Zak and Mark and I were hanging out after our Men's buildup tonight and it really got me thinking. In fact, I really think I've hit upon something. I guess it's not really something that revolutionary when it comes down to it, but I think that the clarity with which I see it now is somehow different. Anyway here goes...
It has been said that each congregation has a "personality," and by that I take it to mean that each one has its strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing inherently wrong with that just as there is nothing inherently wrong with people having personalities; nevertheless, I believe it is useful to explore a certain personality in order to specifically accentuate those strengths and illuminate those weaknesses with the intent of growing in them.
Now, the West region has many strengths: generosity monetarily, intellect, talent, vision, and organization come to mind. There is however one particularly glaring weakness — namely, love. It is my opinion that this weakness that is the major obstacle to our growth at this point.
Of course, love is such a broad term which has several manifestations, and this is not to say that the West Region lacks any love whatsoever. I suppose the specific type of love, if there is such a thing, that I find lacking could be described as warmth or heart or even hospitality. Perhaps even the physical expression is all that is lacking — affection, then.
How many times have you seen real affectionate love and appreciation in a congregational setting? Effusive, lavishing, heart-felt and humble — gratitude, acknowledgment, praise. It stirs in my heart just describing it. I remember Russ Ewell in San Francisco showing his sincere appreciation of those serving for the worship service; he was encouraged how, without prompting, someone cared enough to come early that Sunday to organize Christmas carols in the foyer, so that people walking in would feel just a little more special when they came in. I remember Ismael Rodriguez praising me profusely for my work on the "Celebration of the Soul" service (most of which was possible because of his own inspiration). And I remember James Counts always remarking his amazement at my varied abilities.
As a child I would spend time with my dad on certain weekends, since my parents were divorced. I remember the day Dad dropped me off at home without kissing me goodbye. I don't recall specifically what we did that day, but I do remember leaving realizing, okay, things have changed. I remember feeling a subtle sense of loss as I got out of the car.
It is so much easier to laugh things off, to quip with a snide remark, to brandish our quick wits, than it is to show deep affection. I am much more likely to spar back and forth for hours with the guys than work on deepening my expression of love for them. It's so much safer, so much more culturally accepted. I will never run the risk of letting people know I need them or their love so long as I have my shield of humor around me.
This is probably not news to anyone. What is remarkable to me, I think, is that we haven't done anything deliberate about it for as long as I can remember.
When people contemplate leaving the West Region, do their hearts ache? Do they feel pangs of anguish as the memories of the tears of pain and joy flood their minds? Do they agonize about their decision, weigh other options, pray for miracle opportunities to stay to open up? If not, why not?
In thinking about these things with regards to myself, I realize that there is a certain wall where affection simply stops. I think about all the words I've used to describe this kind of love and what really gnaws at me is the fact that those words are what I think I can be. When I am filled up, when I feel most loved or empowered, that is when I feel the most myself, and that is when I wish there were more people with which I could share love. More typically though, I find myself scraping by, barely meting out a half-polite word to my roommates because I'm so drained and tired of dealing with the indignities of my daily life.