I once was invited to a birthday party for a fellow girl scout. It was what I dreaded: a swim party, which meant the inevitable swimsuit.
I loved this friend, and I wanted to be with my friends. So of course I went.
But I just couldn’t do it. I sauntered to the side and just grazed on the snacks instead of getting in the water. Even when I was little, crowds were exhausting.
Her sister happened to see me to the side so she came over and sat with me. There was something about her that just seemed apparent. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. As we talked, I could see more clearly that this girl was struggling. Hard. Deeply. Painfully. Raw. Struggle. And I could tell that she too was exhausted.
I never said anything to her about it. I might have been too young to really realize exactly what I was noticing, but I was observant enough to notice. You see, I’m also a glorified people watcher. Years of sitting in the stands of Ranger Stadium watching people interact with people, people doing what people do. I found it so much more fascinating than a ball being thrown around. And when you’re a watcher, you figure out responses and triggers and feelings that rely on being incognito to the unaware. I would watch two people argue. I couldn’t hear a word they said, but I could in my own mind, figure out who was right and who needed to apologize. Or maybe in my mind neither were right and they just needed to let it go. It’s weird, I know, but it’s just that I notice differently than normal people.
Years later, I just so happened to stumble across her blog. Literally. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but I found something that I had forgotten I had noticed.
And oh, oh, my heart.
I was right.
She was struggling.
You see, her story isn’t mine to tell, so I will only go as deep as her blog has already gone. She married a man, became a teacher. She also developed a drinking habit, because the life she was living she knew was a lie. I assume she took alcohol the way that I take a deep breath: to forget. She finally caught some air, divorced her husband, and found a love in yoga and in another woman. The story she tells will break your heart and make you remember why you’re a human.
It’s interesting that our lives intersected for just a brief stop sign and I find it funny that of all of the things I’ve forgotten, I remember that small conversation we had at a pool party. Present Allison would love to go back and give Past Allison insight, words, and gumption to offer this girl hope. Yet I think in that we intersected just enough so that my heart would recognize that I wasn’t the only one who struggled.
Being aware is more than just being perceptive. It’s about careful consideration of the human heart and all of its facets, of which I am no expert, but I do notice its strange ways of opening up to awareness. She probably has no idea that I figured out anything about her, or maybe she does, or maybe she did and she forgot. It would all make sense.
I see it as this. In a book I read, a king had just died and the son was about to become king. The king’s faithful, loyal servant was explaining to the son his role to his father and what that role meant to the son. The servant told the son the understood the king. In the ancient sense of the word. The literal meaning. He stood under the king and supported him in the ways that the king didn’t even know that he wanted or needed or even knew he was.
I take this as a gesture of the heart: to stand under someone and truly understand them is a gift that Jesus died to offer us. And we’re not meant to process all of it, or make sense of it all. God is mysterious and his understanding of us is a delicate process full of mystery and intrigue and trust.
So isn’t the least that we can do is to understand each other?
Is it risky? The beaver in Narnia laughed at that question. “Safe? I never said anything about safe. But He is the King, I tell you.” Love is a risk. But it’s a risk we are called to take, charged to accept, and asked to understand.Read More