I like jokes. I like Jesus. But you wanna know what my favorite Jesus joke is?
Jesus’ greatest miracle is having 12 close friends in his 30s.
I love this joke because as I’ve gotten older, adulthood has finally crept up on me. The unglamorous thing about adulthood is that literally all of my time, if I let it, can be taken up by maintenance. Because, that house? You have to clean it. That husband? Wants conversation. Those kids? You have to feed them. Every day. Every single day you have to get off the couch and make a dinner that not only makes your budget feel good, but quells your mom guilt that you’re supposed to feed your kids healthy enough food.
But last year, just as I almost started to get in this nice comfortable bubble where I was (reasonably) holding it all together, God of course had to have a chat. He taught me in a new way that his kingdom is people-focused.
Jesus prioritized people. The crowds followed him wherever he went. He hung around people, ate dinner with people, went to see people, and even let people interrupt him going to see people. He looked at people and loved them and had compassion on them. He spoke to the downtrodden with respect. He let people inconvenience him. Even literally hanging on the cross, he’s still encountering people and inviting them into the Kingdom. He never let anything--not schedules, not rank, not age, not programming, not comfort, not anything--stand above having encounters with people. When we follow Jesus’ footprints, we are going to follow him right to a person.
When God began to teach me all of this, I prayed that he would show me what it really looked like to love someone like he loved them. I mean, I knew I loved my family, but what does it look like to love the grocery store checkout person, or the random people you meet, or the person who writes a nasty email to your ministry, or the person who bumps into you and doesn’t say “excuse me”? So I prayed and God began to change my heart.
Then a crazy thing happened. I kind of….became obsessed with people. Even strangers I passed in stores. I would smile all brightly at them and say hello in a probably-too-eager way that may have creeped them out a little. I would be at the checkout counter at the grocery store and I’d ask the person how their day was and, like, I actually REALLY cared what their answer was. I would tell every single little girl I saw that day that she was beautiful and smart.
Ok, funny story about this: When I was deep in this season, I went on a trip to Washington D.C. & got to cross off my bucket list visiting Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home. I was standing in this huuuge line to get in the mansion (by myself, because I love doing things by myself) & I overheard the teenage girl in front of me casually say to her family, “I wonder if George Washington had anything to do with the Freemasons.” And I chip in “Yes, actually, the Mount Vernon Instagram page posted a portrait today of Washington in his mason attire!” The girl turned around to me, looked me dead in the eyes, and just stared at me. Didn’t say anything. Just stared. That’s when I realized they might not be from the South, where making friends in lines is basically a requirement.
It’s been a crazy few months since I prayed and God has been slowly changing my heart and focus. I’m not saying I’ve become the expert (clearly) but if you’re wanting to be more intentional about focusing on people in your day-to-day life, DON’T spout out random facts but DO follow these 3 steps.
How to Be People-Obsessed in 3 Easy Steps:
Be intentional with 2 friends. You don’t have to be crushed under the weight of trying to be super personable to ALL the people in the world. Just start getting in the lives of 2 or 3 people. Identify them. Decide an action plan, like texting them regularly (weekly, bi-weekly, whatever) and seeing them face-to-face at least once a month. Friendship, like any relationship of your adult life, takes work and intentionality. It’s not going to come passively.
Side note: In addition to 2 friends, I like to have at least 1 mentor-like older person speaking into my life, and at least 1 person who either does not know Jesus or is extremely new to the faith.
Be interested. I learned that a lot of what it takes to show someone you love them is to be interested in their day. Like the grocery store checkout person--when you ask them how their day is going, is it because you’re just being polite, or because you really care? God convicted me that I had 45 seconds to make this person’s day different -- were they going to leave my interaction with them being encouraged, discouraged, or indifferent? Energized, drained, or the same? Was I going to convey to them in 45 seconds that someone had heard and seen them that day as a person, not just what they could do for me? In that 45 seconds, had they had a real human interaction that day? ….. Or had I surfed Insta and only talked to them when they asked if I want my milk in a bag?
Realize that any interaction that day can be your Holy Spirit Appointment. I used to pray this a lot -- for God to make “holy spirit appointments” in my day. For those who don’t speak Christianese, that’s an encounter with someone where one (or both) of you helps the other one closer to God. Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of those “meetings” actually happened, because I wasn’t looking for them or I had put my own expectations on what they would look like. For instance, I expected them to happen at church or at work, but not at Walmart on the way home. And I kind of always expected them to look like a random person crying in the aisle or suddenly having a word for a random stranger. But the funny thing is, neither of those things have ever happened. Widening your expectations, and being ready to respond to any opportunity that might come your way, will allow you to harvest a crop you didn’t expect.
Let me know your favorite tip about being intentional, either with friends or strangers, in the comments below!
P.s. still me:
And ya’ll we are done with this series! Yay! Next week: a dumb story in which we learn no lessons. Because if school taught me anything, it’s that you can only learn for 5 days and then you need a vacation.