Are You Prepared For The Unexpected?
My mom once said people could tell me anything and I could just sit calmly, nodding my head, and say “Uh, huh. Tell me more…”. This ability was about to be put to the test.
I was a 26-year-old intern at a Christian counseling agency, nervously awaiting the arrival of my first client. My head was swimming with questions and doubt. Was I ready? Would I know what to say? Would I make it through the session without barfing? (I was newly pregnant.)
Never, in a million years, was I prepared for the person who eventually walked through my door. Sometimes things in life seem totally random.
Until they’re not.
During my undergraduate years at a small, conservative Christian college, my professor brought in two guest speakers for our abnormal psychology class (don’t be offended by the “abnormal” part… it encompassed all things not mainstream in the 1990’s). As a bit of a boundary pusher, he decided to ask “forgiveness” rather than “permission” if his guests were questioned by the administration.
Why this concern?
They were male cross-dressers. Not the typical guys you’d see on campus.
They shared their stories during class and a few of us spent extra time with them in the cafeteria afterward, turning more than a few heads of the faculty and students! It was a memorable experience, but one I never expected to have any relevance to my life after that day.
When my first client sat down on my office couch five years later, however, past and present collided. This petite, 60ish-year-old man shared that he was married with grown sons… and was a cross-dresser.
This 20 something, soon-to-be-new-mom, took a deep breath (discreetly...while dying inside) and continued our session. I asked questions and listened as my nerves settled. He answered my inquiries, seemingly gaining comfort with me.
Four sessions later, he walked through my door dressed in full female attire. Wig, heels, and all. Trust me when I say no onlookers would have been fooled by his true gender with his wardrobe and makeup choices.
I believe it was a test to see how I'd respond, but one I’ll never know if I passed or failed.
He didn’t come back.
This encounter made me realize that we ALL share 5 common bonds:
- We want to be understood.
- We want someone to listen to and hear us.
- We want to feel normal, even if we’re labeled “abnormal.”
- We want to feel safe.
- We want to be accepted, no matter who we are or what we look like.
I thought I had chosen a “safe” place to do my internship. A place where I’d engage with people like me while fulfilling my graduation requirements for my master’s degree.
But God had other plans and lessons to teach me. In the years since I've had the opportunity to work with an incredibly diverse population of people. Some straight. Some gay. Some young. Some old. Some wealthy. Some poor.
I’m grateful for the gift I've had to work with all of them and the way they still impact my life today. While we may all be different, we're a lot more alike than we sometimes realize.
You never know how your today will help you in the future. How random encounters will connect and prepare you for the future.
What "random" experiences have you had that led to the unexpected? Have you had one yet? Were you ready for it?
Live with your eyes and heart wide open.
Be aware of the people around you and notice your similarities. They're there. Even if you have to look a little harder than normal. If you live with this kind of posture, you will connect dots you would never have. You'll miss the beauty of life's intricate web that God has uniquely crafted with His hands. Just for you.
You will miss the joy of learning, growing, and being sharpened by other people. Are you ready?
After all, you never know who will walk through your door.