This journey continues to surprise me. I was running full speed from a world of too much giving. I had spread myself dangerously thin; if I had let one more person step on me I’m certain I would have shattered. I was craving a life of “less” which I thought would mean less of everything, even relationships. So honestly, I didn’t even know this circle of Everyone Else would exist.
I assumed focusing on God would consume almost all of my time. And it did at first. (And still does, but in a different way than I imagined.) But then time expanded. I found moments to get to know myself and figure out where God was directing my steps. Time expanded again and again and again, making space for me to focus on my spouse, my children, my family.
I was intent on making sure those relationships were solid – that I was doing it right this time. I was resigned to the fact that this was it; there couldn’t possibly be time for anyone else. What a fool I am for underestimating God. Anyone who has more than one child can tell you – just when you think it’s not possible to love another human being with the same intensity as the first child, the next child comes along and love blows your mind. So I shouldn’t have been shocked because when God’s love started coursing through the veins of all of my relationships, they started working. And when they are working, time expands again.
This time it allowed me to focus on my friendships with even more hours left over for mentoring. Amazing, endless gifts. Of course, all these circles don’t always stay in perfect sync every single day. My human self gets in the way sometimes, but I now know to hand control back to God and He gets them back up and running so much faster than I ever could. And then I watch the magic He does with time multiply again.
An afternoon was blown wide open on my calendar when I least expected it. I’m honestly most comfortable giving away money, making a difference from a distance while I focus on other things. But I was so captivated by this multiplication of time I had been witnessing, I knew He wanted me to use this gift of a free afternoon for Him. So I volunteered at the Food Pantry at my church.
There were various stations set up, and I was assigned to distribute vegetables. The process created a short line to the pantry, which left people waiting right next to my vegetable station. My heart started racing, because I am not good with strangers.
The uncomfortable silence.
The vulnerability that comes with eye contact.
The fear of small talk with someone in such a different life situation.
But God urged me to push through the discomfort. I don’t have to figure out how to explain the gap between our social statuses. I can’t possibly find the words to make it all better. Instead, He told me to simply look at them. To smile. It changed everything.
My smile and eye contact led a rail-thin woman to ask if we had toilet paper – she had been using coffee filters, when she could find them. But she confessed this with a huge smile on her face, and elbowed me as she winked and said, “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.” Her joy in the midst of struggle was infectious. She inspired me to keep smiling at the line of people, allowing me to learn the favorite snack of an adorable little girl with springy curls and sparkly shoes. Teaching me why one man just doesn’t like the 4th of July all that much. So many little things that connect us as humans.
People don’t always need me to fix it. They need me to see them. To talk to them. To ask how their day is going. To treat them like they matter – because they do. Every last one of us matters to God, and so we should matter to each other.
I often get frustrated when I feel like I can’t change the world. But God reminds me that He works in mysterious ways. Ways that expand time when it really shouldn’t be possible. Ways where big is small and small is big. He provides the way for me to change the world through one interaction at a time.
I know I have to be careful. I do risk spreading myself too thin. Everyone Else doesn’t get my full attention all the time, but they do get it in the moments that God sets up for us. The smile that leads to a conversation may lead to a bigger way I can help. Or it may not. It may just plant a seed for someone else to help when the timing is right.
Giving money is a wonderful way to help. He has repeatedly shown me that when I give money, especially when I think I can’t really afford it, He repays me over and over again.
…Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. ~Malachi 3:10
I just never expected it to work with love and relationships. But it DOES. I never thought it possible to find time for all the people in my life and even the people who just cross my path. But it IS.
I know you don’t know how to help the homeless man on the corner. Neither do I. But don’t let that stop you from offering the simplest gift of all – a smile. Who knows what beauty it will lead to? I know that you think you don’t possibly have time to volunteer or stop on your way to work to help a stranger. But do it anyway, and watch Him bend the rules of time to expand around your offering of love. Let God fill your Everyone Else circle. Test Him in this, and watch Him throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.