I was talking with a friend yesterday, and we were talking about the humbling experience of repeatedly forgetting the basics of how to live life. Regardless of whether you learn them in kindergarten or whenever, life in a way just isn’t all that complicated. I’ve repeated this to hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years, and yet over and over again, I find myself either forgetting the simple truths or (more commonly) simply failing to live them out.
My friend and I were talking about what it’s like to stumble over and over again, and while we both recognized that it’s not like “starting over” on your education in life, it can be frustrating when you discover that you’re making the same mistake—either in thinking or behavior—that you made at 19, then again at 29, then again 39, and so on and so on.
Kind of like I did this weekend.
After a weekend of loss—my uncle David, my father’s youngest brother—passed away on Friday, I was struggling. Specifically I was struggling to give in to the grief, sorrow, and regret that was stirring around my soul (which is worth another blog post—and counseling sessions as well).
The storm of emotions kept building up throughout Saturday, and even overnight, as I tossed and turned and waited for a sleep that never really came.
I awoke on Sunday even more “sideways” than I was on Saturday (and now combined with a bit of sleep deprivation).
Eventually I broke down, and received the blessings of both tears as well as the prayers, support, and healing embrace of my faith community, and it was deeply effective in calming the turbulence inside my spirit.
But I still had a lot to learn.
Later on Sunday evening, I was still reflecting over the weekend, and it occurred to me that, alongside my general hesitancy to just “feel my feelings” was a perception I had saddled onto myself: I realized that I was not allowing myself to weep or grieve because somehow I had told myself that “As the point leader in this community I HAVE to ‘be strong’, which means I should NOT tell people about my sadness, and CERTAINLY not reveal my fragility.”
What’s more, I also realized in this moment that right alongside this statement about leadership was a (false) belief in what it meant to be “mature”: Namely, that a “mature (male?) leader handles loss and grief with a stoic, granite strength.”.
Don’t ask me where it all comes from; there’s really not enough time to process all the sources of that toxic brew.
Regardless of where it comes from, the bottom line is that at the depth of my being, in the TRUEST (holiest?) part of my being I AM NOT A STOIC.
I AM NOT GRANITE.
You know what?
I cry at Disney movies.
Tears well up in my eyes when I hear “Moonlight Mile”, the closing track on the Rolling Stones’ album STICKY FINGERS.
I derive significant joy from a beautiful morning. When the temperature is slightly brisk, and the sunrise is beautiful, and there is life and possibility and promise, my soul sings and smile is quick to come.
I was in the middle of a six mile run when I started balling to a song by Journey. BY JOURNEY!
I ache and break whenever I have to tell someone that they have failed me, or “missed the mark” in their job and/or ministry.
My heart hurts that I can’t see my daughter every day while she’s away at school, yet when she’s home I struggle to know what to say to her or how to have a deep, soul-revealing conversation with her.
If I’m honest, my heart is so open that it is on the verge of bursting and spilling over at virtually any part of any day.
However, it’s also so open that it is very easy—VERY EASY—to hurt me.
To put this in terms of the LORD OF THE RINGS movies (yes, I cry during them as well), though I definitely aspire to be (and in all honesty I have a little bit of in my personality) ARAGORN, the truth of the matter is I’m much more like Peregrin “Pippin” Took, or even Samwise, vulnerable figures who aren’t really cut out for the world they find themselves living in, much less for conflict and mission they must navigate.
Open, tender-hearted people.
The scene between Pippin and Gandalf—standing on a balcony in Minas Tirith before the great battle there—is more true of me and my relationship to God than you could ever know (though honestly I don’t even usually end up feeling as reassured as Pippin does).
I tell people—PARTICULARLY MEN—about being vulnerable, about being emotionally vulnerable, about living AND LEADING with heart and soul.
And yet I forgot it. Probably not for the first time.