This post is inspired by a sweet friend and coworker whose presence in my life is truly a gift. I read once that people are typically either challengers or encouragers. We have determined that I am her challenger and she is my encourager. But the wisdom that seeps out of her everyday amazes me and I’m doing my best to soak it up!
Not too many months back we had a conversation about dating. We’re in really different seasons of life. She’s divorced and raising two boys on her own. I’ve never been married or had kids. We were both in the beginning stages of seeing someone new. The first couple weeks of seeing someone new are always exciting and so I was pressing her for more info (she already knew the guy I was seeing since he works with us as well).
In the midst of getting the skinny on her new man she said something that’s stuck with me. She had made an effort early on to have open and honest conversations about her standards and values. What she said that has stayed in my mind every day since is ‘I told him – this is my story, but I’m not requiring it to be yours’.
I can’t even begin to unpack the wisdom in that one sentence for you. However, flash forward a few weeks and I’m sitting around a dinner table with 3 girlfriends. As usual the conversation of guys comes up. And one friend says, ‘I was interested in him but he wanted someone who had grown up like him and I didn’t’. This friend had experienced what I would venture to say many newer Christians have, the unfair expectations of someone who grew up in a Christian home.
Now, stick with me here I’m not finished.
Even thought the premise of Christianity is grace, we Christians aren’t always so giving in that department. Sometimes we expect everyone and especially those we date to have the same story we do. It’s not only unfair but it can deliver a rather crushing blow to those who care about us.
I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home myself. If there’s one thing my parents modeled for my sisters and I it was to keep God first. I watched carefully as they did that in their relationship, in Dad’s career, in our home, etc. I had every opportunity to get it right from the start. However, I’ve shared previously (and once in front of thousands at church) that my testimony involved a few years of really searching for some answers on my own, away from those teachings.
In a way I’m thankful for that rocky patch in my faith because having needed a lot of grace when I made my way back – it’s easier for me to extend it. It’s my story and I don’t expect it to be yours. Maybe you didn’t have to take a vacation from your faith in college to realize it’s the only way to find true joy. Maybe you didn’t go to church a day of your childhood but you found Christ as an adult. Maybe you’re still trying to figure it out, that’s ok too.
What I would say isn’t ok is expecting other people to have your story.
This isn’t my criticism of that boy who didn’t date my friend. Obviously I got one side of that story so I would never judge that boys heart. But the concept stayed on my mind after the conversation. I’ve had it in several of my relationships. But without having the words my encourager gave me just months ago, I adopted the concept long ago. Your story doesn’t have to be like mine.
What I look for in a man and in all my relationships now is – where are you now? What have you done with the hand you were dealt? I want people to look at my story and see a girl who needed a savior desperately. I want them to see a girl who found him, who loves him, and who has given him the highest place of honor in her life, never to be dethroned.
You could look at my life and say I had it easy. Of course she’s the way she is, look at her family. Or you could go the reverse and judge my college years when I was straddling the fence trying to figure out who I was and what I believed. But the truth is, both of those are chapters of my story but they’re not the whole story by themselves.
Here’s my challenge – don’t miss out on loving people because you can’t relate or don’t understand their story. I have found that some of the most amazing people have totally different stories than I do but man would I have missed a great opportunity to know and love them if I had gotten hung up on that.
I’m thankful for sweet friendship that are constantly growing and challenging me. If you don’t already have them, seek out challengers and encouragers in your life – you’ll need them along the way.