Can it really be just a coincidence that the worship theme for the first full month I’m in my new job here with you at Follen is Change?
I mean, really? We are talking about change at a moment when absolutely every element in my life is enduring a massive shift? What kind of cosmic hijinx is afoot here? It makes me laugh. And learn. And further develop the spiritual practice of self-forgiveness.
For example, yesterday I went to the inaugural (maybe?) Follen Games Afternoon. Via the email news (which I edit, so I know) Jen and Ben Vandiver invited folks of all ages to gather in the Community Center with board games and snacks, to while away a cold winter afternoon. For the first hour or so, I pretended (in a manner known to parents everywhere) to understand what I was doing playing a complex delight called Galaxy Trucker, in which players symbolically build their own spacecraft and then “fly” them into encounters with asteroids, commandos, and aliens. Somehow, through dumb luck, I came in second out of 5.
Then, when others regrouped for a different game, Ben attempted to teach me Love Letter, a children’s card game with 16 cards, which have 8 different functions. Ben explained it, but I didn’t quite catch his drift. We started to play, but on each of my turns, I had to re-read every card on the table. Ben explained again, and I got more embarrassed. A flash of shame came over me. My face went hot.
I looked down at the cards to try again, but the words just floated around my vision, in a soup. I really didn’t understand the game. Thankfully, it was over quickly.
A minute later I had a realization: I’ve hit my mental limit. My brain is overwhelmed with change. Every day for the last month, I have poured in new information continuously, and I literally can’t process any more.
I mean, really. How often in life does one change countries, cultures, jobs, homes, cars, family arrangements, climates, and friendship groups all at once? Did I mention I also switched from iPhone to an Android? From an old Mac to a new one, plus a Windows PC? At church, I’m learning new systems for video-editing, audio-editing, email newsletters, and invitation systems. Not to mention trying to match 300 names with faces.
And for my son Theo, 10, it’s even harder, I think. At least I’m an American, so I understand this culture. But Theo’s never lived here, and his new school does every last thing differently from his old one, from lunch to attendance to the Pledge of Allegiance. His life is like learning to use a new technology – again and again for six hours a day every day. No wonder he comes home exhausted, with no interest in meeting other people. He just wants to play his video games, so he can relax in a world he understands.
Yesterday, just before the Games Afternoon ended, I made one more pass at the games table, and I saw it — Labyrinth, a game the Vandivers brought that we also happen to have (and love) at our home in Wales. Something familiar! Hooray!
Theo and I sat down to play Labyrinth with Jen and Sierra Vandiver. Suddenly Theo was a different person. Instead of aloof and antisocial, he was engaged, lively, funny. Relaxed. His old self. It was grand. I felt happy.
It’s not a new lesson, but one I need to re-learn every day and every month, it seems. Compassion. For others and for my self, too. When I hit the natural limits of my endurance and understanding, it’s okay – and necessary and important — to stop and rest.
Change entails risk. We can’t change without risking mistakes – including embarrassing ones. Like last Thursday, when I emailed the whole congregation an invitation with an RSVP button that didn’t click. Or when the subject line of the weekly email newsletter went out missing a whole word. (I wrote: What’s Your Sibling Story? It came out What’s Sibling Story?)
In this new phase of life, I’m learning it all just as fast as I can. So is Theo. We are doing our best. It’s not the superhuman, perfect progress I had imagined but it IS good enough. We ARE good enough.
What about you? Are you changing something important in life, stretching toward your limits? Are you taking risks, making mistakes, embarrassing yourself on a regular basis? If so, please, for pity’s sake, let me know.
Send me an email. We can have a coffee. We can talk about risks and limits, about stopping to rest and relax. We can laugh at our mistakes, and let them go.
I’m here to get to know you. And to let you get to know me, in all my flawed, embarrassing glory. Just please don’t ask me to play a new board game, for at least another month.
Onward, together, in faith,