Yesterday I told a story about a man who mistreated me as a result of our television show. But he was an exception to the experiences I normally had with our viewers. Once I was speaking at a drug court event, and a young person told me that his grandma watched our show every week, and then he said, “And because my grandma heard about addiction the way you spoke of it, she stopped judging my character and started encouraging my recovery.” What a blessing to hear that! Another time my family was leaving a restaurant and a guy ran up and asked if he could snap a picture with me (this was before “selfie” was a common term). Then he explained to my husband how he was going to show it to his mother, and how she was going to be so mad that she skipped church and Sunday lunch out with him – because she just LOVED our show. Oftentimes people would stop me at the gym or the mall, and tell me about their friend/relative, etc., who had an addiction problem. They might ask for advice, but mostly they just wanted me to listen to their story. I would be heading home from the gym and stop to put gas in the car and end up having a 30 minute conversation. People felt free to tell me I looked less “fat” in person, or “younger”, or even “not as old” or how much they did NOT like my outfit. All this conversing changed how I felt about being out in public. I learned that when people stared at me in public, they might actually be looking AT me. Previously, if I noticed a stranger looking at me, I figured they thought I was someone they knew from high school, or maybe I had toilet paper trailing behind me stuck to my shoe. Whatever. I gave it little thought. But this attention left me more self-conscious about going to the gym, for instance, where I might end up spending 90 minutes rather than 60 in order to hear a story. Or maybe I’d give a second thought to what I wore — seeing as how people were so free to critique my attire. It was all very weird and uncomfortable. I also realized that prior to this experience, I could stand in line at the store trying to buy salmon and skittles and pay absolutely no attention to the people around me who I didn’t know. But in this new weird tv world, strangers acted all sorts of ways – but never like who they were to me – a stranger. They “saw” me in ways that were different than how I experienced them. I couldn’t “see” them; I didn’t “know” them; they had never been in my living room via a television screen.
You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean— even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me; the light will become night around me,” even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you! Nighttime would shine bright as day, because darkness is the same as light to you! Psalm 139:5-12 CEB
I’ve learned to be more aware of my environment from my time on television; I believe the psalms are inviting me to become more aware of God’s presence in my life too. Can we take a few minutes today to remind ourselves that God is with us?