Every time I try something new, go somewhere new, I am convinced that I will be different. I won’t be scared or shy. I won’t find myself burrowing into a book in terror or feigning invisible in social situations. Miraculously, I will love meeting new people and suddenly I will become an outgoing, hospitable, social butterfly.
Yet again, this is not the case. Here in Guatemala, in this new place where I want to invest and plant roots and share life, I find myself stuck on the same old hang ups, the same old fears. In this quest for hope, this challenge to find the bright spots, I’ve found the greatest obstacle is not cynicism or doubt, but my own desire to withdraw, to be comfortable, to remain untouched, unchallenged, and unchanged.
I say I want to know their story, but more often than not, I haven’t even asked them how they’re doing, much less invited them to share their story.
Six years ago when I studied abroad in Costa Rica, I wrote the thoughts below, and today I echo this desire to connect with others despite my battle with fear and complacency.
I say I want to know your story, but I haven’t even asked.
When I look into your eyes, I can see your story.
But that’s as far as I get.
What is love?
What is kindness?
Where does my story stop and your story begin?
I’ve spent my whole life writing my own story.
I haven’t had time to listen to yours.
Why am I paralyzed in fear?
Why is it so hard to look past my story for one minute?
What is it that I’m scared of?
Am I scared that your story will be different, or do I fear that it will be the same?
I say I want to know your story,
but I haven’t even asked.
I can live with you for a semester and not even know you.
I can live with you for a lifetime and never even know your dreams.
I want to know you, I really do.
What story do I believe in?
That this is it, this is all?
Is there a heaven or a God?
Why haven’t I learned that your story is my story?
That when I ignore you, I discount myself.
When I’m scared of you, it’s really me that I’m afraid of.
If I really knew His love, would I be scared?
His love is supposed to drive out fear.
Today, I resonate with this ache to see past myself, with this thirst to witness the power of God. But, unlike six years ago, I am now confident that Love will
drive out fear. I have seen Him do it. In my life and in the lives of those around me. I have experienced freedom from fear, from self-loathing, from bondage to rules. I have experienced Love and Joy and Peace and the wondrous re-creation of the Holy Spirit on my behalf.
I have learned and am still learning to see past fear. To push past my normal limits. I am learning that I am loved and that I can turn to Him when I am scared. I am learning to trust Him. I am learning to love Him.
Today I ask this God of Love, the God who is Love, to allow His love to be my story so that my heart may be opened to others’ stories.