Wrong Number Betty

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Years ago, we got a “wrong number” phone call. I answered it. The elderly lady and I had a rather lengthy and interesting conversation. Actually, we had several. It turns out our number was very similar to one of her children’s (?) numbers so she would dial me by accident. It got to be that we would talk for 20 minutes or so at a pop. I rather enjoyed our conversations. The first time she called, my family was blown away when, in answer to their inquiry as to who called, I said, “A wrong number.” It wouldn’t be long until she became endeared to us as Wrong Number Betty.

I remember one phone call that caused me to be alarmed for her. The way she talked she was at one of her children’s work places and she wanted to go home. They weren’t returning and she didn’t know how to contact them. I spoke calmly to her, sensing something drastically wrong, but felt kind of powerless to do anything but pray. I can’t remember the time frame, but I did call back and got a quizzical, “Hello?” from her son. When I explained our strange phone relationship and my concern for her he explained to me her condition. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, something like that. He said she’d be home but insisted that she was at one of their work places and they could not convince her otherwise until she came out of it. Heart breaking. Betty has since passed.

In this day and age of solicitors and scam, we usually screen our phone calls. Rarely ever do I answer a number that I don’t recognize and because of the phone plan that we have, I can’t return long distance phone calls. Uh-uh, ain’t happening. Gone are the days of the pleasantries of Wrong Number Bettys. Well, maybe not totally gone. Something happened recently that had Bob, especially, answering numbers he didn’t recognize. What happened is, when we returned from one of our camping trips we had over 20 messages on our answering machine saying they were returning our phone call. Did you catch the part where we returned? We weren’t home to call from our home phone and yet somebody was using our number like a hard hit slot machine.

When Bob called the phone company to report what was happening, (it is fraud), one of the — pardon me, I was about to type something unkind there — employees suggested that we needed to contact Panasonic, the maker of our phones. Yeah, right, ’cause Panasonic knows the numbers of every person who has ever bought a phone from them and is fraudulently using their numbers. When Bob told him we had gotten return calls from people in different states, of which we can’t call, he said, “Oh, I see you can’t call outside of your region with the phone plan that you have.” Du-u-u-h! I know, I know, you’re all shocked to discover that our phone provider did not rectify the situation and we’re still receiving “call backs” — of which we never called in the first place.

Today was the first day I answered an unknown caller. Actually, the answering machine kicked on and he was talking. My curiosity was piqued as to what kind of messages we were supposedly leaving that people felt compelled to return our call so I picked up the phone. The man was elderly and from the state of Washington. He did not receive a message from us but returned our call because he was concerned that someone in his community may have fallen and needed his assistance. Maybe it’s an elderly thing. That’s the second time I received a phone call from an elderly person that said they always return phone calls that look personal in nature. Like Wrong Number Betty, ours was an interesting conversation until he mentioned the state of the world and I said, “We need Jesus.”

“What?” he asked.

“The world needs Jesus.”

Suddenly we’re entrenched in conversation about how his mother was a devout catholic and he had to pray all day long and this displeased him. It’d displease me, too, if I felt as though I were being forced.

“That’s religion,” I said. “That’s not what Jesus is about.”

“That’s what all of you Christians say. I dumped everything and I have more peace now than I’ve ever had my entire life. I pray to whoever, and thank them for whatever, but I don’t know who I’m praying to. I just prayed that if God or Jesus is real then He’ll tell me before I die.”

Excuse me. A Christian, by his admission, not mine, answered his wrong phone call. He named me. And yet he didn’t see the irony in what he was telling me?

Somehow the conversation morphed into abortion. According to him he’s 100% pro-life and he’s 100% pro-choice. Uh, no. It doesn’t work like that. I didn’t follow him at first but I eventually realized he was trying to make it philosophical by bringing in when a soul is actually present according to different religions. Depending on when the soul enters, it’s a viable human being. This guy obviously did a lot of research and was obviously equally confused.

