March 21, 2020

Welcome, friends, to my recap of February. Allow me to begin with a story:


I arrived at school a little late one day, and all the good seats (the ones on the auditorium floor, where there is proper leg space) were taken. I ended up grabbing a random seat with another classmate who had also arrived late, and the school day commenced.


And, internally, I was a bit of a mess.


Frustrated. Irritated. And, I suppose, sad.


It took me awhile to figure out exactly what was going on inside of me, but I finally came to the conclusion that, essentially, I was sad because no one had saved me a seat, forcing me to scramble for one.


Now, let me be clear that I wasn’t thrown into some deep depression because of this, but I was still sad. I allowed myself to come to terms with that. And, more than that, sad because of something that felt very small and insignificant.


In the past, my tendency would be to brush such emotions under the rug, deeming them too silly to take seriously. After all, it’s just a seat for a few hours; who really cares?


But my time here at BSSM has taught me to value my emotions more than I ever have before. Not to be ruled or driven by them, certainly, but to notice them, value them, and understand what it is they are trying to tell me.


So, I leaned in. I owned the fact that circumstances around me had made me sad. And then I started processing. What exactly did this mean?


I knew it wasn’t as if I had been wronged. There wasn’t anyone to be mad or offended at. What’s more, I realized that this desire of mine (to have a classmate be intentional about saving me a seat) was entirely uncommunicated. There wasn’t anyone in the world who knew that I wanted this; indeed, I suppose I just barely come to terms with it myself.


I was then faced with a decision. As I was now fully aware of a small, simple thing that other people could do for me that would make me feel loved, would I choose to communicate it to those around me?


In retrospect it seems a bit silly, but stepping out to communicate that want honestly felt like a decent risk. First, there was the chance of straight-up rejection:


“Actually, I don’t really want to sit next to you.”


With the incredibly high quality people around me, that didn’t seem too likely, but it was still a possibility. More likely, I felt, was a subtle mocking and minimizing of my request:


“Pssh, you really care that much about where you sit? It’s totally not a big deal.”


Regardless, as I walked through the process, I realized I had been given an opportunity. An opportunity to practice “Brave Communication,” a concept our main Bible teacher, Dann Farrely, teaches on.


Perhaps it was true that this was a small thing, that most people would say I should just get over. Perhaps I could survive just fine the rest of the year without communicating this desire to my classmates. Perhaps it wouldn’t really end up bothering me that much at all.


But perhaps this was practice. Practice for when it matters much more, when something deeply impacts me and communication is more necessary and more difficult. I came to the conclusion that if I couldn’t communicate a simple desire like this one well, I likely wouldn’t be able to effectively talk about crucial needs in my future relationships.


So, I risked it. I created a list in my head of a few specific classmates that I wanted to connect with a little more, and asked them if they’d be interested in planning specific days to sit together, and save seats for each other. And they all laughed out loud in scorn and mercilessly made fun of me for days on end.


Ok, just kidding.


No, in reality response from everyone I talked to was more than just positive; to me, it seemed like they all had had similar thoughts floating around in their heads, and just hadn’t gotten to the point of communicating it quite yet.


And it made me wonder how many times in the past I have had simple little things that would increase love on both sides of a relationship with a fantastic person around me that I have just never bothered to communicate.


There is, as I’ve mentioned, some risk associated with communicating these things. But if we trust the person enough, that risk should be minimal. In hindsight, I know I never had anything to worry about. All of my closest friends here are such high-quality people that I know they would value my emotions, even if they couldn’t necessarily fulfill my request for some reason. I know I can trust them. I trust them to care enough to love me in simple ways that mean something to me.


This has always been part of God’s design. Living with people. In community. And, even more wild, for some reason He somehow designed it so that His love requires people to be complete. Check out the end of verse 12 of 1 John 4, which has been on my mind for much of the school year:

… if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us.


“… in us.” That means God’s love actually isn’t complete… Not without people. We don’t get to experience the fullness of His love without encountering it through the people around us. It is an irreplaceable part of the formula.


So. What’s all this mean?


For me, at least, it means I need to keep valuing my emotions. It means I need to keep digging at them until I understand the core desire or need that isn’t being met when I experience a negative one. And it means bravely communicating that desire or need to the those around me, and giving them an opportunity to love me.


Because it turns out that even God's love isn't complete; not without people.