Xiang Junfeng’s wedding was an incredibly special day in her life.  So much so that each day she gets up and puts on her wedding dress… or one of her other wedding dresses… and spends the entire day in it.  When asked why she does this, she says that the gown represents the proudest day in her life and wearing it reminds her how happy she is to have married her husband.  
Sound strange?  There’s more to the story.
She wasn’t just a celebrating being a bride that day… she was celebrating her freedom.  Earlier in her life she had been kidnapped and sold as a slave… forced to marry an elderly man and spend 15 years plotting an escape in a life she never wanted.  As she ran from where she was being held captive to Liujiazhuang Village, she met a woman who did whatever she could to help.  Not long after Xiang met this woman’s brother… they fell in love… and got married.  
How many times do we rush to judgment when hearing about someone’s life?  If I would have stopped after the first paragraph, many of us would have walked away thinking this woman is eccentric… odd… someone who needs to come to grips with “the right way to act.”  But when you hear the rest of the story, things get clearer and start to make more sense.  She isn’t wearing a wedding dress everyday just because she’s a happy bride… she wears it as a symbol of emancipation and of the true love she’s found in her heart for her new husband.
As we head in to 2017… let’s dedicate ourselves to digging below the surface in the lives of those we know.  Let’s stop with the pleasantries and spend the time getting to really know people.  Jesus modeled this so many times in scripture… His discussion with the woman at the well (John 4), his talk with the woman who committed adultery (John 8), and his choosing of the original disciples (Luke 5).  Christ didn’t judge any of these people by who He saw on the surface… He pushed through the apparent and uncovered the potential.
There are people all around you today that are begging you without words to ask that second question.  Rather than just “How are you doing?”… they want “How can I help?  What do you need?  or Is there more you need to share?” They want you to ask for the story behind the story and genuinely care about it.   There is so much more to people’s lives than a first impression.  And if we are really going to love them like Christ does, we have to be willing to hear them out and get the whole picture.   

Want to be a real friend?  Dare to ask questions, seek understanding, and get involved beyond the surface of the relationship.  It will help illuminate, enhance, and bring maturity to a bond that can last a lifetime!

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