God has brought a couple of people into our lives recently who have shaken my quaint, quiet, and comfortable little world and struck me with the reality that people who do not know God are NOT OKAY. Sometimes it's tempting to believe that the men, women, and children that you pass by on the street are all fine, but in reality that is not always true. And honestly, MOST of the time is not true.
I think that since I was raised in a Christian home, I tend to have a very sheltered perception of the world. I have never been in their shoes - I don't remember feeling the total emptiness there is without God because I was so young when He saved me. Of course, even as a Christian you go through ups and downs in your walk, and so I have some idea of what it's like when things are not right with God, but I honestly don't think I have ever felt the full impact of a life without Christ. I have never really had to deal with a hole in my heart that could not be satisfied with anything because I've always known what or who will fill that need.
For most people, they have spent their whole lives trying to fill that hole with anything and everything BUT God. This was all brought light over the last couple of days.
A few weeks ago, David mentioned a Starbucks customer of his who regularly comes to the store. She gets a kick out of making my husband blush by telling him how handsome he is. Haha. When David first told me about her, I was a little skeptical about who this woman was and why David thought it was okay for another woman to be so shamelessly flirtatious ... but then he told me that she is 71 years old ;) Shoulda known I didn't have anything to worry about haha
So that's how I first heard of this woman. Well, yesterday she came to church with us. David had invited her after she had told him a few days prior about how there were some problems at her Episcopalian church that she had been attending. When I first met her, she seemed like the sort of lady who was wealthy and grandmotherly and charming and had everything together. I imagined her with a fluffy lap dog, probably a few children and grandchildren, and maybe a widow since she had never come to Starbucks with a husband. That was my first perception of this Starbucks friend of David's. We drove together to church, and on the way I got a little more insight into this woman's life. The perfect life that I had imagined her having slowly started to crumble. After church she came home with us and had dinner, and I realized that even more of what I had assumed of her was inaccurate. There were some things that I was right about - but for the most part, everything I had assumed was wrong. Because this woman was not okay. It was clear that she was lonely, and that she has a real emptiness in her life - even if she may not see it just yet. She was trying to fill her life with busyness, coffee, friends, and even spirituality, but there was still this gaping hole.
Today God brought another woman into our lives that I - once again - assumed was perfectly fine. She was a realtor that we had been in contact with for a month or so now about an apartment, and we were going in for a showing today. On the outside, my perception of her was: strong, successful, savvy business woman finding her identity in her flourishing career. We saw the apartment and then spent some time out in the yard talking about it. David mentioned that we were going to take a couple of days to think about the apartment and pray about it. Immediately she perked up and the words started flowing. She talked about how she goes to Bible studies every morning, and how she values her podcasts and lectures and sermons. But the more she talked, the more my image of her fell apart. This woman was lonely, craving God but instead of filling her life with Him, she was filling her life with simply being spiritual and doing spiritual things. She was not okay.
As we walked back to the car, I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for these people that I had wrongfully assumed from the get-go were completely fine. On the outside, they look like they have everything together, but in reality, when someone cares enough to reach out to them, it becomes so clear that their lives are aching for fulfillment and significance. These people that pass me by are for the most part not okay. I've taken my life which is full of meaning in Christ for granted and have consequently assumed that everyone else is doing fine. But in reality, that is very far from the truth.
I have to just say here that if it wasn't for David, my perceptions of these two women would have probably remained the same. David was the one in both cases who took the smallest opportunity to reach out to these people and give them the chance to share that they were not as okay as they appeared to be. He was not afraid to address the real spiritual hunger that they have in their lives by inviting them to church where they might be fed and nourished and cared for. He was open about God and how He is the one who brings fulfillment to an unfulfilling life. He was okay with digging deeper and going beyond shallow chit-chat. He genuinely cared about these people and acted accordingly.
Looking at people in this way is revolutionary for me. I have always known that the world is lost without Christ, but many times I have been so fooled by their "I'm okay" act that I don't realize that they are actually desperately craving fulfillment and meaning. The reality is, only God can give someone the purpose and significance that their soul is thirsting after. Only God can make someone "okay."
Think about the people that God has placed in your life. Maybe coworkers. Maybe fellow students. Maybe neighbors. Maybe family members or friends. The scary thing is, sometimes people you've known your whole life are not as "okay" as you think they are. I remember as a camp counsellor at Lake Ann Camp, I had several campers over the 9 weeks that I was there who just radiated happiness and life. These girls seemed to be the epitome of "togetherness." They were so happy and cheerful and got along so well with the other girls. It never occurred to me that below that outer layer was a whole lot of grief, loss, emptiness, and pain. At Lake Ann, we made a point to have "one-on-ones" with each of our campers, and it was usually during those discussions that my perceptions of those girls would completely change as I learned about the heartache that was going on beneath that surface layer.
Have you gone the extra mile and made the effort to get past the "okay" act and into the "not okay" areas? I know from my own experience it is SO EASY for me to take someone's words at face value and assume that things are great, but I am realizing that the loving, RIGHT thing to do, is to take that extra step and point things to God - because opening up that door is when people start to unfold and let go. They know their lives are missing something, and sometimes just mentioning God is enough for them to come clean. Everyone is at different points of their lives. Some people are simply not at the right point in their lives to want anything to do with God. But if you never give them the chance - once, twice, three times - how will you ever be able to be there for them when they do finally admit that they are NOT okay?
And, if you are reading this and you recognize that you are not okay, and that your life is missing something or someONE, please do not feel the least bit hesitant about reaching out to me or David. Email, call, text, message, talk - there are a billion ways to reach us. We want to help and we want to be there for you wherever you are at. Come to church. Talk to David at Starbucks. Leave a comment for me here. Anything :) Your life doesn't have to stay like this. "Not okay" is not okay! You were meant for something so much bigger, deeper, richer.
Thanks for reading.
"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Psalm 16:5-11 ESV