I’m going to explain something to you here: a soul is mind, will, and emotions. Cats have souls. Stroke one the wrong way and you’ll arouse some emotion. Dogs have a will. Give one their favorite treat and then try to take it away. They will have their treat. Many a variety of animals have been taught many a variety of tricks; they have minds.

But like I told this man, we have spirits. We are the only part of creation that is God-breathed and made in His image. And if you want to get technical, my research tells me that a baby’s heart begins to beat in approximately 22 days. Whether a woman chooses to deliver her baby or not does not change the fact that it is a baby. It was as if I wasn’t talking. He went on to tell me how so-n-so sent him a tract that looked like a million dollars and when you open it there’s a picture of a baby inside. Our phone connection was crackling worse and he seemed like he was shooting shotgun in the attempt something would hit.

“I’m not following you,” I said.

“They’re trying to say that a baby is worth a million dollars.”

“But it is. And more.”

I think that was actually the point when he brought up the soul thing.

“Have you ever seen a video of an abortion?” I asked him.

“Oh yes,” he sounded almost jovial.

“They feel pain,” I said. “They try to get away from the (doctor’s) instruments.”

He snickered.

My anger was aroused. “That’s not funny. That’s murder.”

He plead “lots of calls coming in” that he needed to return and hung up.

That strange conversation clung to me like a spider’s web.

The propensity for density in some people is mind blowing to me.

Believe it or not, as a stay at home mom, I used to look forward to these types of phone calls. Since I was not in the work place, I thought maybe I could somehow make a difference in those who entered my home via phone.

At one point in our conversation the man from Washington asked me if I knew what all of the various types of religions have in common. I did not. “You’re all right,” he said. “None of you are wrong about anything.”

That was an interesting concept. I’d like to interject that people can be wrong but God is always right.

I’m shaken because I feel like I was ineffectual. I’m shaken at wondering how many people think like him. But my faith is intact. I just talked with God this morning and received wonderful revelation that I am hoping to share with you soon in the form of a testimony. He walked with me throughout today and will be with me as I drift off to sleep tonight. Jesus, God, Holy Spirit — they’re all real, very real. I hope that man’s prayer is answered, that God does make Himself real to him. I also hope he realizes Him when He comes. Do you ever wonder how much of God we miss because we simply aren’t paying attention? I do.

I feel like closing with a prayer today.

Dear LORD,

There’s a lost and dying world out there. You alone are the answer they seek and You are in me. Make me aware of where You’re going so that I may go, too. Make me aware of what You’re saying so that I may speak it, too. Make me aware of what You’re doing so that I may do it, too. Oh God, help me to love like You love and not be so wrapped up in my own small and selfish world that I miss the opportunity to be Jesus to somebody who’s in need of You. Thank You. I love You. Amen.

I hope you joined me in this prayer. Let us consider that the “calls” that we initially interpret as “wrong numbers” may turn out to be opportunities to minister God’s grace. Dear God, help us to not miss a single call.

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My husband and I married over 20 years ago on a chilly, rainy, spring day. One year later caught me in a whirlwind as I was celebrating my first wedding anniversary, my first Mother's Day, and my first publication as a freelance writer. The birth of our third child followed a couple months after we celebrated our twins' 3rd birthday. Though a pen has been one of my constant companions, I have not pursued writing professionally due to the monumental task of homemaking and the raising of children. A shout out to my Robert who has been our sole provider while I have had the pleasure and privilege of remaining home with our children to homeschool them. Now, thanks to him, I have the liberty to once again pursue my passion to write and encourage others in written word as we journey with God through life experiences.

2 thoughts on “Wrong Number Betty”

  1. So often, were left pondering things, but let us not forget the possibility that the gentleman in Washington was left pondering too. We often beat ourselves up, believing we were ineffective. It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance, not our best attempt. We’re merely called to plant the seeds and entrust God to bring the harvest. I love you, dear friend!


    1. Thanks for the reminder. I recently told someone that we’re not responsible for the results; it’s only failure when we don’t do what God has “called” (see what I did there?) us to do.


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