“See the beauty in everything.”
I don’t know the neighborhood, but I follow Her directions to the modest, brick-faced house on a quiet street in Forest Park. As we sit waiting for Her “spiritual grandmother”, a close family friend who has known Her nearly all Her life to return from the grocery store, we talk over the events of the day.
We have just come from unsuccessfully trying to visit Her boyfriend at the county jail. He was in the infirmary again for unknown reasons, and She was worried about him. Loyal to a fault, She cared for him enough to visit and encourage him even after getting himself arrested again. She’s always had a big heart.
“I just have to focus on getting everything set for myself and my kids right now. I know he’ll be ok and hopefully this is what he needs to evoke some change,” She tells me. “But I can’t put myself on hold for him.” I nod my affirmation. She is calmer now, and I see the fighter in Her emerge.
As she speaks from her heart about her struggles, I gain courage to do the same. I open up. I tell her about the anxiety I’ve struggled with since I was young, and which intensified during college. I confess the times I can’t stop worrying, even over things so obviously trivial, and how it keeps me from living to my full potential.
Without hesitation, She nods Her sympathy and understanding. “I’ll pray for you.” Outwardly, our burdens are so different, but inside, we know the pain of being broken people in an imperfect world. We pledge together to support one another, and urge each other to trust the Lord.
Her grandmother pulls up and we jump out of the car. She introduces me as her friend, and my heart warms.
After hauling some old suitcases and toys for the kids out of Granny’s shed, we bid her goodbye and head for her house. The kids are eagerly awaiting her return. We lug the suitcases inside; She is bursting with excitement. She pulls out pile after pile of old photos from her childhood. We sit on the floor of Her house. “Look at this one, look at my hair back then, oh my gosh!” She exclaims, thrusting the picture at me. I smile as I look at Her as a young girl, sassy as ever, destined to be the brave woman She has become.
I study Her face, the worry of the day forgotten, replaced with the joy of happy memories. I am sharing this moment with her, and in this instant, I know this is what it’s all about. This is authentic relationship. This is us viewing each other in our entirety. I see my need just as I see Her’s, and I know that I need Her to be there for me just as much as She needs me to be there for Her. We’re intentionally doing life together. The goal is real friendship, and we have it.
Contributed by Kate McGaughey, PR and Marketing Manager at Serenity’s Steps.
The early stages of developing an efficient, mission-true non-profit are not easy. There are late nights, early mornings, countless meetings with potential donors and volunteers, new “brilliant” ideas that end up being crossed off the list and tiny afterthoughts that end up being developed into integral pillars of practice. And oh yeah, the authentic relationships that started all of this.
As we enter a new season, literally – it’s almost summer in Atlanta and the humidity has begun to set in, and figuratively – we’re enacting some internal changes within That Grace Restored that allow for more collaborative development with the help of volunteers and pursuing our communal safe housing option for Serenity’s Steps, we are revisiting what it means to truly be in authentic relationship.
Dignity Serves defines authentic relationships this way:
“Authentic relationships are those in which we are willing to be helped by those we sacrificially serve.”
“Authentic relationships are those in which both persons view the other in their entirety. The helper doesn’t just see the area of need in the other. The one being helped doesn’t view the other as just the source of help. They both realize they both have needs and they can both help. The goal is real friendship and not friendship based on some other objective.”
Last week you read on this blog the story of a young woman with whom we worked who desperately needed the love and support of a family. Her story could be that of any of the women you see standing on a street corner a mile south of Turner Field.
We are all broken people, saved only by grace. We all have intrinsic worth, defined by God. It is through authentic relationships that our worlds collide and we are daily made new together. With whom will you foster an authentic relationship today?