Can I call you that? I’m not sure. We’re not really friends yet. Maybe we haven’t even met. Or maybe we have. Maybe we sat at the same table at a young professional networking event and struck up a stilted conversation for 10 or so minutes before the speaker began the program.
Maybe we learned that we both grew up in suburbs – you on the northern fringe of Chicago while I was straight west. Maybe we learned where we work now and what we studied in school. Then that awkward pause came, the one that inevitably follows reaching the end of the list of appropriate small talk questions. Then the speaker started.
After he finished, one of your friends from church came up on your left-hand side and you dove deep into conversation about the difficulties your brother is facing in school right now. I remained, standing to your right, outside of this intimate conversation, unsure how to enter in, unsure if I should stay nearby hoping to continue our conversation from before. Hoping to get a chance to become friends.
After a few minutes I snuck away, not even sure if I should interrupt to say goodbye and nice to meet you and let’s talk again some time, I think we could be good friends. (Who says that? Too bold. Yet, I often want to.) With that you became another person I want to be friends with. But we’re not. Not yet.
I like being called to holiness, and not just reminded of my sins. (Don’t we all?) I was thinking of this lately as I considered the different impact Advent has on my heart and spiritual than that of Lent. They are both penitential seasons, after all; yet they impact me differently, and I started to wonder why.
Lent is heavy. Penance. I am a sinner and Christ died for those sins. I place my hope in his mercy and forgiveness. That sort of thing.
Not to sound casual, just trying to summarize. After all, it’s a beautiful season, and I am always eager for it when we get to that moment of the liturgical season. But it is heavy. I am called to contemplate my sins as I reprove my body with penance and fasting, helping my soul lean in to repentance and transformation by engaging my body in the action. It’s easy to feel the futility of that task, though, until I get to Easter and remember the story that makes the whole endeavor possible. Christ’s unending grace. Continue reading “An Advent Heart”→
When I sat down in Arena Theater, in the black box where I had acted and built sets and stage managed for my four years at Wheaton College, I looked up at the man that had brought me there. He looked at me too. He didn’t smile. Well, at least not in the broad, welcoming sort of way. There was a hint of it at the corner of his cheek. Although, that may have been imagined. His eyes were smiling and open-hearted.
He didn’t greet me in any way. But we did share that look for longer than most folks would feel comfortable with.
To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable. I did feel the need to make him feel more at home; it was, after all, his first time in this place that was a second home to me. Yet, I was left without a way to do that, besides smile, which I did. And then I just continued to hold his gaze for a minute or so longer.
It was new, and uncomfortable, but not foreign. Arena Theater had been for me, and continues to be for others, a place of open-hearted gazing. Relationships were built on this idea that we looked at each other with intention, even wonder. What is going on with you today? I see you. I notice you. Notice your tears or smiles or giggles or inability to sit still for more than moment.
It was actors’ work. We were actors, after all. We tried to look around with a sense of curiosity. To notice things with intention, with interest. Not assuming the person or situation was the same as the last time we had looked at it.
He told us about the “gaze of the elephant.” I don’t remember whose story it was, perhaps he didn’t say, but someone had told him to look out at the world in the way an elephant does. Continue reading “So What About an Elephant?”→