Do you ever have those moments when you read something or hear something, and your heart starts to race, and your pits start sweating, and you almost pee in your pants a little because what is happening before your eyes is so freaking fantastic? Well, if you don’t, then you are probably dead inside.
Life inspires me. All the time. A few years ago when I was seriously considering going to seminary, I was reading a lot of inspirational books from pastors and church leaders (even though I had no desire to ever be a pastor). In one of the books (I really wish I could remember which one so I could give credit), I read something along the lines of “Life is just a series of moments waiting on a sermon.”
I am not a pastor. I don’t want to be a pastor. I actually cringe at the idea of being a pastor because of the red tape and stress of leading people. Just being honest. The true meaning of the word is supposed to be “shepherd.” I think of a shepherd as someone who cares for her flock, placing the lives of others before her own. I can totally get on board with that. What I can’t stomach is the intense scrutiny pastors face or the details that cloud purpose. I have seen it again and again with pastors, genuine people who go into ministry with passion and grace and vision to help people, to lead people, to mold people. Years in, so many pastors are so entangled in the business of running a church--picking a color for the hallway, raising money for repairs, committee meeting after committee meeting--or worse, they fall to the temptation of following a personal agenda that is not full of passion or grace or vision, but rather one that is self-serving and deplete of joy.
I don’t want to be a pastor.
But I do believe that life gives me sermons all the time. I can’t help but turn everything I do into an object lesson with my children. It’s just the way I’m wired, and I thank God--like swell with gratitude--every time I’m given these moments. I don’t believe these moments come to me just for my sake either. I mean, some of the lessons are clearly designed just for me--the kinds of lessons that come over and over and over, but I believe most of what happens is because I am going to come across someone who needs to hear the same thing. Sometimes I share these moments on FB or I blog about them, and other times, I hold them in my heart and wait for the right time. And it never fails. I will have some lesson rattling around in my head for a few days, and then someone will come across my path--at a playgroup or over coffee, maybe even in line at the grocery store--and I think, “Oh, this is why I had this thought the other day.”
What I’ve learned, though, is that if I share my thoughts with other people without first putting them through the “love and grace” test, all is lost. If I try to twist something according to my agenda, it’s lost. If I try to appear to know what I’m talking about even, it’s lost. People accept what I have to say based on my credibility (otherwise, I'm just an oversharing crazy lady), and you know how I’ve created any bit of credibility that I have? By being completely vulnerable. It’s the only way.
I believe we are all born with an innate vulnerability that is pure and honest and good. I see this every day in my children, when they never think twice about telling me how they feel. It hurts my feelings when you yell or I wanted her to play with me, but she said I was stupid or I love you because you are a good mommy. They are consistently upfront about the way life affects them and have no qualms about expressing whatever emotion is flitting through their little hearts at the moment.
And somehow we lose this along the way. For me, it happened in a repressive church environment that taught me there was a certain mold I was supposed to fit, a way of thinking, and when I didn’t fit, I felt isolated and didn’t know who to tell. It happened in an intense private school setting where expectations were piled on, some of which were healthy but many of which had no connection to how I wanted to live my life. As an Air Force spouse, even in adulthood, I feel the pressure to perform in a way that doesn’t really make sense to me.
Through it all, that childlike vulnerability has struggled to remain constant in my heart and mind, and I’ve found that the only way I can live with peace, a contentment, is to live as vulnerably as possible. And this isn’t easy. I like to control things. I like to be in control of things, most notably my emotional reactions to circumstances and people. And you know what happens when you live vulnerably? You lose control. You fall apart in front of people. You expose parts of yourself that you wanted to stay hidden. There is no such thing as pride or composure or control.
And it is so damn freeing.
I have these thoughts all the time--these thoughts about sharing it all, putting it all on the table for people to see, being authentically me. In fact, my adolescence and twenties could be characterized as a constant struggle to be wholly me, holy me. When you live in a way that pleases others but leaves you feeling like a fraud, you can never be whole. And when you live in a way that chases someone else’s agenda, you can never be holy, set apart for divine purpose. But when your life is lived vulnerably, you may open yourself up to hurt and pain and disappointment, but you also open yourself up to the riches of friendship, love, grace, and freedom.
A friend on FB posted a link to this blog that started me down his road (this is the first thing that made my pits sweat). I don’t know this woman, but I feel an intimate connection to her on so many levels. Please read it!
After reading it, I posted it on a friend’s wall, and he posted back this Ted Talk (this one made me need to pee a little). When you’ve got twenty minutes, listen. Every minute of it is worth a listen, and maybe a second listen.