Monday, January 20, 2014

Dearly Loved Humanity

            I was at a parade one year, looking at all the people around me.  Jelly bellies, beer guts, gray hair, wrinkles, missing teeth, gangly arms, pimples, glasses, bald spots, age spots.  And my first thought was, What a sorry bunch of people we are!  And then I thought, These are the people that God loves so much!  How much He loves this sorry group of people!

            Have you ever taken the time to look past their rough exteriors and really see the humanity in the people around you?  The way someone’s eyes light up when they talk about something they love?  The way the shy kid watches everyone else from afar?  The way someone gets that far-off look when they are remembering something?  The way two old friends embrace each other?
            Take a moment to watch the people around you, the ones you usually rush past without a glance.  Look past their outer shells, past their unpleasant attitudes.  See the eyes that shine and those that glisten with tears.  Listen to the excitement in someone’s voice or that little bit of trembling.  Watch the way the children eat up life in great big bites.  The way the elderly cherish every second while watching the young ones play on the floor.  Hear the pleas from everyone to be noticed, to be seen.  We brush shoulders with so many people each day, and yet we fail to really see the humanness that connects us.
            I love to see people being themselves, authentically themselves.  I particularly love it when someone can’t stop smiling when they are talking about a passion of theirs.  Gardening, snails, wild turkeys, math, maps, hiking, boating, their family, their faith.  It is such an honor and a privilege to hear someone talk about something they love, to see them shine from the inside out, to see them come to life as they let others into their own, private world.
            On one of those singing shows recently, one of the rather shy contestants had just finished singing a song.  He had done a great job!  It was a soul-stirring kind of performace.  And you could tell that he was just so proud of himself.  He was just beaming from the inside, a really rare glimpse into his heart.  And it really touched my heart to see the joy that lit up his whole face, to see his humanity shining through.  Because I know that it takes vulnerability to share our joys and our pains with others, to open up our hearts and let people see what's really inside.  We don’t want to be mocked or brushed aside or belittled.  And so when someone does open up a little piece of their heart, I admire it and feel blessed by it.     
            I have thought about that moment often – the singer with the smiling eyes.  Because I long for more of that, to connect with the humanity in other people.  To glimpse their realness and let them glimpse mine.  To share the joys and the pains with someone who cares.  To really be seen for who I am.  Those moments are so rare in my world.  Others just don’t seem to care, aren’t trustworthy enough.  They are too busy with their own lives to worry about anyone else’s.  But someday. 
            Someday, in heaven, we’ll have the kind of relationships that we were made for.  Someday we’ll feel noticed, feel like we matter.  Someday we’ll have others to encourage us and cheer us on and support us, to share our joys with.  Someday. 
            But until then, I’m trying to do what I can to notice others, to really see them.  Because I have learned the deep joy that comes with knowing that I matter to God, that He really sees me.  Even when very few others do.  And I am learning to be content with that.  And so now, I turn my focus outward and see if I can spread a little of that joy to someone else who desperately needs it. 
            Take the time to notice the humanity in the people around you.  The precious beauty inside!  Let them know that you see them.  That they matter.  After all, “For God so loved the world . . .”!  Despite our flab and thinning hair and scars and braces.  And what an honor to be a part of spreading that message to those who need to hear it!  To the sorry group of people that we are, the ones who God sees and loves and calls "worth it!"