We just got home from church a little bit ago, and it was quite a morning. Every other month, Mark and I teach an older 2's class. While 2's are certainly not my age group of choice (just ask Cal!), I have loved teaching the Bible stories and making crafts and praying with our kids. You just wouldn't believe how fascinating the personalities can develop into at a mere two years old! They are always interesting! Teaching the 2 year olds isn't what Mark would list as his primary gifting, but he is terrific. The kids love him (he thinks they can smell his fear and thusly flock to the adult they perceive they can overtake). We had a great morning in our class.
Then we went to our connect group. We have quite the connect group. When Mark and I first started going, there were only maybe six or eight couples in the class. They were very welcoming and both Mark and I like the teacher's style, so we go back week after week. In the year and a half or so that we have been going to this class, it has grown - immensely! There are times where we have nearly 80 people. (Apparently we aren't the only ones who like the teacher's style!) It has been challenging for us. Neither Mark nor I are really outgoing in groups of that size, and we are both name-memory challenged, so we do a lot of surface greeting on Sunday mornings. You know, the kind where you don't remember someone's name, so you do the smile and a "Hey, how ARE you?" kind of thing.
This morning was just NOT a surface greeting kind of morning. This morning, for the first time in awhile, we all were forced (albeit, gently!) to get past that surface Sunday morning stuff. It is amazing - if you were an outsider looking at this class through the window, you would think we were a very "pretty" class. Really. I mean that. (One thing both Mark and I noticed when we moved to the Bible Belt is that you all - or shall I say "ya'll" - really DRESS for church. Nice clothes, nice hair, nice make up. We were just used to throwing on whatever was cleanest on Sundays!) Today though, some really brave people let down their guard and shared what was REALLY going on behind the nice clothes and hair and make-up. It was beautiful, and it was heartbreaking.
It has been a pretty quiet few hours since we got home from church for Mark and I. Our hearts are so heavy for the needs and hurts of people in our class. I think sometimes as a comfortable middle class SAHM with a healthy family, I tend to judge the books around me by their covers. I forget that the woman who crowds in line in front of me at Walmart may be caring for her dying mother. Or maybe my neighbor who never speaks to me can't because she is too busy grieving not having a child of her own while she watches me play outside with mine. Or the person who cuts me off in traffic is late for a doctor appointment with her sick baby. Sometimes I just...forget... that people have stories and those stories can be full of joy or sorrow or both.
I was reminded this morning that when people choose to share their real story - what is behind all of the prettiness - it is both a gift and a burden. I feel so blessed that in our group there is bravery and courage and transparency. But I also feel blessed that my heart hurts for them. I feel blessed that I feel so compelled to pray for them. I feel blessed that I have people in my life whose burdens I am called to bear. While it hurts, and it makes for a quiet afternoon, I know that a heavy heart is a heart God can use.