I’m always amazed at how, little by little, the Holy Spirit enlightens my consciousness to truths about how God works. Lately, it’s been weighing on my mind about how every person and place that we encounter are used by the Father to shape us into the people He wants us to be. Each person that we cross paths with teaches us something (if we are paying attention) and hopefully we do the same for them. When you do get to meet these extraordinary people, sometimes you learn lessons about yourself that they didn’t even know they were teaching you.
I have been introduced to a co-worker who, on the surface, had nothing in common with me and a 20 year age difference. But, after working beside her every day for 2 years, I came to hold her opinion very high, because I knew she would tell me the truth and would lead me back to Jesus. She has gone through horrendous things in her life – things I don’t ever think I could handle – and she came out on the other side with beauty and grace and a love for the Lord like no other. She does anything she can for someone who isn’t even her family. She considers me (and my children) one of her children or grandchildren and not only helped me with whatever she could, but also prays just as hard for us as she does for her own flesh and blood. Even after I stopped working with her, her lessons stick close to my heart. I am forever grateful for God bringing her into my life and I hope she is grateful for me to have come into hers.
God sends friends to us at the oddest times. Right when we really need them, even when we didn’t feel like we could handle one more person needing something from you at that moment in time. My daughter met a new little girl in her Sunday school class when she was 2 and came home talking about her for a solid week (they were best friends and were going to be forever – even after just meeting once!). Keep in mind that this is during a whirlwind of craziness in my life when I was separating from my husband and had so many thoughts flying through my head that I couldn’t focus clearly on just one for a long time. And then, my daughter’s new friend’s mother came and introduced herself and said that if her daughter had decided they were going to be best friends, that she and I should be friends, too. I don’t remember that conversation, so I hope I wasn’t completely rude. We are still friends to this day, so I must not have been too bad. I’m not even sure she knows what a deep hole she yanked me out of over the next couple of years, but God definitely used her voice to talk to me and keep me on track. I never had any interest in being as self-aware as I am today, but she definitely started that path for me because she so openly shared her short-comings with me. I will forever be in her debt.
You really begin to realize how wonderful a person is when they can step up and help you when you are in a bad situation – and they do so without hesitation. About a year ago, I was going through a difficult transition and a friend of mine agreed to take me (and my young child!) in until I could get back on my feet. I would NEVER have imagined that someone would agree to that. But, when you find the rare person that will agree, make sure you pay close attention – that is true friendship! Now, for that person to be a single, male friend is just mind-blowing. What bachelor would want a single mom and a baby hanging out all the time? Not only did he do it with a smile on his face, but he played with the baby and let him help cook dinner and make sure I got time to myself to be able to take a shower. These simple things meant so much alone, but even more on top of the sacrifice he was already making to open his home to us. Even when it took me longer than I would have liked to get myself together, he never said a word. I can only hope that I can show someone love like that and pay forward his kindness one day.
I have been single for a few years now, but I am not still not accustomed to this whole dating process. It makes me feel like I’m in hostile territory, always needing to be guarded and keeping my eyes WIDE open (how can you meet someone in that kind of environment?!). So, I have been paying close attention to the people I meet to make sure that I don’t end up on this same dark and lonely road again. I don’t want to gloss over things that I know will end up driving me up a wall in later years. Things I know are deal-breakers, both for me and him, are things that have to be brought up and talked about early (in my opinion), so that things don’t get too far if you KNOW it isn’t going to work out in the long run. When you are a single mother with 3 young kids, it’s so hard to find someone who is willing to take on the insane amount of responsibility that you deal with on a daily basis, especially when they also have a large amount of responsibility in their own lives.
I have been lucky enough to meet a single father who has his child the majority of the time and is the primary caregiver. Watching him struggle with being both the disciplinarian and the soft shoulder to cry on often points to my weakness of not being able to switch back and forth so easily. I notice that I am stuck in one mode most of the time, and that’s not a good thing for me or my kids. They need both every day. For some, it comes so easily and they never give it a second thought. For me, it’s not that simple. I have always had a hard time getting my buttons “unstuck” once someone pushes me to the breaking point and my children are masters are doing just that. I still haven’t figured out how or why yet, just that they are. But, seeing this person day in and day out with their teenage child makes you realize that it can be done. I just need to translate that into my approach with my kids. He has made me realize that even though you do not always get dealt a fair hand, you have to keep going. One day, eventually, it will pay off.
We always seem to take for granted the people who sacrificed everything for us when we didn’t know what they were doing until years and years later. For someone to stay in a marriage where things were pretty bad because they wanted to make sure their kids (and later, grand kids) had a secure home and future is spectacular. For her to wait out all those years and then finally make the decision to leave, only to find out about an unknown medical diagnosis and feel God calling her to stay and become a caretaker for the same person who said some nasty things to her had to have taken a tremendous amount of strength. That’s not something I’m sure I’m cut out for, but God knew she could handle it. And did it with amazing grace and never a grumble or second thought. I couldn’t tell you how many comparatively minor things happen in my life every day that I kick and scream about. I wish I could just deal with the things that come along and find the silver lining, but I am always a work in progress.
Take a look around at the people in your life and see if you know why God placed you in each other’s paths. It is enlightening to have a conversation like this with people, because sometimes you might find out some things about yourself that you didn’t realize when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes.
Do you have someone in your life that has taught you a great life lesson? I’d love to hear about it!