At this phase in my life I don’t have very many people that I interact with on a daily basis that know me well enough that if they see that I’m upset they will push in a little bit. There was a time in my life where that included pretty much everyone I interacted with on a daily basis and it felt like I couldn’t leave the house unless I was ready to be asked about every emotion I had. To be fair, I usually wear my feelings on my sleeve, so it’s not that hard to figure out how I’m feeling. But, when all the sudden all the people you see often are new in your life, the number of people that can tell how you’re feeling the second they look at you, and then feel they have the right to actually ask about it shrinks to a handful pretty quickly. It’s easier to hide when things aren’t well. Which is initially a relief, but after the fact leaves me feeling pretty alone. You know what I mean? That moment when you are determined to hold it together, and prove everything is fine, and then you succeed… it feels awful because in reality everything is not fine and you just successfully deceived people that actually care about you. It’s not a good feeling in the end. I cracked a bit in front of some of my people that do know me here the other day and I had no idea how they would react. I wasn’t sure if they really knew why I was crying, or believed my initial explantation… and I was pretty embarrassed to say the least. It was not one of those moments where extra expression felt all that helpful. But that moment that comes when your shield cracks, despite your best efforts, provides and opportunity for your people to get the chance to love you when you’re ugly and falling apart. And in moments where you only have a few people that you give that chance, it feels so important when the moment comes. What will they do? Do they even realize they are special just by seeing me like this? Will they take the chance to speak love, or will they help protect the idea that we all have a shield and keep going?
I love a quote by David Ausburger that says, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” I feel that so much. Even though I’ve been in Athens almost a year now, it often still feels pretty new. I’m not used to being the new person in any situation, so I’m really aware when someone here in my new life sits and looks at me, and asks questions, and actually listens. One of my people that saw me have a melt down came after me today and took the chance to listen and say, “I see you, I hear you, and I love you.” And that makes all the difference in the world.
So. How are you? Are you feeling lonely? Are you thinking that you have to put on your happy face even when you’re sad? Well friends, do you feel lonely and unknown because you are hiding who you really are? We often lament not feeling known, or not feeling understood… but at the end of the day have we even given our people a chance? Have we shown any ounce of sadness or fear or pain? Have we let it be known that we need? If you are feeling isolated find a person who claims they love you, and actually give them a chance to do so. Trying to deal with things ALONE actually makes your feel MORE alone. And on the flip side— be that friend! When you see someone hurting— push in! Because what if you don’t? Don’t assume anyone else will. We love to look the other way…what a missed opportunity to love. The person will let you know if your love isn’t welcome… but I’m gunna guess that it is.
That being said. The love of your people is great, but people aren’t everything. Having people that love you is so nice— and the whole point I’m trying to express is to share the love! Give it and take it—choose to let yourself be loved. But you can’t count on people to carry your pain, and you can’t count on yourself to carry someone else’s. But what’s so much more than that is incomparable love of Christ. Because He is always okay with the meltdowns. He is a really good listener, and always sees you. He can handle the pain, sadness, the hurt, and the anger (even when it’s directed at Him). Give your people the chance to love you—because that’s a good and beautiful thing… but don’t confuse the love of people for real love. The love of Christ is the love that never leaves us or forsakes us. Good grief sometimes it’s confusing— I’ll give you that. But it’s real, and it’s here for you. I’m so thankful for my people, my παρέα, and my Lord.