I know how to BE, but I don’t [always] know what to say

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to a wake and a service of a young man I kind of knew (I know his family better). I knew about when it would be and I knew where it was being held, but when the time came to head there I changed my mind.
It’s not that I am not uncomfortable with being in the presence of suffering and those who suffer, on the contrary I think I am pretty good at BEing in the present. However, I am prone to overthinking and overanalyzing things, and I talked myself out of going because what if I was told to say something, what if I were to provide verbal comfort?

Where I am at in my journey of life and journey of faith, I cannot bring myself to verbally comfort someone who is suffering. I can sympathize, I can empathize, I can BE, I can be silent…but words, words escape me if someone wanted verbal comfort because I find a lot of comfort words in times of suffering to be trite, cliche, and even the exact opposite of comfort.
To extend myself a bit of grace, I will say this; the words I select are deliberate much of the time, I am careful in self-examining myself in what I am to say a good deal of the time. It is probably because of this I come across as being quiet, but on the contrary, provided I think things through I have quite a bit to say!
But saying anything in times when people are hurting strikes me as taking away from what’s going on, and I rather be than to do, I deliberately choose silence paired with comforting.

***

In hindsight, I wish I went. I wish I went to be present with the brothers, the parents, the extended family, the friends, et al. because if I were able to get out of my head and BE, that’s all that would matter and it would matter immensely as a lot of the time we need someone to listen to us without having anything to say.

Lesson learned,
~Nathanael~

I’m not quiet (I’m introspective); the way I operate in real life

Ever since my first days as a friend to someone, the I-like-you-do-you-like-me days that were so basic and so simple for starting friendships, in the days when politics and religion weren’t discussed except for the occasional I-love-Jesus-and-God that came from what I learned with my head (prior to faith in my heart and my life) from my parents…

I was deemed the quiet guy.

Except I wasn’t truly quiet, my mind, even then, was busy thinking and thinking, and, you guessed it, thinking some more. For you see I wasn’t the quiet guy…I was constantly thinking introspectively.

Here’s a snapshot from my youth as to how my introspective worked.

***

At Safety Town, the program some cities have that help teach kids to “look both ways before you cross the street” and “call 911 if there’s a fire” and other necessities, there was a fireman who talked about what he did and then posed questions, but that was followed up with a question to us:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Despite a large classroom, we were all given room to answer this question that is so often asked of youth. When it got to me I had a much thought out answer to give to my peers, to my teacher, to the fireman even;

I want to be a burglar.

*silence*

*quiet laughter*

*my heart pounding through my chest, face getting red from the responses, albeit quiet, rang in my ears*

Why do you want to be a burglar when you grow up? My teacher kindly and suspiciously spoke.

I want to be a burglar because he has a lot of things. A burglar also steals in the nighttime and he’s there for his family in the daytime I responded.

Even then at the age of five I saw the underpinnings to the problems that existed in my family. Even then I saw a father who was too busy with work and put his first fruits into that leaving us his family with proverbial apple cores and orange peels. Despite the hectic lifestyle of my father’s overworking there seemed to be times where he…we had a hard time making ends meet. I’m the oldest kid of 4, the only son, and I still got hand-me-downs from other families who got a whiff of the reality of our situation.

So responding that I wanted to be a burglar never seemed like the wrong answer, even now I don’t think I could have given a better answer to this difficult question that gets asked, but the caveat of it comes wrapped in the fact that sometimes the right answer is a hard and bitter truth to swallow. If I could travel back in time to that moment, I would give my younger self a hug, because I needed one that day for being that honest with myself and with others.

That’s how my five year old self internalized and processed things.

***

Since then I am still the one deemed the quiet guy which I tend to interject that I am introspective, not quiet, I process answers to questions longer than some people. I am choice with my words like a good cigar or a vintage wine, give me time and I will give you an answer that has come from much thinking and mulling about in my brain, and in some ways, my heart as well.

One of the caveats for me however is that some things need to be thought of quickly, and honestly I rather give the right answer in a time frame longer than the first answer that may seem plausible. An example of this happened rather recently when one of my youth ministry students (I’m no longer goal oriented to burglary, but youth ministry) asked me a “what do you think about _________” question and I got back to him…3 months later! Sure the question wasn’t demanding of an answer right off the cuff, but I needed time to introspectively come up with an answer.

Another caveat is that some times when I’m with someone I’m getting to know better of the opposite sex I get perceived in one of two ways; the funny guy who is never serious or the serious guy who is never funny. I am not both, but I do possess the ability to switch gears as needed be, and not in a mental “okay it’s time to be serious” fashion, but I am to give my all to seriousness or being funny as needed be in an appropriate manner.

***

I guess being introspective has helped me be an ideal type b youth minister; while I may never draw the crowds (nor would I want to) of many youth as an extroverted high-fiveing hand-shaking knuckle-bumping leader of youth, I know how to shape a community based on non-coercive authenticity and love,  I know how to lead small[er] groups, I know how to promote and carry out social justice and I know how to actively listen and help develop discipleship leaders.

It is my desire to get into youth ministry full time eventually, currently I am involved with one of my church’s high school youth group and I help co-lead a small group. On my own however I am brainstorming and thinking out a plan for an after school Bible study with some of the students, which I will run by the leaders as I get closer to expressing my intentions for outside of the regular times of our get-togethers with the high school youth of our church.

I believe that God uses the ordinary to do extraordinary things, and I see it coming together in my life and my calling of youth ministry and other things. So if you the reader and I the writer ever meet, keep what I said in mind, because I’m not a quiet guy…I’m just introspective! 🙂

~Nathanael~