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My coworker and I stood in front of the Airbnb and waited for our Lyft driver to arrive. Just as the driver pulled up in a small but new-looking Toyota Prius, she mused, “I wonder if we should have told them we have two people and three bags?” 

And then we met Audie, the driver. I went to open Audie’s trunk and saw it was crumpled, the metal forbidding the door to open. 

Audie graciously said, “I’m sorry, my trunk won’t open. I was just rear-ended.” 

And so, he helped us creatively cram one ginormous and two regular-sized suitcases and two briefcases into the front seat. My teammate and I barely fit with a suitcase between us on the back seat and bags down around our feet. Regardless, it worked, and we were glad for the on-time ride to the airport. 

And then I listened. 

I had to lean forward toward Audie, who sat in front of me, to hear it: Soothing music with words that said, “Our LORD is so good.”  

I offered, “I agree with those words. I’ve just seen God be so good to me these past three days.” 

I thought of my work gathering that had just ended. We had forged the practicalities of where to focus and who’s doing what. We prayed and ate a Thanksgiving meal together in one team member’s warm, comfortable home that reflects her creative flair.  

God had been so good. 

It was just what we needed—to work through all the lofty ideas and strategies that are my specialty. 

Physically speaking, the car ride with Audie wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t ideal with my stuff perched all around me and my coworker’s stuff in front of her. But the soft music, the care taken to make the car not only clean but smell good, calmed me. Graciousness. Not perfect hospitality with everything ideal. Better. Gracious welcoming for two tired women who just wanted to get home to our hubbies. 

Contrast that with what I found at the airport! 

Grumpiness. All around.

“Lizzie Ann! Do you think you deserve to get on that plane if you behave like that?” As I stood in the coffee line, I looked over to a frazzled mom, then to her daughter Liz, who was committing the evidently unforgivable sin of sitting down on the airport carpet. Lizzie’s mom’s edge reached out in all directions—three feet of slicing sharpness. I stepped back a little, not for social distancing but my own emotional shielding. 

“Can you believe it? What a stupid move. So, I told them they owed me…” As I walked to my gate, I overheard what appeared to be a businessman berating some, who knows? Teammates, vendors, bosses?

“How do I get to gate 40?” the energetic man asked the airline agent who I now stood before at my gate. The gate agent pointed in the correct direction and gave instructions to find gate 40. The man, rather than thanking the gate agent, continued, “So, you work here every day. And that means you probably don’t notice that there’s no signage to tell us how to get there. Sheesh. How ridiculous is that.” And then he huffed off toward his gate. I thought to myself, what power does the gate agent have over the airport’s signage? 

How Do We Offer God’s Gracious Over Our Grumpy? 

I reflected on the tale of the two tones—gracious and grumpy. And I remembered something my friend said, “Sometimes we forget how much pain other people bear. What happens behind closed doors. Their private anguish.” I nodded when she said it, thinking of four friends of mine whose marriages are breaking apart due to pornography and affairs. Whose kids are impacted. Whose mental health is threatened. Whose very lives seem tenuous right now. 

My friend continued, “If we asked God to help us be aware of that pain, how would we be awakened to pray, to care, and to enter into their lives?”

If you’re traveling this holiday—or even if you’re just in the grocery overhearing voices—how can you ask God to show you the pain others carry? How can you and I be more like Audie, the Lyft driver whose livelihood had just been badly damaged by being rear-ended? Audie, despite his pain, still offered a clean, fragrant space with music to point his passengers to God. 

This holiday, I want to be an Audie. I might have it all together with my Christmas cards ordered, my gift list ticked, my dog Osito groomed, and my menus planned. But I might be in pain. I might be caring for loved ones who have to decide how to find a new way to do life because their current one has been, well, rear-ended. I might be walking alongside friends who have encountered horrors they describe as totally unexpected, painful, and confusing. I might not know what to do with my version of a broken bumper that won’t let me do things the way I know are best and right.  

But I can offer a space for others to join me. I can ask God to keep cleaning my heart, to keep giving me a desire to care about others’ pain, and to show me how to quietly offer words—my own music—that allow tired, perhaps even grumpy, people to lean in and ask for more. More of the God who is good. 

“Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:23-24 

A Note From Naomi: 

If you, like me, need some ideas and steps to know how to enter into people’s pain graciously, then you will LOVE my friend Jan Mather’s book, Loving Your Neighbors. I read it last winter, and it helped me pray and grow more sensitive to people’s needs. It continues to help me love others toward connecting with God, each other, and our communities.