I’ve often have the conversation with my husband about the difference between men and women and why women seem to fight more. I told him it’s really easy to get along with people if you talk about the weather and sports. Women go deep, and they go deep fast, so when there is heartbreak or division, it really stings. I think there’s something about us that sees beneath the surface. I think my own personality, though, takes seeing-beneath a step further. I might be in a crowded room with people who are feeling happy and overjoyed, but a sadness overtakes me. It’s not a symptom of depression. It’s something I feel in my mind’s eye or in my spirit that just doesn’t resonate with what’s happening. I also have a penchant for seeing the people on the fringes of that happy room. In today’s discussion, I want us to spend some time talking about making sure that the surface is never our satisfaction level.
As you know if you’re my friend in real life or if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, I was a classroom teacher for eleven years. I taught mostly eighth grade, but in my last four years, I moved up and taught high school. It was a really hard job. I wanted to knock somebody’s head off one day when I was sitting at dinner and she said she was tired of teachers complaining. “They get summers off and get to go home every day at 2:30,” she pronounced. I would challenge anyone who feels that way to even go observe in a classroom for a day. It’s not that we’re overworked or the hours that make us the most exhausted, although that’s part of it. It’s the never-ending heartbreak and push back and rebellion. Especially with older students. Along the lines of heartbreak, I can think of several students who were invisible to many others, including their teachers. I may not have been good at being the easiest grader or in helping all the kids pass my class, but there’s something again about my personality that just can’t let go of kids that no one else sees.
Maybe it’s because we grew up poor or whatever, but my heart just reaches out and connects, sometimes even to “prickly” kids. One such young man was a cutter. I’ve never before or since encountered a male student who used cutting to control his life or relieve his pain. This boy had been cutting since middle school, and if you read his file, the teacher said he was just doing it for attention. Well obviously. Why else would a perfectly normal person feel the need to inflict pain and see blood? It was his way of controlling some life situation. This kid didn’t give a rip about my class. He was failing every semester, and he chose to surround himself with kids who were behavior problems. We definitely tangled more than once. However, as I would walk him to the counselor again and again to report fresh ucts on his arms, we started to form a bond that I didn’t realize was being formed at the time. I certainly never would have known it by his backtalk, haha. However, after he left school, he was one of the students who wrote me back and said I was his favorite teacher. There was something in me that recognized his invisibility, and I believe he responded to that from his own heart cry.
Another student that comes to mind really broke my heart and still does. I’ve tried to locate him and can’t. He was my eighth grader, and when he would come into other teachers’ rooms, he smelled so bad that those teachers would spray air freshener all around the room. It couldn’t have been more obvious why they were doing it. I even heard one teacher say that she couldn’t sit and help him because she would gag. It was a horrible smell, and he could have done something about it. I get that. However, the thought that a kid would purposely make himself disgusting to keep people away should tear our hearts apart. Certainly God can help us overcome the stink or the disgust if there’s a soul at stake.
My point in sharing these two stories is not to pin roses on myself. There have been many times in my life, even maybe with some of you, that I have been unkind. I remember mocking a boy who was of a different faith in middle school. If I could remember his name to look him up, I would apologize profusely. Maybe we can’t go back and redo everything we haven’t done, but there’s something to be said for going forward without ignoring the invisible people this time.
What if you’re not a teacher? What if you can’t relate at all to the stories I just shared? There’s another way I want to challenge us to see beneath the surface. I love to tell stories to illustrate my point so just indulge me here. I was at a church service the other night. This weekend, I honestly needed a little pick-me-up, so I went to three different church services. I told my husband I wanted to have a personal revival weekend. At the third of those services, the worship was amazing. The young piano player was tearing up those keyboards. Everyone was in tune, the harmony was great, and the enthusiasm of all the worshipers was contagious. But as I worshiped, I also observed. I saw middle school girls dancing and singing their little hearts out. As I watched, I thought about my experience as a middle school teacher. I thought about what happened when those same Christian girls went to school and acted completely different. So instead of focusing on jubilant worship, I found myself crying and praying for those girls to be protected and to remember that they were the same person outside of church as they were inside it. Maybe they were. And maybe some will call me judgmental for even having that thought. But my heart was pure. I want there to be a revival of us going beneath the surface. Revival of us caring if who we really are matches who we pretend to be. All of us can act a certain way when we’re around certain people, but if we become chameleons, we’re just surface-level people. I want us all to take time to notice, whether it’s in ourselves or in others, the cry of deep crying out to deep.
The bottom line of seeing below the surface is that you have to see two ways. You have to make eye contact and look for those invisible souls crying out for the love of God we’re called to share. You have to take off any blinders and choose to see what might be difficult or uncomfortable or against the grain. But you also have to make soul contact. You have to ask for the discernment of the Lord to help you process situations you’re seeing and respond appropriately, instead of just ignoring them and moving on. I don’t know what these two types of contact will cause in your life, but I know for me they prompt me to action. And sometimes they at least prompt me to an awareness of gratitude. Thankful that God even chooses to whisper His cries to my heart.
Talk about invisible people–Jesus dealt with a bloody woman and a leprous man. He also dealt with the Pharisees, who looked perfect on the outside, but whom He called “whitewashed tombs, full of dead men’s bones.” He was never content to take the eye or the soul at face value either. Let us follow His example today.
Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Truth Tuesday session I host every week at facebook.com/thebeaminmyeye at 8:30PM EST.