Have you ever backed out of a strip mall parking spot and gone the opposite direction of the exit because it’s more comfortable to turn the wheel that way? ‘Kind of an around the head to get to the ear sort of thing. I think part of it is fear that I will misjudge the distance of the car next to me and paint a nice stripe of white minivan on its bumper. Either that or I want to avoid embarrassment from fellow parkers gawking at my violent steering wheel and head craning tactics.
I think is a good visual for how we live our spiritual lives when we’re “backing out” into the world. For the most part, we seem to be creatures who turn the wheel in a direction which is comfortable , avoiding risk-taking or boundary stretching. This has been my specialty up to this point. I think my Native American name could be She-Who-Avoids-Conflict. I guess I’m starting to see that even if you back out and you hit something, you learn. I’m beginning to see the value in going against the grain…putting yourself out there for who you really are. This is super scary for this perpetual people-pleaser, but necessary at this time in my life.
At the same time, there is the all-important head-check, as in looking to see who is in your path as you back out. I’m talking about your audience here. Considering your audience is something we could use more of in this world. For instance, I’m not going to start gush and babble about my prayer life to people I know to be super uncomfortable with faith conversations. Nor am I going to bring up religion at my Thanksgiving table, where an incredibly diverse group of thinkers gather for a meal every year. My hope is that I would be very mindful about the setting and the words to have such a conversation.
What I can say is that when I am standing in the middle of a conversation where someone is referenced as a “Jesus freak” or “that lady who found God” or “the friend who went off the deep end and went all religious on me”, I will probably speak up and ask for clarity. There also will probably be a little sharing from me about what faith has done in my own life. This is a very strange place to be for me….I think if I read these words above a few years ago, I would cock my head to one side like my Beagle, Daisy to communicate a big ‘ole ”Huh?”
The bravery and boldness is slow coming, let me tell you, especially living in the Northwest which is known as the “most God-less part of the country”. Sometimes I think, “Oh, to live in the south and not feel like a freak with my Jesus thing I got going on.” Or even more revealing about my character, “it would be so much easier to live in a small town where everyone goes to church.” Not my finest hour when these thoughts scamper through my mind like little rodents. I was raised to appreciate, even enjoy, living amongst diversity. It’s the thrill of using the 64 box of Crayolas to color the picture, versus the lame standard issue box of six primary colors. I wonder what color I am sometimes in this box when it comes to being a sharer of faith. Would I be the “burnt sienna” (warm and welcoming),bold and vibrant and chatty like “neon carrot”, or soothing and calm like “Mountain Meadow”? I’m not really sure, but I do know that standing out (or backing out with enthusiasm in this figurative parking lot), is still a bit uncomfortable, neck craning and all, but worth it.
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