She walked ahead of me into the meeting, finishing a call and then tucking her phone into her designer bag. Adorable outfit. Long and perfectly coiffed curls. Just the right amount of polish over her being. Across the table from me, I noted that when she opened her mouth to speak, she paused just a breath before making her point — an effort that gave even more wisdom to her already brilliant contribution. And before leaving, I watched as she intentionally made eye-contact with each participant around our gathering of eight, punctuating their value with her effort.
Super Spiritual Gal.
I imagined her driving home in her stylin’ car, slipping into her tidy garage and holding an afternoon Bible study with her neighborhood posse before assembling a color-balanced, healthy dinner for her family.
What I’d find out later over coffee grown cold on the table between us is that the call she took right before the meeting was her teen confessing he’d been caught vaping at school. The day before her husband had lost his job. And she struggled with a self-image issue which she had to wrestle to the floor of her car before she gathered herself together to face us all. No, she didn’t glide home, she crawled. And there, behind a closed and bolted door, she wept. Alone.
I learned a lesson I won’t soon forget.
Everybody’s got something.
You’ve got something too, don’t you? Something niggling at you right this minute as you read along. That inky dark thought in your heart that keeps stealing out of the corner you’ve shoved it into — oblivious to your barked command to “STAY!” A shame over some past mistake that accuses you freshly each morning. A selfishness which focuses your attention in on you and yours rather than others and theirs when you really really really want to be directed outwards.
Beyond the internal heart issues that tie you up in knots, there are the real-life unavoidable struggles that weigh down your everyday. A child struggling to make friends. A less-than-invested spouse. A betraying coworker. A needy parent. A health challenge. A money debacle. The latest world threat on the news.
Just the other night I awoke with my head spinning about a work-related relationship. Should I just accept the way things were headed? Was God asking me to initiate a conversation to bring clarity? Sleep hovered all around me, but my body wouldn’t yield. When I finally crawled out of bed in the morning and padded to my computer to begin my day, I’d returned to my unrealistic expectation that I was the ONLY one who had such struggles. Or any struggles at all.
I tracked through emails, interpreting each request and update in a win/lose equation. They had it RIGHT. I had it WRONG. I scrolled through social media, pausing at the arms-around-each-other photos of the Famous, swallowing the pretense that they actually are day-to-day pals who have each other’s backs twenty-four-seven and so never have issues.
Until I remembered that everybody has something.
Her cancer diagnosis is not easier — nor harder necessarily — than their wayward teen’s rejection. Their carried-to-term but still-born delivered baby is just as devastating to them as her uninsured flooded home is to her. Life is hard. And everybody has something.
Embracing this reality that is so often invisible from the outside layers of our lives has nudged me forward with grace towards both those I know well and those I don’t know at all. Because I don’t know anyone completely just as no one knows all of me. We try, all of us. We do the best we can with what appears in our days. The good and the not-so-good.
But somehow, we swallow the myth that others only have good. That they are above the not-so-good because of how they pray, what they believe or how they choose to avoid the not-so-good. Oh, that we too could be so lucky — blessed? — to follow their formula. Then we too could avoid the not-so-good!
The thing is … everybody has something.
A long time ago, in fact just before he left the planet, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). A few paragraphs earlier, Jesus promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” (John 14:18).
In this world we WILL have trouble. Not might. Not could. Not possibly. But WILL. When we do, we will not be alone in it.
Everybody has something — and someone with them in it.
Let’s remember that as we interact with each other each day.