I’m really good at forgetting people. I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to do when I intentionally take precautions to not become attached in any way.
Even when I do begin to develop a relationship with someone, I constantly question its authenticity and cut it off before it has any chance to flourish… that is, before the other person can really care about me and, likewise, before I can really care about them.
Despite the persistence of others and their efforts to maintain relationships with me, I rarely respond to emails and messages. Instead, I allow fears and an endless stream of “what ifs” to hover in the space between us.
Long ago, I read a book about a young girl who lived completely detached from the world. For many years, I idealised the life of this fictional character: if only I could live alone in this way. In a world where there are no “hellos”, “goodbyes” need not exist. Clearly, my unhealthy understanding of relationships was evident at an early age.
Over my past 24 years, I have said countless goodbyes. These goodbyes are always awkward and I never know what to do. My thought process looks something like this: “Should I hug so-and-so? But I don’t even know how to hug. Does so-and-so even want a hug from me? We didn’t really connect and what does connection even look like?”
Basically, it always boiled down to one over-arching question: how do you say goodbye to someone you never really, fully knew?
However, recently it’s hit me: maybe, just maybe, I did know so-and-so. Sure, perhaps it’s true that I was not aware of all of the major defining moments of their life; perhaps I did not even have a basic knowledge of his or her favourite movie or food. But as ridiculous as it sounds even to me as I write this, perhaps I did know their heart. I did know that, just like so many of the people I have met over the course of my life, this person was passionate, self-sacrificing, and full of love.
And that’s the thing: if you allow yourself to, it’s not that hard to truly see people. And once you do, it’s extremely hard to stop seeing them. People become beautiful in ways you did not know were possible. You realise that someone handcrafted each quirk and each intricacy and, as a result, you begin to admire the littlest things; things like the way they talk with their hands when they are overflowing with passion; things that tell you they are going to do big things and one day change the world.
In each encounter, no matter how brief, you discover new ways of seeing God – ways that you had previously failed to notice because you were too stuck in your own thinking. You not only see the beauty in people around you, but you see that God is so much greater than you could ever have imagined.
People, once they reveal themselves to you – in even tiny and unintentional ways – once you glimpse bits of their hearts, you can’t help but accept. Suddenly, you feel compelled to listen to them and lend a hand in whatever way possible. It absolutely baffles me that, although quite inconvenient, people choose all the time to leave the safety net of their own lives and step out and love others, choosing to see beauty amidst the mess and craziness of this world. It also baffles me that I have failed to notice this phenomenon for 24 years.
For far too long, I equated love with force. I viewed love in much the same way as one of Robert Frost’s character’s views home – as: “The place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I thought friends and family needed to see the beauty in me, needed to accept me, needed to love me; but the truth is, they don’t need to do any of those things – and neither does God. Nevertheless, He does – it’s called ‘grace’ – and as an extension of God and their love for Him, others do too. That’s what makes it so difficult; even though naturally selfish and sinful, people still are so beautiful.
So this leaves me with a confession. I have become attached to people. Yes, probably to specific people – how unfortunate! – but also to people in general. The beauty people radiate is infectious and all too dangerous. I’m not sure how this happened, but I’ve been changed by the people I’ve met.
But I’ve realised that I would rather carry around little bits and pieces of beauty from the people I’ve encountered, than the heavy suitcase of anxiety, endless worry and insecurity that I have carried my entire life.
Yes, I’m still afraid to care… afraid to be ‘seen’ because it might mean hurt; but it also means that I have the opportunity to share in an amazing gift from God for however long or short He grants it.
People come in and out of our lives at different times and for different seasons, for reasons unknown to us. Acts 1:7 says: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
Therefore, armed with this knowledge, I’m really only left with one option. Rather than over-think and question my relationships with others, I must instead embrace the people in my life and my relationships with them.