It is easy to frolic through life while seeing others on the surface level. For better or for worse, we'll make snappy assumptions about others based on how their attitude, appearance, or employment. This week, however, I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of personal encounters with other people. Whether walking to fetch the mail before a severe storm or bringing our car to the auto repair shop, God often surprised me with powerful, brief conversations that would spring up between myself and other people. Throughout my life, I have discovered that when we try to be fully present to others, a deeper story may emerge.
It may emerge. Or, it may not.
I think that sometimes, in a zeal to be present to others, we can enthusiastically, repeatedly remind people that, "I'm here for you, so if you have anything you need to tell me, let me know." While this is a very noble and beautiful service to others, we can at times get a little too curious and eager in our willingness. Yes, we want to help other people, but we also really, really want to know what's going on in their lives. We want to know that they think so highly of us that they will entrust their deep, heartfelt stories to our open ears. This knowledge makes us feel good, like we are worthy of holding an invaluable treasure. If people do not open up to us after we offer a listening ear one, two, or five times, we can feel that we are inadequate. We can start to over analyze why their story is not emerging. "I must not be trustworthy," "Does she not consider me her friend?" and "Why won't he just tell me what's going on?" can all run through our minds.
The fact of the matter is that the personal stories and experiences of others are priceless treasures.
When we encounter other individuals on a very personal level, we are given a glimpse into their very souls, passions, and struggles. Some people will share these treasured stories with us, and others will hold them silently in their hearts-and that is perfectly fine. Each person processes events and thoughts differently, and it is extremely important to respect the privacy and intimacy that each individual needs. Instead of thinking about my curiosity or a desire to be taken into someone's confidence, I have found it much more beneficial to simply be present with other people. Not setting expectations for conversations or encounters, but instead simply enjoying being in the presence of another completely unique, irreplaceable, unrepeatable human being. If the other person extends a delicate gem from his or her innermost heart, then we can hold it gently with appreciation and offer our prayers for the other person. But, if another's story does not emerge, we can still rejoice in the powerful, beautiful opportunity we have been given to encounter him or her.
This week marks National Infertility Awareness Week. Some people, like Jessica, have powerfully and publicly shared about the reality of infertility. Other people hold back in silence. Regardless of whether or not their particular stories emerge publicly, countless married couples walk through life facing the questioning gazes of neighbors, friends, and family. With the best of intentions, people want to know if a couple is trying to have children, wants to have children, or is suffering through infertility.
To put it quite bluntly, it's not any of our business.
Instead of wondering about why other couples do or do not have children, let us focus on nurturing our friendships and being fully present to others in our conversations. Experience the powerful ways in which God works through personal encounters-and do not worry about a non-emerging story.