But, do you know what my favorite thing about people is? It’s moments when you meet someone new, or get to know someone you’ve already met and you are able to breathe. You are able to breathe because something about them puts you at ease. Something about them lets you know that they appreciate you. Something about them lets you know that, even though you have little ability to hold in your thoughts and emotions, that they accept you and that, more than that, that you are not alone.
I’ve experienced this often at home to various degrees with various kinds of people. I have been fortunate to be loved on and accepted by many and I am so aware of the ways that these people in my life have shown me God’s love in a very real way.
I imagine that breath-holding release to be only a small taste of what it would be like to be with Jesus. To know every single one of your downfalls, every single one of your quirks, your imperfections and your screw ups are known and yet to be sitting with the God of the universe and somehow be made to feel accepted, embraced, at ease.
And, it’s because of that. It’s because of this incredible God I serve that I long to be that for someone else. I long to be that person who emanates Christ’s love in such a real way that the people around me don’t have to pretend, don’t have to hide, don’t have to hold their breath to hide the raw and messy beauty that is in their hearts.
As I settle into a new life, in another part of the world, I have wrestled. I have missed my family. I have missed my home. I have missed my people but, more than that, I have missed being known.
You know, that ‘I can just sit with you and laugh with you or cry with you because you know me so well and I know there is never any judgement or pretense’ kind of feeling? That safety and comfort that comes from trusting someone with your ugliest thoughts and still feeling loved while also somehow feeling encouraged and accountable to not just sit in your messiness but to seek Christ in it and find out what He’s teaching you so He can have all the glory?
I’ve missed that because everyone is new but, I have also caught glimpses of that here. From our group of friends at training who plunged into the unknown territory of language and cross cultural learning with us on day 1 of friendship to the friendly faces here in the Highlands offering rides, orientations, play dates, meals and coffee dates. I have caught glimpses of God’s unconditional and judgement free love. I have caught myself, on more than one occasion, being able to breathe a little, relax a little and smile a little and I am thankful.
It’s not always going to be easy. I am a Christ-loving, heart on my sleeve, slightly chaotic, extroverted mother of four who doesn’t do the cooking, often wonders why her kids can’t sit still or talk in ‘inside voices’ and feels like a better mom when she is able to work outside of the home and that’s not easy to lay on someone when you first meet.
There are perceived expectations, especially as we have moved into the role of being missionaries but, you know what God is pressing on my heart?
It’s ok and, more than that, it’s necessary here to be real.
I am living in a community plagued with transition, here to minister to a group of teenagers who have had to say hundreds of goodbyes and hellos in their lifetime – a community where a third of the people you meet are likely going on furlough in a few short months and where time is of the essence. As I look around, I see an amplified need for authenticity and I’m starting to think that God can use my messiness, my inability to hold all my quirks in and my innate desire to be with people, regardless of how long I’ve known them, for His glory.
So, I’m asking God to help me move forward, to help me be real, to give me the courage daily to put other people at ease even if it means showing them all my cards right away. To choose to love them in the accepting, non-judgemental way of Christ and to trust God with the care and protection of my heart while rooting myself firmly in His love for me. To choose openness, messiness and vulnerability over impressive facades and safe distances.
To step out of my door each day, on the other side of the world as ‘my people,’ and to be that reflection of my Father for someone else. To give someone else permission to breathe out and, along the way, to continue to find a community of people here that will love and accept me – messiness and all.
Relationships are hard but also the only part of life that gets me out of bed each day so I have a feeling it’s worth the effort, that it won’t be easy and that God will no doubt refine my mess in the process.
I will keep you posted and, in the meantime, may my ‘people’ back home know how their messages, their texts, their notes and their comments are spurring me on and giving me the extra encouragement I need to step out that door each day into more unknown.
You are tangible expressions of God’s unconditional love in my life and the instruments God has used to remind me of the sweet freedom that can be found if I just stop holding my breath.