I recently enjoyed the privilege of spending three hours with a young woman whom I have known for eight years, but have never once engaged in private conversation. We knew a lot about each other, but we did not know each other.
We do now!
It was a delight to listen to her talk, sharing about everything and nothing as she swept through a myriad of topics like family dynamics, health issues, friendships, how she copes with stress, future plans, work, modesty, and personal struggles. (Yes, we covered a lot of ground in our three hour window of time! It's what girls do!)
As we took turns talking and listening to each other I was encouraged and challenged by my young sister in a few different ways.
~ It is refreshing to spend time with young people because they have energy and enthusiasm and a zest for life that is contagious. Though they are in school or working full time, their lives are carefree, unencumbered by mortgage payments, the trials and triumphs of marriage, and the intense responsibility of raising children. They have freedom to roam and travel and try new things. Their income is their own, time is theirs to spend as they wish, and no one is dependent upon their choices and decisions.
I remember those years! I enjoyed my freedom immensely, but I do not long to have it back. I long for moments/hours/a day of freedom, but in the end, I would rather spend my time serving, thinking, planning, and impacting the lives of others, rather than my own.
There is balance to be had on both sides of the freedom coin - and those who walk the wire with wisdom (and continual adjustment) are wholly satisfied and content.
~ While she was sharing about her family life she said something that struck me, and it has been replaying in my mind all day.
She was describing the differences between her and her siblings, how she has learned to accept them "as they are" and grown to appreciate their differences, and then she said this: At the end of the day none of that matters anyway. I have siblings who are saved and who love God - what else is there? That is EVERYthing!
What a fantastic perspective!
We have the privilege of choosing our friends - we do not get to choose our family. God does that for us in His sovereign will. He places us together, good, bad, ugly and beautiful - and then commands us to love, serve, and forgive one another. We will not always get along, we will lock horns, battle over the dumbest things and the important things, offend, hurt, accuse, and ignore each other. We are sinners trying to love other sinners.
But if we keep our eyes locked on the most important thing: salvation and eternal security for those we love, we will not be crushed by the pettiness and selfishness of family life because we know it doesn't matter. Do we have saved family members? Praise the Lord! May they continue to grow in obedience and grace. Do we have family members who want no part of God? Then we must pray for them! We must pray as if their lives depended on it - because they DO! We should be found banging on the gates of heaven with our requests, asking the Lord to open their eyes so they can see Him, and accept the free gift of salvation He so willingly offers.
It is not natural for us to focus on the big picture. Our flesh likes to pick out all of the flaws and mistakes we see in others. But if we can learn to look at each other through the lens of eternity - how differently we would perceive one another! Like the Lord, we would not look at the outward appearance, but only at the HEART.
~ We cannot assume that "what we see is what we get" when observing others from a distance.
We as women are guilty of this quite often.
We see a wealthy woman and think, "Her life is nothing but ease and comfort. She wants for nothing and struggles with little."
We see a beautiful and well-put-together woman and think, "She has no idea what it is like to be ignored and passed by."
We see a woman with well-behaved children and think, "Of course she loves being a mother and speaks gently to her children. She doesn't have to deal with defiance. I would be like that too if my kids obeyed!"
We see a woman whose husband seemingly adores her and serves her continually and think, "Must be nice. I would be content and joyful if MY husband treated me that way!"
And on it goes.
But all of these thoughts and assumptions are based on APPEARANCES - not on fact. Not on truth.
We can learn about people by observing their interactions and responses to others, but we are only seeing part of the story. Unless we are willing to sit down, get cozy, and do a little investigating, we will never know the whole truth.
The wealthy woman may desire to give everything up to have her husband home with the family instead of in the office 80 hours a week. She is lonely.
The beautiful woman may have been abused and struggles daily with bitterness, fear, and forgiveness.
The woman with well-behaved children has spent hours and hours of her life training her children, taking them to Scripture, crying over them, disciplining them, and wondering if they are ever going to "get it." What we see is just a snapshot of success after countless hours of frustration and consistency.
The woman with an adoring husband may have spent the first decade of her marriage in a prison of depression and despair because of poor choices and sin, but now they are RESTORED to one another and enjoying the fruits of forgiveness.
My young sister made me see this clearly last night.
Many of my assumptions about her personality and character were correct, but there was so much more waiting to be discovered, and how thankful I am she was willing to let me bring my pick!
~ The body of Christ is not meant to be made up of pockets of people who are exactly the same.
All the teenagers over here. All of the senior citizens over there. No, no, NO! We are a BODY! We are meant to work and move and interact with each other - without boundaries and without borders.
Old people need to hold babies.
Middle aged people need to read build Lego's with a 10-year-old.
Teenagers need to change diapers.
College students need to spend time with older people to gain wisdom and insight about life.
I would be incomplete and missing out on so much in life if I only spent time with other middle-aged women trying to keep body parts from sagging while driving SUV's full of children to basketball practice.
I need to hold a newborn baby, feed a college student, hug a senior, encourage a new mom, listen to children laughing loudly while chasing each other through a park, encourage a single person, be excited for a new bride, celebrate at a retirement party, and attend a very loud concert with young people.
I need them - and they need me.
We need EACH OTHER.
And that's exactly how God intended it to be.
Thank You, Lord, for last night! I needed the time away, but You gave me so much more. You gave me PERSPECTIVE. And I am thankful!
Continue to work in the heart of my young sister as she navigates through life unaware of Your plans for her future, but trusting You with everything. Give her an intense passion for Your Word and prayer, and make her more like You day by day.