I’m not trying to be snarky, I just know that the middle school and high school students I often work with speak only with their thumbs and I’m trying to sound like I totally, like, fit in and stuff.
Anyway, my friend Liz sent me an email a while back. And it was a great gift.
My friend’s email was chock full of words, as human communication often is. But it was the words my friend chose and the order they were arranged in that made all the difference. These were blessing words.
A blessing is an ancient tradition. Back in biblical times (when Moses rode around on dinosaurs), a blessing was how one person imparted certain things to another person. Things like:
- Hope for a better future.
- Authority to accomplish great things.
- A clearer sense of identity and mission.
In other words, a blessing communicated to a person, “This is who you are! This is what you are to be about!” Which is why blessings can be such gifts.
Because we all have the memory of a goldfish (which I’m told is about 30 seconds long, though I’d love to meet the poor researcher who had to spend their time discovering this), we easily forget who we are and the important work/play we need to be about. We forget that much of what fills our calendar and our closets and our refrigerator and our inboxes may have nothing to do with the unique person God made each of us to be. We forget that we are beloved, adopted, set apart. Blessings bring us back home to reality.
I’m grateful my friend Liz sent me my email blessing. It reminded me of truth in the very moment truth’s voice was the toughest to hear. And it made me think: who do I need to bless today? Who in my life needs reminding of how special and loved they are? What’s keeping me from just flat out telling them? What’s keeping you?
Email somebody a blessing today. Text it to them. Shock them by sending them a handwritten note. Or Holy One Direction, Batman, just speak it right to their face and follow it with a hug. You could totally, like, make their day and stuff.
(I referenced One Direction to show how youth-culture savvy I am. Whatev.)
Our tendency on the interweb (and off) is to create a kind of mask that displays our most attractive qualities, and then to operate in our relationships from behind that mask because we’re afraid of what other’s think of us. This begins very early in life, at least it did for me.
The mask I grabbed was like the masks the Pharisees of the Bible wore – I was a rule keeper and a rule enforcer. Sometimes I came up with my own rules.
For example, when I was in the 6th grade, break dancing was all the rage. You know that kind of dancing where people twist and spin on their heads on a piece of cardboard? Yeah, that. I’d embed some YouTube footage here of my mad skills, but we just don’t have the room today.
Anyway, somehow I got it into my middle school mind that breakdancing was actually sinful. I don’t know exactly where I came up with this. It wasn’t my family or friends. It could have been my vacation bible school (that never felt like much of a vacation). Regardless, because of my conviction, I would walk around my school playground during recess as kids were practicing their moves, go right up to them, and in a loud, clear voice, tell them in no uncertain terms that breakdancing was sinful and if they didn’t stop, they were going to hell.
But it gets worse! Because our masks form even earlier in life, don’t they?
When I was in Kindergarten, there was a rock band called KISS. Do you remember them? With the black and white clown make up? Somehow, they’re still around, probably kept animated by some sort of life support machine. I heard from someone that KISS stood for Knights In Satan’s Service. There was no way this budding Pharisee was going to have any of that.
So I would go around my Kindergarten playground during recess, walk right up to my classmates, ask them if they liked the rock band KISS, and if they said yes, I told them in no uncertain terms that KISS was evil and if they kept listening to them they would go to hell.
The mask I picked up early (like a lot of firstborns) was the mask of the Pharisee: trying to look good on the outside because I was afraid of what people thought of my insides. What’s your mask?
Is it the influence you have, the connections you have, the kind of car you drive, your zip code, your GPA, a certain role or title?
We’ve all got masks. And the interweb only amplifies that. But in order to love each other better and find the kind of satisfying connections we were made for, we’re going to have to learn to take off our masks and relate to each other as we really are.
If this week’s blog posts had a theme, it would be, “Wholeheartedness is the only appropriate response to minds, hearts, and bodies that are often fractured by hyperconnection and hyperdistraction.” Ask any sane doctor, therapist, pastor, life coach, spiritual guide, or person you trust, and they will tell you the same.
