The meltdown I had in the Chick-fil-A parking lot was hotter than the spicy chicken sandwich I’d driven there to order. The day was hot, 98 degrees, and I was a hot mess. With my forehead on the steering wheel, I gasped for air and cried in loud, serrated sobs to my friend. With all the windows down and the noon-time drive-through crowd stacking up, I poured out to her all that had sparked a full-blown panic attack.
Degrees of friendship are felt in these heat-of-the-moment battles for our hearts. Mine reminded me that we need at least one “not-just-anyone.”
I had, once again, overextended myself … and felt used. Not just anyone could have said, with conviction and love, that I was acting not out of generosity toward others but out of self-loathing—saying “yes” to any request a person made of me because I valued myself so little. She pointed out that my attitude—“What do I have to do with my time? I have no family, no children, not even a dog. I lounge at home and eat the Number 3 Chick-fil-A value meal”—had to change.
“No,” she said. “It’s blasphemy to treat yourself as if you have no value; God paid too high a cost for you to do that. He loves you—He is for you.”
Days upon days of delighting in my friend’s presence rushed back to me: sitting on her kitchen floor, talking as she made dinner; Saturday mornings full of pancake-making; walks through her neighborhood, past the sprawling white house with the upstairs porch, through Texas heat waves; the hours slumped against her arm in silence, stunned at the loss of love, at the loss of a dream. I ached for her nearness. Not just anyone in the middle of a panic attack could have doused me with such truth—and grace. It extinguished the fire. I found myself laughing as I stuffed salty waffle fries into my mouth, profoundly grateful for a not-just-anyone.
Not-just-anyone reminds us that we, too, are not just anyone.
Nelson Mandela—South Africa’s freedom fighter—understood this core of our being:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we permit other people to do the same; as we’re liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
What Mandela understood, Jesus made possible.
Eugene Peterson, in The Message, paraphrased how Jesus transforms people who feel like nothing into something: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. Hosea put it well: ‘I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, ‘You’re nobody!’ they’re calling you ‘God’s living children’” (Romans 9:25–26).
When you are walking through fire, do all that you can to let it refine and strengthen you. For you are not just anyone.
Julie Cramer is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Unlike most, she misses the Texas heat and long summers.