For Thursday, December 17, 2015:
“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
E. B. White
I do, too! I also admire anyone who has the guts to create art of any kind – photography, paintings, music, dance, sculpture, songs …
Many years ago, when I was trying to come out of my shy, introverted shell, I set myself the task of learning to become more comfortable speaking in front of people. Luckily I have prominent theatrical and performance genes in my matrilineal heritage, and I’d always had a similar longing, so I didn’t have to dig too far down to find opportunities to explore the possibilities.
Instead of the theater, I chose a different ‘stage’ to start: the church. It was small enough to feel safe, yet public enough to engender stage fright at first. I started by reading public prayers or announcements from my pew in the midst of the congregation. When I graduated to going ‘up front’ to read lessons and then help lead worship, I counted that a big milestone.
Eventually, I was asked to start preaching. Whoa! Though flattered, of course, I didn’t see how I could. Long story short, I agreed to try, and I loved it. My theatrical heritage kicked in – liturgy, defined as ‘the work of the people,’ is a form of drama, after all – and I could use my writing and theological training in ways I never had before.
Thanks to a priest seeing something in me that I didn’t know was there, I had found a little piece of personal heaven, in part because I was growing more comfortable in and with myself. I was blessed and honored to preach occasionally for 20 years or so, in different congregations. At one point, I was even invited to preach at an Anglican cathedral in Canada on a high holy day. Not bad for a shy little girl from the South!
The feedback I received over the years was always positive, but the same comment from a myriad of people has always stuck with me. They were amazed that someone who is not ordained had the ‘guts’ – that was the word most often used, or ‘courage’ – to get up in front of people and preach.
The more I heard that comment, I came to realize that many people want to do such things, but don’t know how to start or think they’ll be too afraid, or they’ll do something wrong, fall down or fail somehow. I came to see that, perhaps even more than any theology I tried to convey, my then-ministry of preaching served as an example, a model, of what we’re all capable of if we but try.
That courage – those ‘guts’ – is in each one of us, and I admire it in you. Osho, one of the ancient haiku masters, wrote, ‘What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?’ Let that be your mantra, because you can’t fly if you don’t start.
And you will fly. I know you will!