There’s a conversation going on that is beginning to get interesting. It is always stirring, sometimes uplifting, frequently frustrating, commonly heated. The conversation is about religion, faith, belief, destiny, doctrine and tolerance to name a few topics. Sometimes it gets some politics mixed in too. I have strong thoughts and feelings about the topic and I want to join into the conversation, but I haven’t jumped in yet. Why?
Even though I don’t believe it is true, intellectually, I have an emotional belief that I don’t have anything to bring to the conversation, so I should just keep my mouth shut, my keyboard quiet and listen. So I listen and I read and I gradually I feel stirred to the point I feel like I will burst. Then I don’t usually make the time to write. When I do start to write something, I don’t publish it. I have a bit of a narcissistic belief that tells me that if I am ok, everything is ok, so I focus my thoughts inward. These inward thoughts are a necessary part of being engaged with life and with the conversation, but they are not the end I really want. I want to be part of the larger conversation. I do want to share my thoughts with others.
One of the reasons I don’t publish is that my thoughts are too big. I have 10 volumes of material in my head and organizing it then squeezing it out one word at a time is excruciatingly slow. The slowness makes me lose momentum, which fuels distractions that keep me from writing. The truth is that writing is just one of my desires. There are other things that are just as important, frequently more important; like going to work and loving my family and friends. Over time, I lose my train of thought and focus and I stop trying. Not so much discouragement, but forgetfulness. Next thing I know I get some margin back in my life and I find myself back where I am now; longing to be part of the conversation.
I do not like conflict. Some people who I am close to may not believe that because they frequently see me in conflict and attempting working through it. While I am usually willing to step into the discomfort of conflict, sometimes I do a poor job of working through it and it always drains me emotionally. The anticipation of the emotional energy I will have to expend to stay in the conversation is daunting. It is easier to just shrink back into my cave and leave the conflict alone. But then I watch from inside the cave, wishing I was part of the conversation.
I do not want to impose my beliefs on others. In my early years, I believed that as a “good Christian”, I should be in people’s face about what I believe. I was pretty arrogant. As a Christian, my beliefs about what is “required” now center more on loving God and loving people. The words that keep coming back to me are grace, gifts and humility. I want to treat people graciously, give them gifts of listening and honoring even when I do not agree with them. And I want to hold my beliefs with open hands in a spirit of humility. I don’t believe what I believed 10 or 20 years ago, and in 10 or 20 years I won’t likely believe what I do now. I don’t have to win the argument, I just want to be in the conversation. A friend of mine tells me that he loves competition, but it doesn’t matter in the end who won. He just loves being in the game whole-heartedly. That parallels my desire with the conversation.
Lastly (for now), I am afraid of rejection. This conversation seems to be dominated by strong voices of theologians and others who hold strong feelings about their beliefs. There are many teachers and leaders and fellow Christians that I have studied under and followed over the years. I do not want to disappoint them, so rather than express disagreement or doubt about what they taught, I usually stay quiet. Ultimately, it is my own fear of being abandoned, deserted, ignored and/or shunned, which is both rational and irrational at the same time. It is unfair and irrational because some of these people I am afraid of losing love me no matter what I believe or disbelieve and that’s that. At the same time, it is a perfectly rational fear. Some would break ties with me if they knew what I really thought. My cousin recently posted a controversial quote about faith on Facebook and was de-friended by someone who disagreed. I don’t want that to happen, but I realize that 20-30 years ago that could well have been me that de-friended. There’s a thought; my 20 year old self de-friending my 52 year old self. It helps me give grace to those who will not listen.
The price of keeping my thoughts to myself is too high. I am ready to become part of the conversation.