A friend of mine held a live Facebook prayer meeting a few days ago and spent some time talking about vulnerability in conversation and relationships. That reminded me of a story…
After getting back from Ramadi in 2006 I was having a hard time relating to people and returning to a healthy state of mind. I was hanging out with my father in law talking about how hard it was for me to be around churchy people. My father in law was a pastor at the time. He was deeply involved with encouraging and shaping the Monday through Saturday lives and interactions of the people in the congregation by serving the small group leaders, coordinating a small group, and providing hours upon hours of counseling with different members. His love for people and his service in prayer created the very canvas on which those deep, intimate relationships were painted. He very naturally desired that I would share my story, the hard parts, the way I was really feeling, with those at church on Sunday morning. He actually wanted me to speak out on a Sunday morning!
“Why would I want to even be there?”
I posed the question to Fred, my father in law, but it wasn’t a question to be answered.
“The other people walk around and fire thoughtless, inconsiderate (or at the least un-considered), phrases around. ‘Hi! How are you?’ But no intention of listening.”
I unloaded on Fred.
“What am I supposed to say? Terrible! I’m angry and confused, I feel myself getting worked up over almost nothing, I don’t feel any affection to my kids and wife, I find very little value in much of anything that we are doing as a family or a people, and I’m tired of the crushing expectation of this kind of life that says I have to conform and comply in order to be considered acceptable and then I have to participate in your shallow, careless (or un-careful), world to be accepted. It’s not real. It’s painful and frustrating and I have enough of that in my life already. What… you want me to say that to these people on Sunday morning?”
Fred said yes. He said I should say exactly that.
The next day was Sunday and at the beginning of the service, Fred actually asked for feedback from the congregation.
“Does anybody have anything on their heart that they would like to share with the church, something they feel God and his people should know?”
Well played there music man, well played. I didn’t respond, I didn’t move, I didn’t make a sound. Neither did anybody else. The moment passed and the people went about their rituals and routines. People came up to me before and after the service and I played my part. I told them the most untrue things. I told them I was fine, glad to be home, looking forward to more time with family. You know, all the right and good things that I was supposed to say. Nothing changed, the day continued to march along to the same rhythm as before. Expected call, expected response. The cadence was well established and we played our parts as the good people we were. Heads down, trudging along, in our smiley, happy shells.
Nobody being vulnerable.
Nothing feeling real.