Sometimes someone comes into your life, and you don’t even know they are in your life. You know them as an acquaintance yet stand at an arm’s distance for whatever reason. You find yourself wishing that could change but unsure how to bring about that change. And then, in an unexpected moment, that person is no longer here and the woulda-shoulda-couldas try to creep into the psyche.
I am faced with a choice. Will I ride the slippery slope of emotion and go on the ride over the jagged rocks that cut and slice and leave me scarred, or do I drink deep of the cup, swallow that which is hard to accept, let it work through me to do its work, and come out better on the other side? How do I honor the legacy of that which has been lost? How do I better myself through my pain? How do I better myself so I can help someone better themselves?
Today a community to which I belong lost one of our own. And I have been surprised by the depth of my tears. I feel a loss I didn’t know I would feel to this degree. I am compelled to process and pull out the lessons my friend taught me. And I have stripped it down to the key lesson I am painfully learning now: don’t answer the question for someone before you ask it.
We all have our stories, and Ryder’s story was not one that many knew in detail. I did not. What I know of it tells me there was much trauma and a deep search for love, purpose, acceptance, and identity. From there I only have my observations. Ryder was a highly skilled artist who created some unbelievable abstract sketches of depth. He was also very private,
often staying in the back of the room, interacting with a select few, keeping any work of art covered anytime someone would come close. To the outside observer it could appear that Ryder didn’t want to interact with anyone and trusted few. If we’re honest with ourselves we’re probably all the same way. Over the years Ryder grew so much! He displayed the courage needed to grow. He opened his heart and found himself blindsided by love.
My nature is such that I want to get to know folks, so when I observed Ryder, in my judgment, in essence keeping to himself, I felt I was intruding to approach him, so I rarely did. To me it was clear he felt safe with only a trusted few and I did not want to violate that space, as I was not one of them. Over time the walls came down some and I was able to interact a little, but I was still cautious. I was able to support him at the calling hours when his dad died. Last year I visited Nashville and spent an entire afternoon with Ryder and a mutual friend. That was the most interaction we ever had. Yet, I still felt as if I wasn’t sure how to interact with him. And that is where I have learned I missed out.
I can’t change that now. Not for Ryder. I can, however, learn and change it in myself. As I was processing this insight tonight a friend asked, ‘will you have the courage to ask God to bring another in your life and ask the question?’ Faithful friendship, not letting me stay in my
sorrow and sadness but instead gently pushing me forward. That question packs a punch. It takes the lesson and applies it for future growth. Is that not what should happen as we learn the hard lessons?
I can’t beat myself up for what I cannot change. I cannot change the assumptions and decisions I made with Ryder. I cannot change that I didn’t have the courage to have the conversation, the one that would have said “I’d like to get to know you better but I’m not sure how to interact with you as I know you are a private person. Would you like to go for coffee or would you rather not?” And then wait for the answer instead of already having answered it in my mind.
What I can change is my awareness of those who may appear to be isolating and initiate, still leaving the control in their hands, but at least extending mine. No fear of intrusion. No thought of possible rejection. Instead, taking the courage to reach out expresses love and value to the other person. And oh how I want to spread that message.
What about you? What presuppositions are you making about people, keeping you from reaching out to them, blocking you from extending your hand of grace to them? When you are the one pulling back, what is it you want at the deepest level? I doubt it’s to be alone. Dig deeper. What is causing you to pull back is also the answer to what you are seeking. If you are pulling back for fear of being seen, you really want to be known but fear the rejection which has been your experience thus far. See what I mean? The fear is the same for someone else. What are you willing to risk and learn about yourself to make the world a better place for someone else? I hope you’ll ask the question and let them answer it, because your answer is probably wrong. Being blindsided by love can be a wonderful thing.