We got to church early, knowing it would be a different Sunday.
Crowds were gathering in London from all over the world and H was warned that there might not be enough seats for everyone. He sat in an aisle seat and I placed my purse, camera, and coat on six chairs between us. Saving seats for the family of my best friend LuAnn, who just happened to be in England from Kansas the week we were scheduled to be there for a conference. We were checking off the proverbial bucket list; girlfriends worshipping together in a place we’d only dreamt about.
While we waited for their arrival, I became enthralled with watching people. The diversity they wore in their clothes, the cadence of accents representing places I’ve never been — it was like hearing a favorite forgotten melody, lost among the provincial white paint of my hometown. Dusty doors of my soul were creaking open when the voice of a teenager seated in front of me broke into my wandering thoughts.
“Are you having a good day,” he asked me holding a pastry in one hand, plastic cup in the other. He was still chewing when he turned around with the inquiry.
“Oh,” I said startled, “Yes, so far, I’m having a great day.”
He nodded and smiled, took a sip of his drink while small sleepy children were being herded into seats next to him by their au pair. “Are you here for the conference,” he asked.
I said yes and told him we’d been in England for more than a week already, visiting friends and seeing some new places.
Through our brief exchange, I learned that he is the age of my son and recently moved to England from Austria. He likes his new school, is making friends and his family loves HTB so much they go to two services on Sunday. Then I met his mother who seems just as genuine as her son.
At first, I found it curious that a teenage boy would strike up a conversation with a middle-aged woman wearing a faraway look. Perhaps he wanted to meet an American I thought smugly. Or maybe he has an ulterior motive, like money. But he kept asking me questions. And I kept thinking that my son would rather eat worms than talk to strangers. He’s an introvert.
It turns out that a teenager can be genuinely interested in conversation with someone a few generations older without motive. So why is that so hard to believe?
Probably because I don’t do that. I don’t talk to people I don’t know at church that way and I don’t expect it from my kids. Because that means being vulnerable with the possibility of rejection. And I don’t go to church to be uncomfortable.
Sometimes it takes travelling across the world, seated among strangers to realize you aren’t as vulnerable as you think you are. Because speaking the truth and being vulnerable are not the same thing. And He loves me (and you) enough to reveal the difference.
Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection. ~Brene Brown, Daring Greatly