Last year Josh and I took a much needed and earned trip to Key West to celebrate 10 years of marriage. One whole week alone. ALONE. It was exactly as you are imagining, perfect. Except the last day.
The last day, well, we slept through our flight. Just snoozed right through it. So our final day was spent trying to remember that we still loved each other because nothing triggers moody people quite like missing a flight. We found a flight out, at a different airport, on a different airline, ate the cost of two new tickets, and settled in at our gate, four hours early.
Those next several hours I sat and did one of my favorite things to do. I people watched. Creeper style. Full-staring engaged. I did keep my face gentle and smiled often as to not scare the ones I was silently dissecting and judging. I watched families casually settling in at gates, and families running to catch planes. I watched kids drive their parents crazy and people argue at airline counters. I watched business professionals and snow-birds. Young hands and aged-hands holding each other. Tan-skin leaving and pale-skin arriving. People hugging, people hustling, people laughing, people sleeping, people stressing.
I watched about 20 people decide to eat a piece of delicious, greasy, Sbarro pizza-which made me join them in that horrible decision making. There really is no attractive way to eat pizza. I kept looking for it and we all just look like animals eating it. And while standing in line to buy the pizza I envied over everything the girl in front of me was wearing, her luggage, her beautiful care-free hair; she was buying a water. Of course, just a water. At a pizza joint. But then I remembered she probably looked like an animal eating pizza, so that made me feel better and worse all at the same time. “JUST GET A PIECE OF PIZZA! I KNOW YOU ARE HUNGRY!” I thought. She probably didn’t want to get that perfect shoulder shawl saucy. I get it.
And so it carried on. Me watching people. At one point I remember closing my eyes and putting my head in my hands and thought “God, there are SO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD, and I am supposed to believe that you know, and love them all. All of them. And this is just one corner gate, in one airport, in one spot on the planet. There are so many people HERE. So many people.”
I think-and stay-in my head so long I wonder some days if I will ever get out of the maze. But I thought a lot that morning. And I noticed that people are starkly different. Just different. Our outward differences are obvious-the color of our skin, the shapes of our bodies, the way we sit and walk and carry ourselves. The way we engage our neighbor, and the way we move towards the people we love. Even the way we wash our hands in the bathroom. We just are and do things differently.
I also noticed that we are starkly alike. That all the things we do differently are just details. That the blueprint from the beginning of time hasn’t changed. Our skin is different, but we are covered with skin. Our faces have the same functioning parts, just the details vary. We can all (mostly) walk, sit, talk and stand. There are variations to this of course, but the majority are a carbon copy of motor movement. We universally feel things. We feel sadness, we feel happiness, we know belonging and we know isolation. We know failure and we know victory. We know when love is real and when it is fake. We know what physical pain feels like and we know what emotional pain feels like. This may be the greatest unifying thread among us all. We can’t escape feeling the world as we experience it. How we handle all of that-well like I said. Details.
We are people hustling, laughing, sleeping, and stressing.
And it is impossible to look attractive eating pizza.
I felt it sharp, the knowing that I separate myself from people. I do it. I choose. I judge. I expect. I see what I want to see and hear what I want to hear. I protect myself. I know this is what we do. I know we, even more than ever, separate ourselves into camps of safe people. To camps of people who will not challenge our beliefs or argue with the safety of our theological perimeters. We buddy up with parents who parent the way we do and soap box on the same soap boxes we carry. We stay safe. The other side requires us to feel too much-to question too much-to love too deep.
The other side requires me to give the chick buying water a break. And recognize that the two of us are, from creation, more alike than different.
I think this is why God can see and love us all. He never intended for the US to be so vastly different, as we are not to Him. If you remove all the details, His workmanship looks alike over and over.
The Jesus who lives in me years ago took this heart of mine and infused it deeply with a love for the oppressed, the voiceless, the overlooked, the judged, the categorized, the ones our churches invite on marquees but don’t invite to our dinner tables. I’ve tried not to rally for these people. I have tried. So many times. But I must. And when I flip the coin and do something like wrongly judge a chick buying a water, I feel it. Deeply. If you were to know me 10-15 years ago, then you would know this makes no sense. I wasn’t bubbling over with acceptance and kindness. Jesus. Only Jesus.
That day in the airport I felt God woo me yet again, reminding me that I had no reason to fear HIS creation. The only thing I have left is to perfect trying to love them. All of them. As well as I can, as God leads.
All of this, from missing a flight.
Strength for being reckless with our (your) kindness and love today. Strength to be full of HOPE. Strength to value God’s workmanship. The light of the world lives in us.