These last four days Nan and I have spent at a Christian counseling conference in Nashville, Tennessee. In some ways it was overwhelming: travel stressors, change of sleeping conditions, meals caught when practical, unfamiliar surroundings, etc. And then there was the sheer quantity of input of information, sound, crowds, and the size and scope of the venue.
But on the flip side were expected and unexpected gifts: new and useful information, spiritual uplifting, connecting with old friends, and chance conversations with people we came into contact with. I think it is that last item that is particularly dear to me as well as troubling. I wonder how many times over the years I have been too self-focused to take advantage of the “human resources” that were right around me.
I have always blamed introversion and anxiety over making connection with strangers for this failing. It has made me really admire those that did not suffer as I did. But still, I lament the missed opportunities to get to know people that are precious to God.
I wonder if you are like me. Have you let fear hold you back from reaching out and being salt and light in a dark world?
I kept telling Nan this trip that I was practicing extroversion. I was intentionally noticing people. I was smiling at people every chance I got. I was deliberately engaging people in conversation. I was not going to fail to grow in an area of weakness and challenge.
But maybe your fears are different from mine. Maybe you are afraid of being known. Or possibly you are afraid of being ignored or unremarkable. Perhaps you think you are too much for people, that you will overwhelm them with your emotions. Maybe you don’t even like the direction of this conversation.
In our men’s group at the end of each year we talk about the potential tragedy that we are facing once again: that of remaining stagnant spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, or relationally. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we got to the end of the coming year and no growth had taken place?
But risk and discomfort always seems to accompany growth – and no one likes pain, especially if avoidable. And so we tend to shy away from it, even when we know it is the right thing to desire.
Whatever your fears might be, would you be willing to join me and take some chances? And then, would you be willing to tell me about it? I would love to applaud you.