Recently I've had the unpleasant pleasure (stick with me for a minute on this) of sharing my thoughts and feelings with people who don't have an obligation to love me no matter what forever and ever. Namely, people who are not my family or my devoted husband. Who is family, come to think of it, now that we share the same last name and all. (He wanted me to write "my family and my husband" in an e-mail this week, and I argued it was redundant.) Anyway, this week has been a growing experience for me, and I figured I would share it with the world via my invisible soapbox on the good ole internets.
For the first time since high school, I'm in a small group that I really feel compatible with. From college onward, I tried several "false starts" with other groups, but nothing really stuck. It either felt artificial and forced (kinda like when you have to share a car ride with your weird cousin and his goth girlfriend and your only shared interest is the movie Braveheart), or more like a quilting bee (but one where everyone brings a Bible prop but really just wants to discuss the latest gossip in the guise of prayer requests). This group isn't like either of those uncomfortable extremes. This group is uncomfortable in a good way, in the way a snake feels tight and full just before he sheds his skin. This group is real... and a welcome change from my lack of deeper spiritual sharing over the past few years.
There's something powerful and humbling about voicing your struggles and knowing that the people listening will be praying for you, while you're also asking God to help them with their struggles. My new small group has only been meeting for a few weeks, but already I sense a warm kinship with these people and (oddly, for me) a desire to open up and tell them what I'm dealing with. Not all of it, of course, because that would just be cruel and frankly rather depressing for everyone. But sharing some of it, that seems doable and, yes, even healthy. Bonus: it's cheaper than therapy.
In addition to this awesome new small group, I've also joined (I know, I'm a regular sign-me-up Sally lately) a writing group started by some coworkers. It's a low-key way to get feedback on our personal writing and rekindle the lost scholastic art of how to give and receive constructive criticism. So far we've had members share a blog post, a short story, a children's story, and a poem. Fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, varying lengths and depths and shapes and styles, each piece as unique as its author because it's a piece of him or her put to words.
If I may, I would like to dub this group effort a resounding success, as thus far I have been challenged, encouraged, surprised, and awed by the range of voices in our group and the generosity of each member, both in sharing their writing and in giving useful comments to each author. I feel very lucky to be a part of this group at its inception and look forward to many meetings to come.
So what do these two things have in common? Both lovely groups of people expect me to (gulp) share myself with them, just as they share themselves with me. Needless to say, sharing scares me. What if they learn more about my background and don't like me anymore? What if they think I'm a self-centered jerk? (Which, y'know, I frequently am. But somehow it's worse if other people agree with me on that.) What if I hurt somebody's feelings? What if I say something stupid? What if my poem... sucks?
Forget the hypotheticals. Throw away the fear. Take a chance and see what happens. That's the kind of counsel I would previously have given to others, while conveniently ignoring it myself. But this time, I'm taking my own advice.
Sharing scares me. Always has, always will.
But it's also totally worth it. Kinda like getting married. Carpe diem.