“You all go explore the mall,” Mom said. “I’m going to stay here and people watch.”
People watch? What’s that? Curious, I slid onto the bench beside my mom as my siblings headed off.
“God created so much amazing diversity in this world,” she explained as we watched the world walk past. She pointed out tall people, short people… some whose clothes made us speculate which country they were from. Kids who looked just like their parents, a dad whose teenager slouched ahead as if to distance herself from him. “I wonder what their stories could be?” Mom mused. “What made them who they are today? What are their joys, hurts, and dreams? Every person has a story. Every person is like a good book; it’s a joy to take the time to read them.”
That day, Mom helped me see ordinary people with wonder. But I had more to learn.
For a long time, I dreaded evangelism. I had a huge heart for people knowing the gospel, but this meant giving a message to those who probably didn’t want to hear it and resented me for pushing it. Hating what I saw as my own cowardice, I simply “dug deeper” and mustered up courage to preach the gospel to strangers.
Then I learned about the Five Core Longings of the Heart—longings every human being everywhere experiences. We long: to be loved, to be respected, to have purpose, to feel safe or secure, and to be satisfied. Curiosity often results when we sense something in another person that connects with our own core desires, and we want to understand more. Motivated by compassionate love, curiosity leads us to search for deeper meaning.
I like to think of Exodus 3, where Moses was surprised, amazed by this burning bush. Maybe it wasn’t all that abnormal that the bush was on fire—lightning often strikes bushes in the desert. But Moses noticed that it wasn’t being consumed, and he moved closer in amazement and wonder.
In the same way, God entices us to leave the ordinary and come over to investigate others’ core longings. Where do they look to find life and meaning? Where are they in their search? As you meet them there, they might begin to see you as a burning bush as well. They’ll see the amazing Spirit of the living God within you as you demonstrate kindness and genuine interest in their lives.
This kind of curiosity has transformed my prayer life, since now I pray constantly for friends I’ve developed in this way. It’s changed how I worship, since I can’t get their faces and stories out of my head as I sing and praise and plead with God to reveal Himself to them. And it’s caused me to say, “Lord, I don’t want to miss this. Don’t let me get so busy going about ‘your work’ that I forget to move toward people.” My daily rhythms and perspective have shifted.
God has been teaching me, “You have permission to enjoy people.” People will smell it if you see them as a project. But thinking, “I love this person, and I really want to enjoy how God made them, their desires, and their deepest story,” is a total gamechanger. That wonder honors them and their uniqueness. It fosters deep growth, passion, and joy in us.
And it delights the Lord.