The car was crammed and I think we were all laughing about something. Probably. We were probably laughing, or singing along to Taylor Swift as one of her songs played through the speakers. He spoke a bit louder than the laughter, louder than the music. Just enough so that we’d pay attention to what he had to say–“Selfishly, I wish that woman hadn’t sat down and talked with us…because now I’m thinking about her, ya know?” He shook his head. “Like if I pretend that she’s a character, I don’t really have to think about her, but I am because she’s not a character…she’s a person.”
“Yeah…” was really all I could think to say.
The food was delicious. I make it a point to get Pad Thai every time I go to a new Thai restaurant because it’s the most basic entree on the menu and I like comparing different flavors of the same dish. With sleep dragging my eyelids farther down my face, I was trying to concentrate on the noodles and peanut sauce–admittedly, I wasn’t in the mood for deep conversation. We kept talking and I jokingly made a comment resembling, “Well, I told God this is how it was gonna go…” I had naively kind of told God something, but I’m old enough to know that He doesn’t operate according to my demands. (Consequently, it’s astounding how quickly I forget this.) Everyone laughed and then she said, “I mean, the Lord is out to ruin our lives.”
“Honestly, yeah…” was all I could really think to say.
Connection and Interruption. These are the two things (I’m kicking myself, because I can’t think of a better word than “things” right now) that the above stories have in common. I’ve come to realize that I have an issue with both. Why? Well, because both interruption and connection leave me exposed, open to the elements, naked in front of the people I’m with, vulnerable, defenses down. The part of me that wants to pretend she’s gotten a hang of “this-whole-life-thing” would rather not talk about my erratic fear of exposure, the irritation in interruption, or the clamor of connection. But I don’t have things figured out, and I’m growing as a person, so here we are…
Last week I spent time in Atlanta, Georgia for RUF intern training–one of my favorite weeks attached to this job. It’s a beautiful week of the following: good teaching, belly laughter, a few tears, and quality time with some other really awesome interns. I love it. I say it all the time, but it really is impossible to leave an RUF training and not be reminded of the fact that God is at work–not only that, but that He is for you, that He loves you, and is desperately trying to pursue and change you to be more like Him. It’s wonderful. I’m back in State College now, and I’m trying to process the week–what I loved about it, what I learned, what stuck out to me, why I feel like a part of me is lost in the middle of the Westin lobby, sitting on that sculpture that’s not actually meant for sitting, but always manages to be used as a bench anyway. I think it has to do with the two words I mentioned in the previous paragraph: connection and interruption.
If you talk to friends from college that know me well, I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that I love having conversations with people, and I really love when those conversations turn into deep conversations and accidentally end up lasting far longer than anticipated. I had a good handful of conversations like this while in Atlanta. My love for such conversations still remains, but something I’ve learned about myself since graduating is that I love my time. It is far more precious to me than I thought (which can be a good thing), but I also love talking with people on my own time, when I want to talk with them. I realize how terribly selfish this is. I don’t intentionally try to do this, but I think that sometimes I walk around desiring to connect with people, but nobody can tell because that desire is covered up in the same way that my eyes are covered up when it’s sunny. I can still see the sun, I can still let it touch my face, but not enough to burn me.
In the Lord’s humor and kindness, he’s beginning to rip off my sunglasses so that my face is exposed to the sun. He’s allowing human connection (with “friend-terns,” friends in State College, and recently just people in general) to interrupt my life and ruin my plans–as if my life is really mine to plan. I want to know people and I want them to know me, but only so much so that if something goes wrong, I have the upper hand and will have preserved enough of myself not to feel crushed. As you can imagine, I’ve been hurt a number of times before because of the close contact I’ve had with people. But I can’t live in a bubble. I was created by Love, in love, to pour out love. I need my life to be drastically interrupted and I need to connect deeply with other people, especially other believers. I need my plans to be ruined because the design I have for my life is a mere stick figure in comparison to the Lord’s Sistine Chapel.
Remember those two stories I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, the first was about a woman that came and sat down with a bunch of us on our last night out in Atlanta. It would have been way easier to ignore her and not hear the parts of her story that she shared with us and to not let her connect with us even a little bit. But that’s not what happened. We listened to her for 10 minutes or so, she told us about her children, we got in the car, my friend made his comment, and I though I probably won’t ever see this woman again I’ve suddenly found myself praying that she would know the Lord’s goodness. The second story happened yesterday at lunch with some dear friends. I don’t even really remember what we were talking about. It may have been dating or marriage (the friends I was with are engaged), but the words spoken to me interrupted a pattern of thought that I’ve had for the last few weeks. The Lord isn’t out to ruin my life because He is trying to punish me, but because He loves me, because he knows that I don’t want what’s best for myself.
I want connection, but sometimes I’m scared of it. I need interruption, but I worry it’ll cost me too much. There’s no life in keeping all of me to myself. I need to find the people that I can intentionally let into my quirky little world, and still allow myself to walk amongst other people with a posture that isn’t overly irritated by their contact with me.
I’m glad that woman came down and sat with us and that my friend couldn’t ignore our connection with her (Okay, honestly I’m still wrestling with that comment because it inadvertently exposed personal sin I don’t want to deal with, but it was good. I’m glad he said something). I’m thankful my friends wouldn’t let me think that I can make plans for my life and expect the Lord to cater to them. I’m learning that often it’s good to be left exposed, open to the elements, naked in front of the people I’m with, vulnerable, defenses down–it is then that I can allow the Lord to wash me with His grace, clothe me in righteousness, and fill me with a love that is meant to be shared. I have been far too loved not to let other people stand in that love with me.
So don’t run away from interruption; allow yourself to connect with people, even for just a moment. You’ll be amazed at what the Lord can do in and through such happenings…
thank you for allowing my life and my thoughts to be interrupted. thank You for allowing me to connect with people. help me not to cast off these occurrences as insignificant, but help me to seek to further your kingdom through them.]