If the Fear Could Speak

So, I shared in my last video blog post that I'm creating a new space. And that the process of doing this has been long and slow and somewhat painful. I have struggled with so much shame about this, and your encouragement to continue taking my time for as long as it needs to take was a kindness I needed to receive. Thank you.

The other night I was hitting up against some walls in the creation process again, so I decided to call my dear soul friend Sara to sort some of it out. Sara is the best person I know to call when I need to sort out my thoughts about a particular idea. She has an ability to hear me out entirely, and without any passing of judgment. In fact, I'm usually the one passing judgment on myself in the midst of all I'm sharing, and she's amazing in the way she speaks into my self-shaming by saying, "Just so you know, I don't feel any of those feelings toward you. I feel nothing but excitement to enter into this with you and help sort out what needs sorting out." The affirmation of excitement, total acceptance, and non-judgment helps free me up to share more fully what's going on in me.

Besides being such a great objective listener who knows how to ask the best questions in existence, Sara also has an ability to get underneath all the data we're considering in order to reach my heart. This last part is the most special gift of all because it's like she gives me back to myself. When I get all wound up inside my head and enter into the zone of passing judgment on myself for not reaching a conclusion sooner, she takes the time to sort through those shaming feelings with me. And then she ends all of that by saying, "What's happening inside of you right now is way more important than the ideas or the decision you're trying to make ever could be." It's something I don't always readily remember (or even receive when she says it), so having in her someone who believes it is true so fiercely and speaks it to me with such firmness is a real gift to my heart.

And that's exactly the gift she gave me the other night when I called. After we spent about an hour unpacking the thoughts and questions about the website that had been crowding all the space in my head, she suggested that perhaps the unexpectedly extended journey of creating this new space was due in part to a fear that was yet unvoiced. Perhaps because I've been trying so hard to just get the site ready for launch, feeling frustrated with everything that keeps holding it back, the unvoiced fear has gone subversive. Perhaps all the hemming and hawing and re-creating is partly the subversive manipulation of the fear, its attempt to keep me from the launch until I give it a chance to speak.

This really freaked me out. But it also began to resonate in a very deep place.

What if you honored that fear? Sara asked. What if you listen to what it has to say? What if its voice is more important than the launching of this website? What if the fear has something to say that is important for you to learn about yourself?

When she put it that way, I felt myself shift from being really freaked out to really wanting to know what the fear had to say.

If the fear could speak, Sara asked, what would it say?

So the next morning, when Kirk left for an early meeting, I stayed in the warmth of the bed and decided to enter into a conversation with the fear. I turned on my side and pulled the covers close and warm and said, Hi. I know you're there. I feel you. And I'm sorry I haven't listened to you. I'm sorry I've been beating you back, trying to quelch your feelings and your voice so that I can get where I'm trying to go. I am sorry. But I'm listening now. I want to hear what you have to say. And I will be with you, no matter how long it takes, to sort this through. You are more important than this website. So, I'm listening. What do you have to say?

One part of the new website is an intensely personal space. It is an altar of sorts, a place where I offer to God and to others the work God is doing in me. It is a testimony of my own ongoing formation process, and I regard it as a holy space. Several weeks ago, in fact, I decided it is too holy to receive any feedback on what I share. Criticism is not welcome, and encouragement and affirmation is not necessary. It's an altar, an offering, pure and simple.

But there is a whole other space on the site where I am beginning to articulate some of my convictions about the Christian faith and the ongoing journey of living inside of it. Some of these convictions have been building for many years, and some of them are new, still in the phase of asking questions and exploring their implications. Some of these things have made their way into the living testimony of my everyday life, and some of them are so new inside my head that they're nowhere near a lived experience yet.

I had intended that part of the space to be more like a dialogue, a place to continue generating community and learning from one another in concrete ways. I had looked forward to not only translating the fellowship of this community into that new space but also seeing what new friends might come along to join us.

But the fear has a problem with this. She helped me see that, for now, I need that space, too, to be closed to outside voices. We've lived some of these ideas, I felt the fear saying to me, but we've not written about them yet. We don't know what that will be like. We don't even know what our voice in that context sounds like. We might even discover that we don't agree with some of the things we think we believe once we've explored them more deliberately. Inviting other people into all this newness just feels too scary right now.

I heard in these words a need to grow into my voice and my convictions in that new space. I heard a need to strengthen in concrete form what has been growing intuitively within me for some time now without worrying what others will think or say. I thought of my friend Kirsten and her beautiful journey last year into (and then out of) fundamental Catholicism, how she decided she needed an open space to explore her thoughts out loud but with boundaries that kept exterior voices from speaking into her process until she was ready to receive them.

That's what I need right now. And it's hard to share that with you. Our community is such a safe, loving, and affirming collection of beautiful souls that I treasure beyond words. I don't want to lose that. And I also don't want you to think that I don't value your thoughts and encouraging words. I truly and honestly do. Again, part of what excited me about the new space was the opportunity to dialogue on ideas I care about and gain new perspectives from people I deeply respect and value. I guess I'm just coming to see that the time for that sharing and bantering about of perspectives is just not yet. I need time to strengthen my own legs beneath me, is all.

I will welcome (and need) your ongoing friendship once I make the transition. I will welcome your companionship in that space, your simple presence and witness of what I need to begin articulating. And I will be more than happy to receive your thoughts shared personally with me about those things, either through e-mail, phone calls, or even Facebook. But the open venue of the comment spaces feels too unwieldy, too like an open game for target practice that I can't contain inside myself right now.

Thank you for the grace and patience and friendship you continue to offer me. Much love to all of you, continually.