Sometimes you just get tired telling other people.
There are seasons where it feels like you’re the issue. You’ve been telling everyone, everything, all the time, because it feels like if you don’t let others in on it, your stuff, you’ll cease to exist. You also know if you try to go it alone, and try to work it out inside your head, that things will get bad in a hurry. As my friend Mike Elia likes to say, “Inside my head, alone, is a bad neighborhood.”
But there’s that awkward season where people who you’ve let in begin to ask how its going. They’re just being friends. They want you to know they care. And they want to know if the situation is improving, if you’re feeling better.
…And you’re not. And it isn’t.
Most of them are just fine with that. They’ve got time. You’re their friend.
The problem is you. Your shame. Your embarrassment, your fear that you’ll be marginalized if you don’t start pulling your own weight. It feels to you like you’re on a clock. That voice inside you says that maybe by a week, or at the longest three, you ought to start having this tied back together.
In truth, the only clock you’re on has been designed by you. And that clock moves an hour a minute.
This is one of the places where the beauty of vulnerable community gets revealed. Because the goal of an authentic grace community is not that we just vomit on each other all the time in the name of being genuine. Sometimes it is exceedingly genuine to just not share anything and just show up. Sometimes just staying in the arena and showing up is all you should be doing.
But it is a magical gift to have the freedom to say, “I know we’re together this evening to let you know how I’m doing. And just two days ago, that’s what I needed most in the world. We were just going to talk about me and my stuff. And I can’t thank you enough that you’d want to. But tonight, I’m so weary talking or thinking about me. I don’t think I can rehearse it one more time. Instead, could we talk about nothing at all? Could we just drink this wine and play that game where we see who’s best at finding the person at a nearby table who most closely matches the face of a celebrity?”
And so instead of talking about his upcoming book or my upcoming issues, Mark and I just hung out, and laughed and mused and ate good food. It is a powerful gift to be given a vacation from the particular issue you demanded everyone pay attention to just days before.
Then the next evening Bill and Grace, Bruce and Janet and Stacey I were together. And I chose to make my response to this season the dominant item of conversation. And they allowed it. They let me talk out my frustrations, hurt and confusion. Turns out I was articulately inaccurate on many of my assessments. But nobody roughed me up for my irrationality. They just loved me, revealed their own hearts, and probably thought to themselves, “He’s a lot of work, but few are funnier in an airport than him.”
So then this morning, I’m meeting with the preaching team at our church. We’re just each talking about our lives, before we talk about preaching stuff. When it comes my turn I share everything that has ever concerned me, almost including burying my sweater in the infield of the local baseball field when I was about 10. I don’t know why I shared it all. I just did. Nobody lectured me. Nobody moved away. They just let me tell my tale of woe.
Then later in the morning I gave Bruce and Bill permission to give their read on my season. It just kind of came up and I let them each tell me what they’re seeing. It was incredible.
Four of these encounters in two days.
And once again, I experienced this truth and reality… “What if there were a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would be loved more, not less in the telling of it?”
I know some of us don’t have such a place. But after not having one for so many years, it is the reason I don’t run from this place. And boy do I try to run.
Later, dear friends.