One theme I see as I reflect back on even just the last few months of my life is a recurring sense of conviction. A little voice—more my own than the voice of the Holy Spirit—saying in my head, You have a lot to learn. You have a lot to learn from this person.
See, I tend to judge a book by its cover. And I tend to “judge” a person similarly. Not in the sense that I judge by outward appearances, but in the sense that I may tend to think I have a person all figured out just based on a few interactions. And not necessarily in a critical sense (though I struggle with that too!) but more of a basic habit of boiling things down into simple categories. Oh, she’s a mom like me. Or oh, he’s a quiet engineer. Or oh, she’s a busy doctor. And so on.
And then God surprises me. And he convicts me.
Because each person has a story -– often a story I don’t know a thing about -– and that story offers me something significant. Something I can learn from. Something I am humbled by.
And so I’ve found myself saying, from a place of God-driven humiliation (the process of being humbled), Wow, I had no idea that person survived cancer.
Or I had no idea that person has been privately dealing with extremely painful marriage problems for years. . . and wow, with such grace.
Or I had no idea that person is heartbroken about a prodigal child.
Or I had no idea that person has been courageously struggling through infertility.
Or I had no idea that person used to be in trouble with the law but now his life has been radically changed by God.
Or I had no idea that person is actively involved with ministry to the urban poor.
I am surprised again and again by these stories. And I am blessed by their telling.
In each case, my quick judgments are shattered. And I realize, deep down, that I have much to learn from this person — this person I’d quantified and summed up in a millisecond. I have much, much to learn.
Because each person is living a unique story, penned by the Author of the Great Big Story we are all a part of.
I’m delightfully surprised by both the dramatic, tragic stories as well as the “normal,” everyday stories. I’m enriched by the examples of others, stunned by the grace and determination I see, and enlivened by the examples of God’s transforming love in lives of ongoing and fervent faith. I’m blessedly surprised by this community of saints – this ragamuffin band.
God, help me continue to listen and learn.
And readers, please bless others with your story.