I have a dear friend named Gary. He has the kindest eyes I've ever known and his hugs are some of my favorite to receive. Being in his presence feels safe and I have trusted him with many deep places of my own heart. Some years separate us in age, but his friendship is one that I have come to treasure.
Over the last few years I've learned quite a bit of Gary and his story. What his life was like as a boy, where evil came for him, and where he was wounded. Where God met him in darkness and what repentance, redemption and freedom has looked like for him.
(I have asked his permission to share the following from his story publicly.)
There has always been an unforgettable scene in his story for me. It's where he is a small boy and his dad is working in the yard. He's tagging along, being his young and childlike self. And there is this moment where his dad walks right past him, brushing against his arm, but not acknowledging that he was even there. I've heard him say that maybe if his father had just tousled his hair, it would have made him feel like he was wanted or cared for or loved. But instead he just felt rejected, like a nobody. That was just one scene of many for Gary where his father was distant and cold.
For some reason, this scene has always stayed with me. I think of it often, especially in the moments where Tommy feels under foot or close to me when I'm busy doing something other than playing with him.
To this day when I walk by my little boy, or find him close while I'm busy doing housework, I often find myself touseling his hair. Sending this physical reminder of, "I know you're there, and even though I'm occupied and busy, you matter to me and I love you."
In those brief moments, my mind always, always goes to Gary as a little boy. I ache and smile at the same time. Because his story, his longings and needs as a child, and his bravery in telling of those things - all of that has had an impact on me. Gary's story has shaped how I mother my son.
This is why I'm passionate about telling stories and just as passionate about listening to them. Because when we share our stories, these scenes - small and seemingly insignificant or huge and life-altering - not only can we shed God's light and perspective on them, but they have the ability to change us. They have impact on how we live and love others. And ultimately, how we see God.
I suppose I will always think of Gary any time I tousle Tommy's hair. I hope I always remember the pieces and scenes of other's stories that have left a mark on my heart and changed the way I want to show up and love others.