Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Church Roadie

There have been many things that I have done so far in my short twenty-five years of life and many people who know me today would believe the adventures I have had. Except there is one thing that people do tend to be surprised. I used to be a roadie in a band.

Now mind you, it wasn’t a famous band and I didn’t go on cross country tours, but it was a real band and I travelled with them to different shows and learned how to set up and take down musical equipment and sell merchandise on occasion.

The band was the Graffiti Monkeys and it consisted of four of my good friends from my home church, Wake Forest Christian. For almost two years, I went with them to different shows and helped out anyway I could, and they always included me in the events and after show celebrations. Those were some of the best moments of my life.

However, it has taken me almost eight years to understand why being a roadie for the Graffiti Monkeys was so important in my life.

You see, I wasn’t just a random member of the group. I was someone who was welcomed and then wanted along in their journey.

Everyone wants to be welcomed, but I’m not sure we talk enough about how much people just desire to be wanted by others. It’s nice to feel welcomed but being wanted is the next step in feeling included. You can be welcomed once into a group or even many times but can still never really feel included. When you are wanted, that’s not just recognition but confirmation that the group does truly welcome you and wants you to be a part with them.

I wasn’t just a fan of the Graffiti Monkeys who was welcomed to their shows. I was a roadie who was wanted to help and celebrate before, during, and after shows.

I personally find this to be such a huge problem in many of our churches. I hear so many times from different people that the church as a whole is dying, and people keep trying to figure out a way to fix this problem.

I can’t say I know how to solve the whole problem, but I can say at least that we as the church should work on making people feel wanted when they step through our doors. This includes new people and people who have been at the church since the start. All people need to feel wanted and this means all people of different backgrounds, identities, and expressions.

There is this underlying assumption that if a person is made to feel welcomed once, then they will stick around. It’s why I believe you have church signs constantly say, “You are welcome”. But never have I seen a church sign say, “You are wanted”.

We can’t live under the “Welcome Once” assumption anymore. Instead, we need to extend our welcome into “Wanted Always”.

But how do we make people feel wanted?

Well, I would say that you do what the Graffiti Monkeys unintentionally did for me:

They invited me to all their shows.

They asked for help on certain tasks.

They invited me to celebrate either before or after concerts.

They made me feel like an important and valued member of the group, even though I was not a musician or played with them on the stage.

My lack of musical talents was not what was important. What was important is that they allowed me to use what gifts and talents I do have to be a part of the group.

There is not a limit to the gifts that can be helpful in the church. Everyone has a part to play and everyone can help serve and love our neighbors.

Ministry and life has not quota on skills and talents. There are no limitations in how people can be included into the church or any group for that matter.

So may we begin to treat people in the church like roadies: invited to help out in the service of others, feeling included in the fellowships and celebrations that occur, and embraced with the skills and gifts they were given by God.

May all people be made to feel welcomed and wanted in any group they desire to be a part of.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Tears are Sacred

A little over a week ago, I was ordained as a minister into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The service was lovely and I was blessed by everyone who physically and spiritually attended. Once the service was over, a person came up to me and shared that she was sorry that she was crying.

This moment has stayed with me since then because I keep thinking, “Why must we be sorry for our tears?”

I understood though why she apologized for her tears. Many times, tears are seen as a burden on other people.

Both men and women are taught that tears are only appropriate during exceptional moments (such as when a person has died or at a funeral). Outside of these moments, tears seem to only place a burden on others.

For example, if I cry, then someone must come and take care of me. Or my tears might mean I am just seeking attention. These are assumptions and they only serve to shut up someone’s tears. The reality is that our tears are the bodies response to the pain and sorrow that needs to be released and heard.

When a person feels they cannot share their tears, it can be hurtful and even dangerous. It can transfer into solitude, self-harm, anger, and even abuse.

I tend to hide my tears from the majority of people in my life. As a man, I was taught that crying was not a “manly” activity to do. Or another example is that my tears represent weakness and as a man, I must be strong and supportive toward others and anything I process must be done in private.

These implicit teachings have now made it difficult for myself to cry in front of others. I feel I must apologize for my tears if I do manage to cry in front of others. Like somehow, my tears are hurting another human being and I must apologize for crying.

No matter what reason we may have concerning the nature of hiding our tears, I want to remind you all that tears are okay.

The understanding that tears can harm another person is completely false. Tears are not harmful agents. Tears are healing agents. They are the beginning step for releasing of our emotions. They are the reminders that our emotions cannot be bottled up if we expect to heal from our sorrow and pain.

There are many people who look at human emotions as messy, chaotic features of the human experience. And I agree. Emotions are messy, and they can be chaotic in people’s lives. But that doesn’t make emotions any less sacred, if not more sacred for their chaotic natures.

The Divine of my understanding is a being of creation. In our creation, people are made with human emotions. Thus, human emotions are not just okay, but are sacred.

The same is true with our tears. Our tears are sacred because they come from the authentic parts of our soul and were given from the Divine that seeks for us to be comforted and healed through out pain and sorrow.

To hide our tears is to hide who we are. And no one deserves to hide the wonderful, beautiful person that you were created to be.

If you have been taught that you shouldn’t cry in front of others or that tears are harmful toward other people, I am so sorry you experienced those teachings. Because I believe that is not what the Divine of Love and comfort had in mind when the Divine created you and me.

Tears are okay. It is good to cry in front of people and not hide them. I look at the power of public laments and witness the crowds crying together and I see not one person apologizing for their tears. When we come together to share the emotions on our hearts, we embrace our humanity and that is sacred.

So as I finish this blog post, I personally take on the challenge to not apologize for my tears to anyone I cry with or in front of. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry for my tears”, I now want to say, “Thank you for witnessing my tears and allowing me to be me in front of you”.

My tears are sacred. Your tears are sacred. Our tears are sacred.

May we remember this truth and may we walk in love with our Ruahs.