It was February 2004 and we were navigating a miscarriage. Anyone who has gone through this will understand that not only are you grieving the loss of your little one but also the new plans and dreams you had begun to imagine. We were leaders in a church (I use the term church reluctantly but that's for another time) as leaders in this 'church' we received a bunch of flowers and a note, and a phone call, but one person came to my door. Maryanne. She wasn't anyone 'special' i.e she didn't have a title, wasn't a leader, she just played the piano on Sundays. I was on the phone when she rang the doorbell so I let her in while I wrapped up the call. Maryanne went straight to my kitchen and started finding her way around the kettle and cupboards. This insignificant normal behaviour moved me so deeply and I didn't know why. She wasn't standing on ceremony, being formal and keeping at a distance. There were no eggshells and no awkwardness. She was being human and being real. She was loving me. She put the kettle on and made us a tea.
I had no expectation, not that I knew this, but when something unexpected happened it broke me.
My whole environment had taught me by stealth that I had no expectation of real connection, no expectation of love, only a show of love. Most of the issue was the teaching, people didn't know how to handle life's everyday difficulties because we were expected to live extraordinary, overcoming lives. We re-spouted the party-lines, wore the masks and lived in portrayal. We were shells of people. Maryanne put some flesh into that shell and gave it a heartbeat. I cried on her shoulder, it felt so good to feel seen and cared for.
I've recently reduced some social media engagement, I find it makes for a good shell if I'm not careful. As I've stepped back the result has been that I'm engaged more fully with those around me and in my world and also with myself, the way God speaks to my heart. From this place I've had more of a heart for the needs of those around me, I've started to see more, feel more and become more moved to action.
Can I encourage you if you find yourself online too much, to consider coming off for a season. See how it will affect you, see how it has been affecting you. There are people all around you who like me back in 2004 don't realise they have no expectation of feeling seen and loved. When you make yourself more available you might be moved to break into that loneliness and touch someone in such a profound simple way that you'll turn their life around. Small kind words, a gesture of encouragement, an invitation to coffee, an inexpensive gift given - maybe you will be the unexpected gift in someone's life this Christmas.