There’s something pretty lovely about unexpectedly being welcomed into a home you are unfamiliar with. It draws into the light, the simple wonder of people, and in particular, wonders that might otherwise go unnoticed; a woman with a natural inclination towards being hospitable, while yours is towards being self sufficient. The man who tells a number of stories that bring a certain warmth and encouragement to your soul. The teenager who made dessert for five, and without a second thought, offered it also to the unexpected sixth stranger sitting at her table.
In these people I saw the movement of grace, flexibility and gentleness – and the presence of a quiet sort of inner strength. It just made me think; I wonder if although the stranger is less likely to notice the flaws or the failures of each person, they are actually more able to see clearly the simple wonder of each person as a result?
I think with the people we know well, it can be easy to dismiss these wonder-things as invalid – because well, we’ve seen the ‘bad’ side of them too. We’ve likely seen their messes and failures and perhaps been hurt once or twice because we also know their darker side. Perhaps this complex is further amplified when we look at ourselves; we are offered a compliment about who we are, or what we’ve done – but all too quickly we deflect it (whether implicitly or explicitly) – for fear that ‘if they knew the things unseen and unsaid about me, they might actually take what they said back.’ Doing this keeps us safe I think; but in locking ourselves up this way, there will come also a locking out of something else.
I think when we comply with this fear too religiously – we lose, rather than gain something; I think, we almost kill the work of the divine in our lives. What space is there for joy and grace if we have a greater inclination to squash it, than to let it rise? How can the divine work if he has not first a place to land – whatever state the landing ground is in? Could it be less to do with what we do and say complying with some rigid form of religiosity, but rather that we, despite our messiness still choose to allow joy to rise and move through us and so then, out towards the world? Who fooled us into thinking perfection was the goal? As long as perfection is the goal, we shall continue to find ourselves bound in fear and crushed by a sense of ‘not good enough.’
Don’t be so quick to squash what is good and lovely in you, nor others. The good in you exists in addition to, not in absence of, the bad. Just because you failed yesterday, doesn’t mean you’ve not done something wonderful today. Just because you have seen flaws, doesn’t mean there are also hidden areas of particular strength. The bad does not cancel out the good – that’s not how it works. If there is one thing I learned through my first year of learning to counsel people like you and I last year, it was that people have extraordinary areas of strength, just as they do areas of struggle.
I wonder, what would the stranger notice when they saw YOU, at the table? Don’t be so quick to dismiss these things, because they may hold just as much, if not more power than the bad.