I get really comfortable in how I feel about people and sometimes I forget that people can and will change. We all know that people change for the worst and I suppose that when you read my first sentence, you assumed that is where I was going with this. But I was reminded of the possibility of the opposite over the past three days, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of grace.
She’s known me my whole life but I didn’t always appreciate her presence there. In fact, I didn’t think that she appreciated my presence much in her life either. Sometimes people’s personalities come off a bit strong and I, being a rather sensitive child, did not always understand her or how she felt about me, to be honest. I had resigned myself that she would just be one person that would always be around but to whom I could never be any good. She never mistreated me but you know how you can just feel that you’re not someone’s “cup of tea”? That’s what I assumed that she felt about me and in turn, I reciprocated the feeling.
But then Sunday happened. I prepared myself to encounter this person and to expect the usual but what I got was something totally different. Her disposition toward me was different; not in such an exaggerated way that it was unbelievable but in the gentle, underlying way in which you know with your heart that something has changed. She embraced me, not just with her arms, but with her complete being and for the first time I felt like when she looked at me, she saw me for who I am, not who I’m not. Her acceptance of me, in turn, allowed me to begin to break down the walls I had built to counter all the negativity I had come to associate with her in my mind.
When I got home, I thought long about what I had experienced. In the midst of all I had been through with people’s changes over the past year that affected me negatively, this small miracle seemed to give sight to a blind spot of my heart, a piece that had become too well adjusted to certain darkened parts of people. Sometimes we just write people off and we assume that they will always be the way that they are. And sometimes we are right. But sometimes – sometimes – we are wrong and we miss out on the opportunity to witness God’s grace in action precisely because we have our hands out of the situation. If our hearts are always hardened and eyes are always conditioned for the worst in people, that is what we will always experience and see.
God works in mysterious ways. My relationship with this relative was not on my priority list nor had I been praying for God to do anything special concerning it. It just was what it was. But as I was working to finish processing how people’s changes had made life more difficult for me, God showed me change that completely blessed my life. There were no tears, no “come to Jesus” moments, we didn’t hug and embrace and confess everything to one another. We sat and we chatted, and we listened, and we laughed, and we complimented, and we were FAMILY not simply relatives. Grace came in us being able to affirm the beauty we see in each other; grace came in the realization that I could let some emotional scabs completely heal; grace came in the form of unintentional bonding.
As an adult, I’ve had to learn that everyone has not intentionally hurt me – some people simply have loved me the best they knew to do. That does not make it right but it doesn’t make it wrong necessarily either – it’s made it human and it’s always led me back to MY OWN need for grace. We can be hard on others, especially if we sit from our ivory towers of “I love hard and expect people to love me the way I love them”. And somehow we seem to miss that in all that loving hard, it still is done from a jar of clay (an imperfect vessel). My imperfections are not the sum of me and I can’t make someone else’s imperfections the sum of who he or she is either.
The tricky thing about change is that true change rarely comes with announcement or pomp and circumstance. Many times, we can look at people and look at their lives and something within us connects with the change that is happening within them. In those moments, grace beckons to look at our own lives and offers us the same opportunity. Whether we choose it for ourselves or simply rejoice with someone else, good change inspires hope. So if you’re struggling with how you feel about people, know that all things are possible. People may stay how they are for a long time…but they may not stay that way forever. And if you’re growing, you won’t either.
People change. Make room.
(Photo cred: http://www.fishershypnosis.com)