniversary event with his wife, who realized a bit too late that they would miss the dinner club. Ironically enough, I had bought salad dressing the husband’s name on it, and I decided to troll him by posting a short video of the salad dressing bottle and sharing it on Facebook with his name. Among my vices, I suppose, is a certain love of witty teasing with others, teasing which tends to hit unerringly and often unintentionally at sensitive areas. It is the sort of humor that one can enjoy, so long as one is not the target of such witty barbs. All too often, though, such wit is directed at ourselves, and like a cutter who slashes at the delicate veins in her own wrists, a witty person can easily slice at one’s own vulnerable feelings and the delicate sensitivities of others, because sometimes to hurt is the only way one knows one is alive after all.
While I drank tea and chatted with the ladies, the guys were mostly outside looking at a broken grill whose days of useful grilling were done. This was lamentable, as the theme of tonight’s dinner club was grilling, and most of us had brought chicken, with the rest bringing steak, to grill. So they were grilled on cast iron skillets on the stove by one of the hosts. Despite missing two people, we ended up with a few more people eating with us than expected, since we had a couple of teens who were playing hooky from the teen Bible study going on this evening as well, but who kept to themselves for the most part and seldom interacted with the adults. For our part, once the meat had been grilled indoors, we took our conversation outside and ate in the cool of the darkening evening, talking about funny stories of travel experiences and illnesses, of work life and family life, of retirement and of plans for the future, of dramatic life experiences and the events that make a life truly epic.
Fairly early in the evening, about 8PM, we lost our first two people to a desire to go to sleep early. The rest of us stayed, ate much of the food that was left, and continued talking. We talked about relationships, about music and dance, and about our most embarrassing stories of sickness involving inside jokes. During various points in the conversation, I made reference to a fairly recent inside joke. For example, when the teens seemed a bit reluctant to list the ten commandments because they only wanted to focus on fundamental matters of faith, I commented to the woman beside me that they could list the fundamental beliefs, like my much older dinner guests last night struggled with at her house. It is not only teenagers, after all, that struggle with the fundamentals. Shortly thereafter, I made a joke about GFL, that is, God’s Food Laws, one of the twenty fundamental beliefs of the organization I attend, which happened to come up in the conversation. I happen to be someone who loves inside jokes, references to shared experiences and knowledge that make others feel like privileged insiders in a conversation with me, and enrich the enjoyment of life and conversation by adding layers of meaning.
As the night went on, it became time to drop one of the teens home, since she didn’t have a change of clothes and wasn’t spending the night. Shortly thereafter, it was time for me to go home as well, not too far away. Before that though, the conversation took a dark turn as we reflected on the ravages of PTSD. Several of us, after all, had survived some pretty awful experiences, and had known plenty of other people with harrowing life stories as well. I spoke of my own panicky reactions as a young adult in Ghana when a girl I was babysitting playfully jumped on me, causing me to freeze in terror, and of some of the painful experiences of some of the dear teens and young adults I had the opportunity to teach in Thailand, and of my own sadness at reflecting upon the burdens of their lives, and their own hopes and dreams despite everything. Another person spoke of songs and propeller planes reminding her of painful experiences of the German occupation of her hometown when she was a small child, memories that never seem to fade, even with the long passage of time. Do we ever really get over our traumas and our hurts as long as we live? If not, let us hope at least that they drive us to be more compassionate people towards the wounds and brokenness and struggles of others, if we struggle to find peace of mind for our own troubled minds. If we must be broken, let our brokenness at least serve to give glory to God, the potter who breaks us for purposes we cannot even fathom.
 See, for example: