Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes words are necessary. Other times, words aren't needed but actions are. Sometimes the more we talk, the more we get ourselves in trouble; it's better to remain silent and have your actions cause intrigue. But what about the moments in which someone needs to hear our story, for surely we all have one? I personally love talking to people and sharing with them my life journey (thus far) if they seem to be of interest in hearing it.
"What's your story?" is a pretty general question I often get asked (not sure why). It's a question that holds such weight. It's a question that always ends up full-circling to God. It's a question that can be answered briefly, with less passion, or over the course of hours full of animated hand gestures. In Orlando this past weekend, a homeless man (Travis) who has made the beach his refuge approached my husband and I. Travis came up to me and asked if I'd watch his stuff as he took a dip in the ocean; "you have trustworthy eyes". He also took off a handmade bracelet and asked me if I'd protect something very special to him, and I said of course. While he was swimming I wondered what the significance of the bracelet was, and as he walked back to shore I asked him. He began talking about his daughter (she made it for him) and his current life situation; it started out a little awkward but the more we conversed, the more comfortable he became. The topic of faith came up and I kept quiet simply to respect Travis and not cross any boundaries; I could see that he was uncomfortable. My husband Dan, however, doesn't always pick up on social cues and kept the conversation going despite Travis becoming annoyed and defensive. A lot of what was being said mimicked things like, "…scripture says…", "…the Bible says that…", and so forth.
Surprisingly Travis stuck around…I figured he'd had enough of Dan and just wanted to leave. At one point Dan went for a swim and I stayed behind laying on the towel next to an annoyed and confronted Travis. "I KNOW you think differently than he does, right? I mean I see you rolling your eyes over there!" I smiled and corrected Travis that I wasn't rolling my eyes and said, "No, it's not that I think differently, because I honestly don't. I'm sitting here quietly because I just have a different approach, that's all". Sometimes, less is more. Actions speak louder than words.
Sometimes a person who's at a rough place in life doesn't need to be told that they're loved by God, which although it's true, doesn't connect for them. Perhaps giving Travis my flip flops (I have big feet, it would've been fine) would've made him feel loved. What if feeding him, clothing him, providing him with water for the week would have made him feel more loved than simply words? I have the capacity to show God's love to others because it's in me. God loves people through people, just as God speaks to people through people.
"You have a different approach? What would you have said if you took over the conversation?", Travis asked me. I replied, "I would have said: I'm not here to get you to believe in what I believe. If you'd give me a minute or two of your time, I'd tell you that God's hand has been over my life in ways I can't deny. When I was strung out on drugs and at numerous times could've died, he was with me. I look back and realize that now, and I'm forever grateful". What was his response? With tears in his eyes he said, "That's amazing, and see, I would've connected with that more than what your fella was saying". Although in that particular moment I did use words, perhaps it was my initial silence that caused Travis to even open up to me and ask what I would've said.
I've come to realize that regarding faith/God, people want to hear experience vs. "the Bible says so". I've spoken to many people on the matter, and I haven't always taken the gentle, "let me tell you what God has done for me" approach. It's something I can talk about to no end, given the time and place are appropriate. But again, going back to words vs. actions: do I actually treat others properly? With gentleness? Kindness? Patience? Or do my actions contradict my words? It's such a refining of my character, and personally I love it. I don't always enjoy it, but it changes me for the better. There's incredible beauty in knowing what your heart's condition was before experiencing God for yourself, when you actually want it (as opposed to somehow being forced into religion as a child), and then seeing how your heart changes over time. Old desires truly do die down; you're no longer the person you used to be.
Travis told me I have the most beautiful eyes he's ever seen. I told him maybe it's because they're eyes that see beauty in everything. Eyes that look at the ocean in awe of the beauty we've been blessed to enjoy. Eyes that look up at the stars in pure amazement of how small we are, and yet we're so magnificent in the eyes of God. Eyes that know without a shadow of a doubt that I was created for a wonderful purpose. I made sure to tell Travis he's a beautiful soul, because he is. Despite our polar opposite beliefs, the three of us hugged as Dan and I left the beach. I know that I touched a part of Travis' heart that day; simply because I took care of something so dear to him, his beloved bracelet from his daughter. To me it's not a big deal, but that still, soft whisper spoke to my heart, "You allowed me to love through you. Thank you". My favorite voice.