She was the Chaplain’s wife, but not what I expected her to be. I had met him before multiple times, chatted with him, heard him preach. From all of this, I had some expectations of who his wife was. I was wrong.
When I met her, we were at a softball game for my husband’s unit. She had her kids and I had mine. We had watched the whole game without actually talking to each other, just busy watching kids. Following the game, our husband’s introduced us. She seemed overwhelmed and tired, like she just didn’t have it all together. Her husband always seemed to have it together. Ironed and starched, I had never seen him looking weary or bedraggled. I had thought his wife would be the same.
My husband and I chatted about them for quite a while, because this happens more often than I realize sometimes. I am sure it happens to you as well. I expect the Commander’s wife to be a certain way, or the First Sergeant’s wife, or even the Private First Class’s wife. I have expectations partly because of the rank their husband’s hold, but also based on what I know of their spouse. Most of the time I am wrong.
I don’t base my expectations on some kind of invisible standard. I have simply met a family member, knew what kind of job they held, heard what part of the country they were from, or a number of other pieces of information that might tell me a little about them, then my brain forms some sort of expectation.
Do you do this? Surely you do – the Pastor’s wife, the waitress at the local diner, the doctor, any of them. Why am I wrong most of the time? (Notice I did not say disappointed, because I rarely run into anyone I just don’t like. They are just not what I thought they would be – not bad, just different) So why am I wrong?
One reason: I don’t know the story.
Everyone has one. The story of what has brought them to this place at this time. Some of their stories include abuse and sadness as children while some grew up in the “Cleaver” household. Some have struggled as adults to find their way and others knew at a young age. Some have had catastrophic events that have forever changed them from IEDs to losing a spouse, from car accidents to straying teenage children. Regardless of who they are or where they are from, they all have a story.
I love to hear the stories for so many reasons. I start to know who they are and how they got there. Knowing their stories also makes me trust God even more in the craziness of life, because it is the path that they have walked that has allowed them to love and minister to others who are dealing with the same thing. Just cool. The story becomes who they are, and a testimony to what God has done in them.
Stories can have hope and joy. But sometimes when we see people, their story has not gotten there just yet. As with all of us, they are a work in progress, a story God is still writing. I have to remind myself of this not just when someone doesn’t end up like I expected, but on days when someone snaps at me for a reason I have yet to figure out or seems less than cordial in our encounter. God is still writing their story too.
I pray that as I meet people I will see a glimpse of the story of who they are and be reminded that God has yet to finish the story of them. Not everyone is what we expect them to be, and not everyone is who we wish them to be, but ideally we can see as God sees giving encouragement and grace in all circumstances.
I also pray that others will do the same for me. My first impressions are not always great and my words and actions are not always sweet – surprise, right? Hopefully others will remember that God is still writing the story of me as well. I also pray that I use the story He has written so far to love and minister to others.
The challenge: next time you meet someone try to learn a little more about their story. One extra challenge? Even with people you know pretty well, try to find out that “quirky” thing about them. Everyone has one. The part of them you would never guess. Love those things!
So what is your story and have you shared it lately?