But as I looked around, I wasn't thinking about how much we have learned and how we have shared deep stories of woundedness or anger or missed opportunities or ignorance, although I am deeply thankful for the experience we've shared.
I was thinking that these are my people.
And I was also thinking that I am not so good at having people.
I am the kind of student who groaned when a teacher announced a group project. Who worried that when moving to college I would feel smothered by having to share a dorm room. (I didn't, by the way, because I ended up with a lifelong friend who was beyond awesome herself and who let me be me.) I feel touched out by tiny humans by right around 10 am every morning. "Touch" is my very last love language and the idea of someone hugging me or even, really, talking to me when I am upset is actually terrifying.
I am fiercely independent, the kind of person who wrote a song in high school that outlined who much I did NOT want to grow up and get married or have children. (It's true. My best friends at the time chose to perform it 10 years later at my wedding rehearsal dinner. Thanks, guys.)
For much of my life, I thought of it as a strength. But the older I get, I begin to wonder.
Yes, there is so much good that comes from it. Self-reliance, determinedness...those are good things when applied rightly. But when applied defensively they can shut a whole lot of good out. They can shut out a type of belonging and place someone perpetually on the outside. Sometimes it almost feels like I am watching my life as a spectator. Not feeling fully connected to anyone in the story, but committed nonetheless, to being there.
Brene Brown, in her book "Braving the Wilderness" says this:
And I have made bad choices along the way. I have filled up on Facebook at the lowest points, rather than found a real face to be with. I have believed again and again that all I can do is what I can do right now for my kids and if there is nothing left of me by 7 pm, then so be it. I have clicked "interested" or "maybe" on a thousand different social opportunities and showed up at a tenth of them. I have bought into a culture that makes it easy to go back on my word because my word never meant much in the first place. Maybe or interested is a lazy way of saying "I think I should do that but I don't truly want to commit so I will pretend to commit for a few minutes and then easily back out at the last minute."
Did I have the will power to part with something and succeed? I always did, of course.
And, you know, missed the point.
And as I began reading it and feeling punched over and over again at the very core of my gut, I just knew.
Lent has to do with my people.
The women I met with last week aren't my people just because we all believe the exact same things. Or have the same stories. They are my people because I've chosen to be radically myself in their presence, mess and all, as we hash through some really tough stuff. And they've let me be.
But I so rarely choose to live at that level of relational risk.
Listen, I'm not saying I have never had people before. There are some humans through the years with whom I could be my total self and still can to this day. Really, really good friends who stuck with me even when I made it very hard to do so. And I am so stinking grateful for every one of them, may God have mercy on their souls.
But mostly I have held myself back. Content to participate or know without the risk of being fully known. Afraid to really need anyone - keeping most friends far enough away that any betrayal or disappointment or even loss of them wouldn't actually affect me.
I have a feeling that when Jesus said he came to bring life abundant, some of that had to do with fully embracing the gifts of those loving humans in my life. And when you find it hard to even fully accept God's radical love for you so much of the time, you certainly aren't going to trust people.
Fear. Fear is so powerful, my friends. And that's really what it comes down to.
Brene's first step to belonging is to "move in." There is so much rage and separating and vilifying in our society these days. People say things they would never say to someone if they were actually face to face through social media. We've lost touch with the art of disagreeing. With civility. With productive debate. With researching to find the actual truth.
And I see the effect it has on me. The propensity towards pigeonholing, towards assumptions, towards anger. To believe I am right and others wrong all the time.
We all do it.
And it's killing us, friends. It. Is. Killing. Us.
So for Lent, I'm "moving in" and clicking off. I will check in my with groups online and organize events and post blogs - but when tempted to click to fill that void of belonging, when tempted to scroll to cure loneliness (if only for a moment), I'm going to choose one of the following instead:
Bottom line, and in the immortal words of Phoebe, I am going to be with the "3-dimensional people." I am going to "move in." I'm going to fight the loneliness by fighting the fear. I am going to resist the parts of me that shut down, that hide, that run away and pray like crazy that Jesus will help when I fall and fail.
And I will fall and fail. It's inevitable.
But I'm going to be with my people and find more people who need people. I'm going to keep fighting for the things I am passionate about, but I'm going to do it in person. I am going to keep radically finding ways to unashamedly be me and call others to do the same. Because I believe we can always get better, do better, know better, be better. We're never finished.
I'm going to fight fear with faith and risk. And win.