Words are useful. They can help bring us into the same space by defining an idea. Now we're all looking at the same thing together. In this way, words can be unifying. Words are useful, to a point.
But there comes a point where words can no longer take us any further. Or deeper.
I have observed this in our culture — and in my own life — over and over again. And, typically, the most common step I've watched us take from this point is to turn around — to circle back. Almost as if maybe we forgot a word.
Words can take us to the edge of the water, but once we're there, something beyond words is required.
We have to step into water.
Words can take us to the edge of the water… and words can keep us there.
So I’m writing this to remind us: we did not come this far to stay on the edge… we can step into the water together.
I would like to change the format of our speeches, concerts, church-services, conversations, etc, to allow deliberate space for us to explore stepping into the water together.
What in the world would that look like?
…and that is exactly why we don't do it. We want to define it before we'll step into it.
But the best things in life are not definable or controllable. The best things in life — including life itself — are difficult or impossible to put into words.
When we come together in person, we are looking for something that is far beyond words. We’re more aware of this longing now than ever. If all that happens while we are together is words and ideas and opinions, we leave without the thing for which we came.
But… what to we do? Let's say we come together… we use some words to bring us into the same space... then what?
We step in, together.
It’s so difficult to write about this for the very reason I’m writing about it. If I could define it with words, it wouldn't be what it is! It’s beyond words.
But I will attempt to share some starting points to help us explore:
First, stepping into the water together will require space. This means that whoever “has the microphone” (the literal microphone, or it’s just their turn to talk) must use their platform to allow space to exist. This is a very non-ego-friendly use of a microphone, but it is such a powerful use. If you are the one with the microphone, remember that space can be even more powerful than words… as the one with the mic, you have the power to give both. It is not your job to fill all of the space.
Second, stepping into the water together will require courage. It may feel awkward. The uncertainty and lack of definition may feel like torture. It is possible, though, for things to feel uncomfortable without feeling insensitive or unsafe. We can gently explore the unknown and the uncomfortable, if we practice sensitivity.
Third, stepping into the water together will require the opening of our senses. What do I see in this moment? What do I hear? Feel? This is counter-intuitive for many of us who have grown up in an atmosphere of constant, underlying fight-or-flight. Can we begin to explore the safety of this moment? What does that do to our senses?
In our culture, our time together is often structured in such a way as to keep the feelings associated with these steps at bay by maintaining a never-ending stream of noise — information, words, ideas, thoughts, debates, opinions… if we keep the noise going, we're suspended at the surface, never having to face our fear of deeper, lesser-known waters.
If we stand on the edge of the water and talk about the water long enough, our time will be up, we'll all go home, and we can come back to the edge of the water to talk about it some more next time.
But many of us feel a growing longing, to go so much deeper together.
The amazing part of this is that the thing we long for the most takes the least amount of effort. Just stop thrashing. Stop creating noise. Just stop. Quiet. Listen. Wait. Rest.
We are able to step into this water together through rest.
Rest, quiet, and trust. These are by no means easy. But, paradoxically, they do not require our effort. We only need to be still.
I propose that we intentionally explore this shift — venturing beyond the effort of words and noise, into the deeper waters of rest, presence, and togetherness.