Anything But Empty

"Let your words be anything but empty."

Dancing and Daring Together

This past weekend I had the opportunity to head to the Oregon Coast for a retreat with a wonderful group of kids and fellow youth leaders. The focus of the retreat was on community, walking together and enjoying each other.

This is something that comes with time, with space, and with the slow hard work of building trust and intimacy.  It’s something I am learning how to do, because for the first time in my life, I am starting from scratch. I am rebuilding my community and my people from the ground up, and it’s with amazing people, who have welcomed me and loved me, who are praying for me and with me.

And it’s really hard to teach something when you’re in the middle of it; it can be all the more beautiful, and powerful  and potent, but

But it is hard work, it is hard work still leaving your people, and finding new people.  It’s an exercise in continual trust; trust in God and trust in the people around you.

Because we need it. We need the people around us who laugh with us, cry with us, and walk with us. The people who make us brave, the people we don’t mind looking silly in front of, or making a misstep with.

We need that because that is where we change, where we are transformed into the people that God is making us into.

More than any mega- conference, or expensive speaker or expert, I am going to be changed by the person who brought  the dessert for the potluck, or the woman who handed me the wine and the bread, or the middle school student who I take out for icecream. The people who 99% of the world doesn’t even know their names, those are the people who make us who we are.

At the retreat, we took the students to the beach. On the beach we passed a group of women; barefoot, different ages and races. They were in a circle dancing on a crowded beach and laughing.

Later a student turned to me and asked, “Did you see those women dancing?”


“What do you think they were doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“Should we go dance with them?

Some of us made our way to the group of women and asked them what they were doing. One woman, in her 50’s, with a beautiful smile and flowy peasant skirt and head scarf told us they were worshiping Jesus.

“Would you like to dance with us?

So we did, for 20 minutes we held hands with strangers in a dancing circle; these women who knew each other, who had been coming to the beach for the past 14 years for their worship retreat, with the same women. They didn’t need someone to come and give lecture on worship, they just needed each other, open-hearted and brave, and worshiping together.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown describes what that kind of love, what that kind of community does:

“I remember a very tender moment from that year, when Steve and I were lying on the floor watching Ellen do a series of crazy, arm-flinging, and knee-slapping dances and tumbles. I looked at Steve and said, “Isn’t it funny how I just love her that much more for being so vulnerable and uninhibited and goofy. I could never do that. Can you imagine knowing that you’re loved like that? Steve looked at me and said, “I love you exactly like that.” Honestly, as someone who rarely risked vulnerability and always steered clear of goofy, it never dawned on me that adults could love each other like that; that I could be loved for my vulnerability, not despite them.”  

That’s what community is, the same people in and out, the people we don’t see once a week for an hour, but the people who are part of the daily rhythm of our lives; and all the boring that comes with it. The people we are so comfortable with that we can dance with them, even if we don’t know all the steps, because we don’t care if we look ridiculous with them.

They are the people that will teach us more than anyone else, because they know who we are, and what we need. They don’t give us broad concepts or theories, distant from our own experience, because they are in those experiences with us.

And while I was dancing on the beach, breaking into one community, briefly, with another, all of us apart of the Body of Christ, I remembered why we go through what we do for community, all of the hard work, the hard words, the pain that comes with knowing and losing and giving and taking.

We do it because it’s holy. It’s sacred and shared, and gives us moment where we can dance barefoot and laugh on the beach, because we know we are loved, and when we are loved, when we know we are loved, when we are certain we are worthy of love, it makes us brave.



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