If you have been around me for very long at all this won’t come as a surprise to you because you’ve probably heard me say it.
I’m a strong introvert and something of an academic. I grew up happily playing in the sand by myself during recess. I read books by the light of my closet until 2 am every night. (Unless my parents caught me and made me go to sleep.) I started out college as a secondary education / math major. I then changed to Philosophy with the intention of going to seminary and on from there to do PhD work… still teaching but at a different level. I was on the road to stay true to who I think of myself as being: an introvert who prefers to only know and hang out with a small very close group of friends and have esoteric debates just for the sake of it.
Then very early on in seminary my plan went all amuck. I felt called to have the kind of conversations I love in school rooms… in the church. I felt called to walk with an entire community – rather than a small group or classroom through conversations of faith that were hardly esoteric but real and on the ground rubber meets the road theology. Stints as a missionary in the Philippines and hospital chaplain exacerbated that – they forced me more out of my introverted and academic shell.
I preached about that in my former church and people said, “No way you are an introvert… you talk so much!” (I do, guilty as charged.) But I’m an expressive introvert. I need alone time but in a small group of people I’m quite capable of thinking out loud and ad nauseam, and then needing to take a nap to “recover.” So yes, I’m an introvert. But how, they asked, did you feel comfortable preaching in front of 450 people? Well it’s a journey. You do not step out of a closet where you were reading and immediately jump in front of a crowd with all eyes on you. One step at a time. God found me and God challenged me. God challenged me to do what I was meant to do for a living, not what I was good at. God challenged me to go far outside of my comfort zones, to walk in cultures I hadn’t experience, and to people I didn’t know. And I’m still not good at it – but I’m better. I have been stretched and once stretched I did not return to where I started.
So why am I saying this? I’m saying this because earlier today I put on my clergy robe and stole and accompanied a friend (I would likely have not gone if it wasn’t for her, thanks Marci – friends do that for you) to the House chambers of the Idaho State legislature where we sat silent in the gallery with many others. Sat a silent vigil to let them know that we would not forget that they would not let us speak to why we believe it is essential that Idaho seek to protect the basic human rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender neighbors. Now I don’t even like to call myself Reverend or Pastor (let alone Rev. Dr., I’m just plain Andrew in my congregation) because this shy introverted academic starts feeling all pretentious when I do so. So what was I doing in full religious professional get up at the capital being a strong (?) advocate for social justice? This isn’t me… is it? Truthfully I’m not a good one. But I’ve stopped being willing to be silent in the face of injustice for the sake of keeping the peace. That kind of peace isn’t worth keeping. So I’m out from my own closet. I’m out to add my voice to others who are out of their closet, and many others who aren’t yet. I don’t do it because I’m comfortable doing so… I do it because my discomfort in being a social advocate is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in comparison to the fear with which my brothers and sisters are forced to live their lives because their very humanity is put in question. I do it because God says to me, “Yes you are your brothers – and your sisters – keeper.”
Does it come natural? No. Am I good at it? No. Am I trying? Yes. Because the world can’t afford not have us all try our best to put our voices forward for those who have had their voices stripped from them. Have I offended some of my friends and companions along the way? I’m sure of it. And no I am not proud of that. I wish there was another way. On top of being an introverted academic (and not doing a good job of either of those these days– thanks be to God) I’m also a people pleaser. But my frustrating and challenging journey with God keeps taking all the things I say that I am… and challenging them. It’s why I call this blog Wrestling with Discipleship. Like Jacob wrestling with God… I have come out limping. And I think I am the better for it. God took my names for myself and gave me a new one. I didn’t get here overnight, and I’m not anywhere near where I might one day be. Who knows where God may take me, what God may do through me, and what I might help to make come about in this world. I hope… I hope its light. Not light for me – but for those around me. That I may not limp alone… but that we might limp together – no longer quite who we imagined ourselves to be at the beginning.
I know I will not always be right (thus the limping), nor will I always correctly interpret why God has chosen to make me limp (thus the need for others to journey with me, and make me go where I wouldn’t otherwise go). But this much I think I do know. The world is a better place when we are willing to open ourselves to encounters that change us and move us and challenge us than it is when invest in armor to protect ourselves from whatever (or whomever) may come our way.
Thank be to God.