The stairwell down to our basement has a mantel full of pictures from our past. From college days to wedding to pre-child ski trips and post-child trampings through fall leaves, we have nearly two decades covered.
There is one in particular that tells a certain story.
The night before our college graduation, we gathered, my girlfriends — who had shared bathrooms and books and boyfriend stories for 4 years –gathered with our parents to celebrate at a friends’ cabin home. The next day we would hide our identities behind matching caps and gowns and walk uniformly through what would be the last stage of life that I’ve known to be uniform.
This picture on my mantel is a panorama of all of us, just shy of a dozen, in our pre-graduation glow. And our cardigan sweaters. Yes, almost all of us, donning pastels — probably swapped just hours before.
We matched, in so many ways.
Too early to have life’s scars and His ways make us different, we shared much in common at twenty-two.
And the next day was my last day, since, to rub elbows, daily, with others almost just like me.
In those days, sameness meant oneness to me. I wasn’t seasoned enough to distinguish between Jesus’ prayer that we would be one from our flesh’s migration towards those that are same. So, when I left those that were same (and, also, in many ways one!) I mourned. And for years when I couldn’t find anything quite like it, I felt the loss.
Until He started weaving my story with others that were in few ways same, but with whom I could find a connectedness of heart in Him that made us one.
The three ladies in their late forties when I was mid-twenties, who taught me to pray. The couple raising six, when we were childless, who gave us a vision for a future. The friend, forging her way through singleness, when I was en route to four kids, who knew the pain of my waiting, intimately. These are just a few of those, across the pew and at the church down the street, who gave me pictures of Him even when our sweaters didn’t match.
I’m learning that a significant part of loving Him, is loving the testimony of Him bubbling up in His people. This kind of love is imparted, not inherent. To look past the differences in another and search out the kindred hunger for Him which they have within requires God-perspective.
Growth doesn’t happen in a silo.
My flesh has me wired to draw lines in the sand between me and another, to find out who is “like me” and who isn’t. But His eyes see into the heart of a man. And many hearts share the same hunger but in a different skin.
Those who have challenged me the most to know Him more in this post-college life I live are often the ones most different than me. I sometimes think He likes it this way. He offends our flesh to stretch our hearts.
So as I lean deeply into His chest, to know the heartbeat of the God-Man for me, I can’t help but ask for His heart-beat for my neighbor, and the friend on the other side of the tracks.
He has a story welling up in them too. Am I humble enough to hear it? To receive what He has for me in it?
In the next 5 weeks this little space I’ve created to tell His story, through my lens, will be expanding. Between now and June 11th, I’d like to share with you the stories of some whose paths I’ve crossed who are writers. I want them to tell their story of how they have seen Him turn bitter into sweet (the theme of this blog — Proverbs 27:7).
In these weeks where I will be relatively radio-silent while their stories speak of Him, I’ll still be clicking away at these keys, trading in my late-night hours posting here for a focus on finishing a book I’ve been writing. I have eyes on June 11th, to wrap up the last chapter and to begin writing here again.
In the meantime, I can’t wait for you to meet my friends … some from across the pew, and others from across the ocean or the church down the street. They share two things in common with me and, some, not much more: they love weaving stories through the written word and they love this God-Man and want more of Him.
His story is up-springing. Everywhere.
And you’re going to relish these stories. I’m excited to share what I love!
First photo compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography. Second photo
compliments of Mandie Joy.