The Man In The Mirror
The other day I found myself having a familiar conversation with a man.
I entered this familiar room that had a familiar glow, a familiar smell, and a familiar feel about it. What was unfamiliar was who I encountered; a stranger. If you've followed me for any given amount of time, you know how much I cherish encounters like this. They are the kind that convince me of a shared common Human Experience. They are the familiar unfamiliar stories that capture my imagination and shuttles me into a space where I believe peace and love and hope are all equally possible if we each took a moment to listen to an experience or two or twelve.
And so that is precisely what I did.
I did the usual greeting, "Hey, how are you?" Which was then followed by the usual rhetoric and awkward beginnings of a conversation that seem to have no potential unless you fight for it. As I dug deep within and asked my usual questions about what it is he did and how he felt about his life he really seemed to open up.
"It's been interesting over the last several months being me. I've found myself running in diagonals chasing after dreams and goals and winding up back in the place where I started. There are things that I'd like to accomplish and things I dream of happening and just when I get close to seeing some progress, they seem to inch just out of my reach. It's almost as though my entire identity has been shifting but I'm not sure what it's shifting to. Things that have been so heavily engrained in me, good things and the bad ones, seem to erupt at spectacular moments right as the wind seems to pick up to carry them away. And when it does, it leaves me with an emptiness; an emptiness that is looking for something to fill the now chasm of my being. "
He said, "And you know what else is crazy? I know things. I know how to do things. I know how to not do things. I know how to solve problems. I know how to handle situations. There are things that I know and things that I can do. However, no one seems to want them. No one seems to care that I can. Most people that I encounter are stuck in a rut in areas that I know I could help and when I offer, I get slapped on the hand. I offer suggestions and people actually shun me and de-friend me because they think I am stepping on their toes, on their ministry, on their culture. And at times I'm screaming at the top of my lungs the fact that I am only trying to help! So help me help you."
He seem to really be hitting a stride and it was then that I realized, my only job here was to listen.
He continued, "I'm scared. I am scared of things. I'm scared that I will never be more than I am today. I am afraid that I'll never be able to escape my past failures, my past hurts, my past disappointments. I'm scared that I will never add up or measure up to the man everyone says I should be. I'm scared of not being chosen, not belonging to someone or to someones. I'm good at things but there is a whole lot that I am not good at. Those are the things that I am most afraid of...because I want to be. What if I never amount to anything?"
Before I could get a word in to encourage him, he noticed that there were words that wanted to come out of my mouth. It was at that time that he said, "Listen. I know this all sounds lame and sad and depressing...but it's my lame and my sad and my depressing story. These are my thoughts. These are the things that haunt me every day. The thing is, these are things that could cripple me. These are things that could hold me back. But here is how I make it through. I remember that I am not abandoned here. I am not forgotten in this space. God has never left my side. I am flawed but have been made flawless through Jesus. He resurrects this lifeless body and breathes life into the dark dead deep spaces of my heart. I lean on him. Even with these things that seem to circle my mind like sharks awaiting the opportunity to attack, I hold steady to my King who rescues me everyday, time and time again."
I took a step back at this. I realized that here standing in front of me was this man who works hard and gets things done and lifts his hands in worship. Here, standing in front of me, was this man who seemed so familiar to me. His story, his thoughts, his feelings, his struggles. They seem so very familiar.
When my gaze focused a little more through the steam and through the haze of the conversation, I realized who this man was.
It was me.