by Allison Martin
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
My junior year of high school, second hour was the highlight of my day. I loved American History, and no one could teach it like Mrs. Davis*. Her piercing blue eyes and keen observations intimidated me the first semester- after that, they just kept me on my toes. Her wit and dry sense of humor endeared her to us. A115 was her kingdom, and she alone sat on the throne. She was absolute authority in her classroom- she tolerated no rebellion. Excuses were best left outside the door. It’s really quite remarkable that we loved her as did, because she pushed us- hard. Our essays were usually covered in red pen marks, but we hardly ever resented it.
Once, a post it note was delivered to me in my last hour class. It was from Mrs. Davis, regarding the essay I had written that morning. In her usual abrupt manner, it read: “Allison- it’s a 9!” I never got another perfect score on one of her essays, but I still have that Post-it note.
One morning as we sat enthralled by the extravagance of 19th century robber barons, there was a soft knock at the door. Almost silently, the World History teacher from a few doors down slipped in the room, holding a rather large bouquet of wildflowers. Without a word but never breaking Mrs. Davis’ gaze, he placed the vase on her desk and was gone.
Not one to be perturbed, she turned back to the whiteboard and continued the lesson.
Out of pure respect for Mrs. Davis, we were typically an attentive class, but this was nearly too much. Glances back and forth turned into smirks, then snickers. We had heard of Mr. Davis, but never seen him. Was it their anniversary? Her birthday? The suspense was unbearable. Finally, a brave soul took one for the team. “Hey, Mrs. Davis, what are the flowers for?”
Mid sentence, her marker hesitated. She turned to face her students, her expression a complete mystery. “They’re from the teachers. My mom died this morning.” She turned back to the whiteboard and finished the lesson as though the interruption had never happened.
I’ll never forget the stillness that followed. My entire history class seemed to be thinking the same thing: “How did I not notice?” We didn’t notice because we weren’t looking for signs of pain or trouble. We didn’t come into class wondering how Mrs. Davis was doing that day, or if there was some way we could be a blessing to her. We came into class thinking about quizzes and all the latest drama. I didn’t come into class thinking about her. I came into class thinking about me.
For the first time, I realized just how much went on behind the curtains of what I could see.
It’s a lesson, I have to admit, that I’ve had to learn countless times since then. It’s as easy to slip into a comfortable routine as it is a favorite old hoodie. We close our eyes to the almost imperceptible cries for help. Those around us seem to be doing fine, we think, and if they really needed someone they would ask. But it just isn’t true.
The connectivity of our world has deceived us into believing that we know the whole story.
Sometimes we forget that what we see on Instagram is such a narrow window into what really goes on in people’s lives. Surprisingly enough, what we see in a day at work, school, or church can be a pretty narrow window, too. My generation has perfected the art of pretense. We bear our heaviest burdens so, so quietly. Many times, the exhaustion of struggling alone is preferred over the vulnerability of asking for help. I fear it’s not uncommon to have 800 followers and no one to talk to.
Despite our best intentions to pay more attention, it isn’t enough. Wounded hearts are too good at hiding. If we want to make a difference, we must live each day under the guidance of God’s Spirit. Our hearts must be in tune with our all seeing, all knowing, ever faithful God.
When God prompts you to action, remember this: He’s heard prayers you didn’t hear. He’s wiped away tears you never saw. He is moved by a brokenness you don’t know about.
God has been dealing with me on this in a very practical way. So often, I find that I’ve been so wrapped up in what is going on in my world that I’m completely oblivious to anyone else’s. This is a list I’ve made for myself, simply to help me keep my eyes and heart open. I’m far from being where I want to be, but I’ve found God bringing this list to mind when opportunities came. If you feel led to make a list of your own, we’d love to hear some of your ideas.
If you feel burdened to pray for someone, send a quick text and let them know.
Be quick to compliment strengths, and sensitive to weaknesses.
If you notice that someone has improved or grown in some area, acknowledge it.
Pay attention to the small signs that someone is hurting, and pray about one way that you can bear that burden with them.
If someone looks like they could use a friend, invite them over for coffee.
None of this sounds life-changing, or even important. And maybe in our hands, it isn't. But when our ordinary efforts become a tool in the Master's hand, they can be the answer to someone's prayers.
If our eyes were opened to what heaven sees, I think we would find it unbelievable how often we stumble into a defining moment in someone’s life without ever realizing it.
My goal this year is to do less stumbling in, and more intentional walking in. To be there in the hard moments, on purpose.
Opportunities are everywhere. Let’s go looking for them.
May our touch be gentle.
May our words speak life.
May our love point to Him.
Because you never know what happened this morning.
*Her name was changed for privacy.