it’s not about crowds, it’s about stories.

i was fifteen minutes early.
the subject we were learning that day is something that gets me excited.
my heart burns with passion for it.
naturally, i was early.

as i made my way up the stairs and into the classroom, my gaze immediately settled on a slight blonde frame already seated to my right.

interesting.  i thought to myself. must be someone new…or maybe i just don’t know her yet.
letting the thought fade from my attention, i claimed my seat, dropped my things and made my way straight to the coffee.
i wanted to be very awake and alert for this night.

the teaching went on and my heart was filled with joy remembering one year ago when everything in my life came to a screeching halt. i would compare it to someone who goes into cardiac arrest and needs a defibrillator to teach their heart how to properly beat again.  that was what happened in my life, and now one year later, i was looking back and seeing just how very much everything in my life had changed from that one earth-shattering experience. my soul was refreshed with the beauty of it all and by the end of the evening, it was easy to see Redemption, it was easy to believe everything was golden and perfect.

not too much time elapsed before i immediately jumped into conversation with people. one, two, five, seven… i lost track.
but something still nagged at me.
why didn’t it seem okay to leave yet?

in the middle of the conversation i was part of, out of my peripheral i saw two figures in the hallway talking in somewhat low voices.

that’s it. i thought. what is it about her?
it was the gal who had caught my attention earlier in the evening.
…but it looked as though she was leaving.
well that can’t be what i’m feeling… and i started to dismiss the whole thing.
until she walked back into the room.

in that instant our eyes met and i saw it.
the pain.
the hurting.
the hunger to be loved and be known.
those eyes knew tears and they knew them often.

her frame was worn. she was tired, tired in so many ways.
i recognized the old me in her.
my heart was aching to hug her, but instead, i offered a smile.

now part of a new conversation, i learned her name and that she hadn’t
ever been here before and she wanted to come back.
she said we were different than people she had encountered before.
she longed to know more about who we were.

before i could even think to ask her about herself, she volunteered information, she was very guarded in all of that, but i could still tell she trusted me. then, in one moment, there was a pause and it was either a time to be real or a time to be plastic and happy.

i chose to be real.

pretty quickly i unraveled bits of my story for her, why i was here, how God had rescued me so completely and in such a way that every hurt that i had known for nearly 20 years was immediately wiped away and replaced with peace and joy and a LACK of the things that once held me so tightly.

as i spoke softly, she seemed to hang on my every word.
never interrupting, but completely engaged and taking in every syllable that escaped my lips.

Lord she needs you so very much. i can see how You love her, You’re making it so plain to me. i can see the beauty in her that You have placed there so intricately and i also see her heart.  it longs to be known.  she is craving rescue. she is hungering for love. she NEEDS a Savior. i can’t be that. i mean, how am i even here talking to her… i’ve never felt comfortable doing this before. how can i even OFFER anything to her? i’m just as broken in just as many ways as she is… the only difference is i belong to You. 

as i finished telling my personal tale of Redemption, my insecurity faded as i was so quickly reminded that i never did anything. He did everything.
He has always been enough.

shortly thereafter, we finished talking and she assured me she was coming to church on Sunday morning.
i instructed her to find me and to not be afraid to say hello.
her parting words amazed me,

“you all are so real. so genuine. you don’t even know me and i can clearly see that you DO REALLY CARE. i will be back. thank you”

i was very speechless after everything and walked out to my car in a daze.
you see, ever since i learned that Jesus doesn’t see me as someone who is invisible, and i found friends who saw me and loved me, i have had such a strong passion for people. for the hearts that are hurting, for the ones who don’t see themselves as they really ought to, as God sees them.  back when i was a teenager, my heart was for teens because i am so very aware of what a broken home life looks like and how it impacts, but now that i am older, i see everything so much differently.  the things that don’t matter, like our bank account status or our favorite clothing brand, those things so often separate us from LOVING other people and from knowing them, not just saying hi and remembering their names but REALLY knowing them.  as i was pondering these things, i came across this video journal type thing from the band Tenth Avenue North and in it, the lead singer, Mike Donehey talks about music festivals and why they as a band do what they do.  in the footage he makes a statement that totally rocked my world,

“There is no such thing as a crowd. all that is, is individual stories.” 
–Mike Donehey, tenth avenue north.

 i used to be SO AFRAID of groups of people. i hated everything about them. the noise, the chaos, the unpredictability. putting myself out there, being someone who refused to conform to the thinking of the crowd… i hated it all.  it’s very vivid to me, one speech i had to give in high school… i sat down in my seat afterwards completely aware that my viewpoints in said speech were not what a single other person in that room agreed to… not even the teacher grading my assignment.  i was a wreck about the whole thing. however, once i received the grading sheet back from the teacher, i was in complete shock about my score.  she had given me the highest grade in the class and one of her comments to this day i will never forget,”because you stood strong to your beliefs and presented everything clearly and succinctly i am giving you a perfect score.  though i may not have the same opinion as the one you demonstrated, you were able to back everything up and not only that, but also stand in front of your peers and state your opinions. well done elizabeth.”

my main point in everything i have said is simply this: do we see everyone in the crowd or do we lump them together as “humankind” and get so lost in our own problems that we lose sight of how we have been called to love.  i don’t know about anyone else who claims to love Jesus as i do, but when i say i love Him, i also choose to want to be LIKE Him.  yes i am in fact invoking the cliche’d “what would Jesus do” phrase.  i mean, if you really think about it, on a Sunday morning do you think Jesus would be the one sitting in the very front only concerned about what He could gain from the morning? no, i don’t think so.  i’m pretty certain that on a Sunday morning, Jesus would be the one standing in the back, offering up His seat to the exhausted mother who got all three of her children presentable that morning by herself and on less than four hours of sleep, dragged herself there because she was craving a touch, wanting to know love.  i think He would be the One standing at the door, handing out bulletins, not out of duty but because He truly wanted to speak to everyone walking through those doors, not a passing “hey how are you?” but a deep and REAL “how are you doing?” He wouldn’t be afraid of going up to someone who is clearly struggling to hold it together during the songs that sing of hope and light.  i’m convinced He would reach out, put His hand on someone’s shoulder who was crying, hug the one who is filled with sorrow, and get down on His knees on the floor with the one who can’t stand on their own anymore.

i don’t know about you, but that’s who i want to be.

“there is no such thing as a crowd. all that is, is individual stories.” 


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