Sandpaper people, soul mate, kindred spirit, bur in the saddle, thorn in the flesh…these are some of the ways we express how we relate to different people. Some folks in our lives are soothing and comforting and others rub against us like rough sandpaper. This weekend I attended a creativity retreat with a couple of dear friends. It was a small and intimate gathering with fewer than 25 people. Tucked away in a cabin in the woods in northern Texas, it was easy to get a taste of all the different personalities; and it was beautiful.
That doesn’t mean it was easy.
I tend to be an observer and I watched a room full of sensitive souls (that is what makes us creative!) attempt to ask questions, discuss, relate — all the while, I quietly watched each one feeling pinched in some way throughout the weekend, including me.
We don’t want to be offended or hurt intentionally or unintentionally by others (or to others), but each of us has our own expectations of how to communicate and how we want others to relate to us. Unfortunately, it rarely happens the way we expect.
Boundaries for one person can be perceived as a wall of rejection by another.
It’s always much easier to look at someone and point out flaws and sharp edges from our perspective, but lately, God has been actively teaching me to take another look, learning how to appreciate different people.
In the past, this has been a huge struggle because I’m so used to languishing in self-pity and offense when I’m met with silence, a sharp response, indifference — basically anything other than, “You’re so awesome!”.
But this weekend, I was genuinely able to sit back and feel absolute love for each person in the room! I felt the love of the Father (my God who is in Heaven) pour through me and to them. Their areas of what we could call “shortcomings” or “room for growth”, I now saw as perfect for who they are and where they are in life. As a result, what once would have been as heavy grit sandpaper was now ultra-fine and I welcomed the smoothing out these precious people provided.
This is the grace of God.
We all give what we can give at any particular moment. Others may want or demand more. We may want or demand more of others. Yet, if we can slow down and realize that the grace we want FROM others should be the grace we GIVE to others, then it becomes so easy to appreciate our differences and be patient.
This weekend was a huge step forward for me as all I saw was beauty IN their weaknesses or differences! Not covering up or pretending there weren’t these prickly parts, but appreciating each person for WHO they are and WHERE they are in life, knowing that those prickly places represent stories on both sides. What’s prickly in the eyes of one is relatable or welcoming in the eyes of another.
Wow! Our lives are beautiful to God. Our journeys are transformative. This weekend God showed up in a big way to teach me how amazing it is when I allow Him to capture my heart and my eyes.
As wonderful as this weekend was of deeply appreciating each person, it was even better to step into a place of firm acceptance of where I am in life. I no longer felt the need to apologize for who I was, my boundaries that others see as walls, my woundings that cause me to be prickly in the eyes of others. Instead, I stopped and thanked God for who I was, where I was, and for teaching me that it was okay to be where I am in life.
This is not saying I have no need to grow. Rather, though it seems counter-intuitive, it became so clear to me that focusing on my shortcomings and constantly trying to improve, though it seems admirable, the greatest growth in me, spiritually, emotionally, mentally comes when I can be glad for who I am right now.
As always, I firmly set my face to God and push forward, absolutely content with who I am and who the people are around me. Of course, wisdom dictates proper boundaries and when people balk at it, that’s okay. And when I encounter someone else’s boundary, instead of being hurt or offended, I can stand there and say, “I’ll enjoy you from this point right here.”
Gratitude is bursting out of my soul. I don’t apologize for my differences. Likewise, I saw no need to find an explanation for the peculiarity I saw in others. Instead, I loved their differences, even if we didn’t have kindred spirits. What a deep measure of peace, rest, and contentment was poured into me with each passing moment.
It’s in that place of peace and rest in the midst of extending grace to others and ourselves, that God inhabits us (when we are at peace, we are full of praise, and God inhabits our praises). And when He inhabits, He transforms. As God transforms, the more we are capable of loving and accepting the sandpaper people that cross our paths.