More than that, wholeheartedness is the only appropriate response to that portion of 24 hours in which we are awake. It’s not a self-improvement technique, as if any of us needed more of those. It is an only-way-to-live choice, one of countless others made moment by moment, day after day, and usually in the least sexy of circumstances (changing diapers, commuting to work, during a staff meeting, taking out the trash).
Easy to blog about. Very, very difficult to live. I need help in my steps toward wholeheartedness.
This weekend, I am headed back to Cannon Beach, OR, for yet another retreat. I’m not speaking at this one; I’m a civilian like the rest of the dudes. I will tell you honestly that I feel more comfortable with a role – especially a very visible role – than I do being “one of the guys.” I dread sharing a room with a complete stranger who likely snores (the speaker gets their own room). I dread all those get-to-know-you conversations (the speaker is sought after to answer the difficult questions of life). I dread the mornings, having to face my fellow men before coffee, before showering, before my hair product has time to ripen into perfect waves and spikes.
But for all I dread, I’m going because, if it’s one thing that has become even more clear since moving to a brand new town and starting over with life, it’s that I need others. Why?
That sucks, because I’d prefer to be a self-contained, self-reliant Lone Ranger. But even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. And Silver, the horse. (And that nifty black mask and grey outfit that reminds me a bit of Liberace – an image which now makes me rethink the Lone Ranger’s motivations for all those lonely nights on the prairie with Tonto).
The point is, wholeheartedness – that appropriate response to the hours we’ve been given on this planet – can only be experienced in companionship with others. It can only result from entering into the messiness of human relationships and wrestling to find common language and common ground. It has to embrace the snoring stranger, the pre-caffeinated conversations, and the start-from-scratch friendships. It has to embrace the need for others.
“There is no me without you,” wrote Melissa Faye Green. And her story of serving AIDS-ravaged children testifies eloquently to our shared need for one another in the pursuit of wholeheartedness.
With her words ringing in my ear, I go now to pack my toothbrush, ear plugs and hair product. Have a wonderful, wholehearted weekend.
For better or worse (and I’d say, mostly for worse), we’re taking more and more of our tips on how to live a good life from celebrities. How should we eat? How should we exercise? How should we relate to one another? What should we think about spirituality? Not that there isn’t some real truth to be found among celebrity wisdom, but it seems the WHO of who we’re listening to matters less than the WHAT of what they’re saying.
As I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle headlines this morning, the following caught my eye (I happened to be reading the section discussing what celebrities are up to, of course):
British singer Lily Allen has given up on social networking after her boyfriend told her she spent too much time online.
The singer was a frequent user of Twitter.com and MySpace, but she has now turned her back on the sites, giving away her computer and BlackBerry, in a bid to keep lover Sam Cooper happy.
Allen has previously admitted her obsession with the Internet and communicating with fans was causing friction in their relationship, saying, “My boyfriend gets really angry. He’s like: ‘I want to spend some time with you, do we have to have one and a half million people in the room with us?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, shut up!'”
But the star has now decided to quit writing on her blogs, according to British newspaper the Daily Mirror.
A source tells the publication, “We thought she was joking, but it’s been a month since she last Twittered. Before then you could always get a response from her straight away. No matter what time of day or where she was, she’d be glued to her BlackBerry.
“Now you have to leave a message on her home answerphone. She does have a clapped out old mobile phone, but you’re lucky to get her on that because she keeps leaving it when she goes out. She was so obsessed with the next new thing that it has shocked everyone.
“Sam was fed up. He told Lily: ‘It’s me or Twitter.’ And she chose him.” (reported by the Daily Dish for the SF Chronicle)
Will any of us be following Allen to intentional disconnection for the sake of more loving relationships? I’m not going to recommend anyone go and do everything Lily Allen does, but this is an interesting bit of celebrity wisdom that might have value beyond a potential media stunt.
And yes, I just blogged about a celebrity.