Something I have become passionate over the years is leadership. Although I am far from perfect at it, I feel strongly about speaking life into and developing those around you. Alex McMahan hosts a podcast about leadership and invited me to chat about my perspective.
Recently I have been thinking about road rage, maybe not even rage, but road annoyance. I was driving the other day and started to go into the other lane. Right as I was checking my blind spot the girl driving the car next to me honked and then proceeded to give me the middle finger. I wasn’t mad or upset. I did make a mistake. I didn’t see her. As I have been thinking about road annoyance, I realize how much easier it is to get mad at “that car” than “that person.” Had that same situation happened in the grocery store with carts, we would have both apologized for getting in each other’s way and moved on. When we look the person in the eyes, it’s easier to be understanding than when it’s just “that car.” I sometimes try to look in the window at the person who’s driving the car that’s making me crazy. When I see it’s an elderly woman who can barely see over the steering wheel or a young teenager just learning to drive, I’m not nearly as angry or annoyed.
Knowing the person can make all the difference. I’ve thought of this for years as I have watched people make judgments about those distant and different from themselves. I received an email several months ago that demonstrated this well and made me want to throw my computer when I read it. I opened my email to read several paragraphs about how this couple were infertile but were strong Christians. They mentioned that if one of our girls from First Glance’s teen moms programs wanted to give up their baby, the infertile couple would be happy to take him or her. People think that a teenage girl from an urban environment will not be as good of a mother as a 20 something year old Christian woman. It’s a stereotype that I fight against often for our girls! Our girls have the potential to be amazing moms. Sometimes they just need taught. They need someone to demonstrate it, but they have the ability. In case you are wondering, I never did respond to that email. I couldn’t without saying words I might later regret.
Unfortunately this world is broken and the amount of abuse that I hear about is astounding. The stories that haunt my mind the most are always the ones that feel so inhuman, where I walk away from a story realizing that one person didn’t see the other person as a human. These are stories where parents keep their kids locked up, grown men tie up a scared 14 year old girl so they could rape her, and men pee on young women to show dominance. I would like to say these are all stories I’ve heard on the news, but truth be told, they are all ones that I’ve heard from women I know. It is a blatant demonstration of a person who does not view the others as human.
Additionally, I think about the inhumanity when it comes to race. When I think about what happened in Charlottesville it infuriates me. It does so because people are treating other humans as less! Nobody is less because of their skin color. That is insane! Nobody is less because of their economic status. Nobody is less! And yet, over and over, I have seen these injustices up close and in person as the Director of First Glance. (There are many more stories than I have time to go into today).
A couple weeks ago I was at a the Global Leadership Summit and heard a man Bryan Stevens speak about race, poverty, and justice. The reason I loved the way he spoke about it is because he talked about this idea of proximity. When you get in proximity with people that seem so different than us, it brings a new understanding. It allows us to see them as people, not as the stereotype or judgment that might be in our mind. I encourage you to listen to his TED talk, although he doesn’t use the world proximity in this particular clip, it’s still the same concept.
And so I go back to the car conversation, why is it so easy to get so angry or pass judgment at “that red car,” never caring about what is happening with the person on the inside? Unfortunately we do this in real life. We see race, status, economics, etc and never take time to get to know and understand that person.
I’ve been using the phrase “everything is a gift” a lot since Enoch has passed away. Recently a friend asked me to explain more about it, to dialog how I got to this point. I told him several stories that lead me to the point of seeing life in this light, and that really this view came way before I even knew that Enoch existed. As we were having this conversation he challenged me because I had made a comment about comparing myself to others. He was right in asking for clarification. The reality is that Everything is a Gift when I compare myself to God, not to others. We will always find someone who has it has it better and be frustrated by what we don’t have. Let’s face the realities this is why I don’t look at FB during Christmas time and back to school… I don’t need to compare myself to all of those families. But when I compare myself to God, to what I deserve next to Him, it really is nothing.
I had been talking about this idea so often right before Enoch was born, for at least a year. In fact I wrote this exactly 3 months before hand.
I really wholeheartedly believe EVERYTHING IS A GIFT. I haven’t adopted this now that “everything in my life is good” or because I finally got pregnant. It’s something that has become more and more evident over time. That we have come into this world with nothing, that we don’t “deserve” anything. You see I’ve walked a lot of days on this earth angry or sad because something didn’t go the way I thought it should… in timing, in outcome, etc. The problem is I have spent a lot of those days feeling like “I deserve” something and people have encouraged this thought process saying things like, “you deserve a vacation”, “you deserve a new car”, “you deserve to be a mom” etc. I understand the sentiment, but the truth is I don’t deserve anything. I entered this world because God allowed me to, he owes me nothing. In fact, really I deserve damnation, but instead he blesses me, with life, breath, Tim, First Glance, food, etc. More and more I realize how good these gifts are, and I realize they really are GIFTS. If for some reason some of these things are taken from me, I have no doubt I will mourn the loss of them. I also know that it was a gift in the first place. I work hard to keep my hands open to understand that God really is in control.
Then the Sunday before Enoch was born we were at church, and we heard this sermon. I remember after the sermon being all amped up, saying to our community that we sat with, “Did you hear that? It’s what I’ve been saying for months! We don’t deserve anything, everything is a gift!” As I looked around at our community I realized this sermon impacted them too, although for different reasons. One guy cried the majority of it; another friend was so wrecked that she couldn’t talk about it and left for the afternoon to process it; and it was during this sermon that Tim felt God revealed that our son may die for God’s glory.
After my conversation with my friend, I felt like I needed to listen to this sermon again. I hadn’t since that day when I sat in the pew along with my community. I continue to be encouraged by it. And I continue to believe “Everything is a Gift,” not because it’s my catch phrase, but because I geninuely understand anything God chooses to give me is a gift.
Recently I realized how much I honestly desire everyone to experience God fulfilling in this way. Over and over He really can and will fulfill all that we need, for real all that we need, but in order for Him to do that, I had to remind myself not to.
It struck me one day as I was praying so much for certain friends who so desperately needed God to step in and fulfill in a powerful way. I begged God to fulfill those needs and pains. Then when they would reach out, my response was often my own remedy. It then struck me. I was praying for God to show up and intervene and then I didn’t actually push them toward that. And so I shifted my thought process, my interactions, and my responses. Don’t get me wrong, I was sensitive and engaging but started pushing them more towards God.
I’ll admit, this was a shift as I’m a care taker and a rescuer by nature. I’m the first to make you a cup of frothy coffee on a hard day or tuck you in with a blanket as you sit sad on my couch (well I’ll probably tuck you in no matter what… but that’s besides the point). It wasn’t a matter of being a jerk or even denying my natural care taking tendencies. I simply have worked to shift their focus to God, who really can fulfill in a much greater way than I ever can.
It’s still something I have to mentally be intentional about. There are days I don’t do as well, and I end up trying to rescue. But God continues to show me how He can and will fulfill for me as well as all those I care about.