Showing up

I want to be the kind of person who shows up.

But there are a lot of reasons why I don’t.

So as I sit here and think about how I go about being the kind of person who shows up, I can think of two main reasons why I bring less-than-my-whole-self into so many situations.

The first problem is that I don’t always know how to show up.

I like the idea of showing up.  I like the idea of bringing my whole, real, and vulnerable self, of being fully present, of engaging unreservedly, and of fighting fiercely for my convictions.

But I don’t always know how to do those things.  Or I don’t know what it looks like to be fully present in certain situations.  I can think of a small handful of people I know who do this consistently well, and anytime I’m around those people it is a breath of fresh air.

Two of the authors I’ve been reading lately who inspire me in this area are Brene Brown and Shauna Niequist.  If you haven’t heard of them, you really should look them up on Amazon and order one of their books (I’d recommend starting with The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist).  Brene Brown is going to give you more of a researched, thought-out approach of what it looks like to bring your whole self into situations, but she does so in a way that is engaging with great stories and illustrations from her own journey of how she has grown in this process.  Shauna is a great storyteller who invites you into her life and has this engaging, charming, honest way of writing about the simple moments in life that makes me want to learn how to engage with life and the people around me the way that she does.

I see someone show up when our group of friends is sitting around in my living room, or around the dinner table, and someone takes that first risk of inviting us in to something really hard she is walking through and she invites us to be present with her in the journey.

I see someone show up when I’m in staff meetings and rather than keep with the status quo, someone takes a risk to share an idea, to question the way things have always been done, to put their heart and their passion out on the table and see what others have to say about it.

I think I showed up a few weeks ago when I was having dinner with my dad.  He had come down to visit, and we went up to the mountain lake of Big Bear for some father-daughter time—the first time we’ve ever spent that much one-on-one time together.  We found ourselves at a great little restaurant called the Peppercorn Grille, and as we talked I started opening up to my dad about some things in my life I’d never really shared openly with him.  I still remember that moment when I knew I could either steer the conversation away, or I could press in and take the risk of inviting my dad into some places in my heart I usually kept tucked away.  And I remember feeling incredibly vulnerable and afraid of not being well received as I thought about which direction to go, but thought it was time to take a risk and open up.  And I encountered understanding and love, and had the privilege of having my dad speak some words into my life that I desperately needed to hear.

As I try to think more about what it means and what it looks like to show up, though, I don’t think it is as simple as just being willing to share openly.  I think there are plenty of people in the world who are looking for anyone and everyone to emotionally vomit on, and they’ll talk to anyone who will listen.

I was walking up to my office one day when I passed a woman on the sidewalk.  I politely asked her how her day was going, expecting a quick passing conversation.  Instead, this perfect stranger started telling me all about her litany of medical problems she was having and how she was feeling about all of them.  PERFECT STRANGER.  As I was hearing all about her ear infection and overproduction of ear wax, among other things, I slowly started to back away and probably made a not so gracious exit with an excuse of needing to get to my next appointment.

Just because this woman was willing to share openly about what was going on in her life, does that mean she was showing up?  Was that true vulnerability, bringing her authentic self to the situation, or was that something else?

As I said, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it means or looks like to show up.  But as I navigate learning how to do this in my own life, I’m starting to think showing up might be more about offering yourself to others, not needing something from others.  It’s knowing that there is strength in vulnerability, and that when you show up you are bringing your best self, your whole self, to the table and you know that you have something to offer.  I don’t think showing up is about needing or demanding from others.  I don’t think showing up is about over-sharing and emotionally vomiting all over other people.  I think showing up feels like discernment and wisdom, strength and authenticity, but also risk and vulnerability.

People can be vocal without showing up.  People who act out of their insecurities, or ask others to take care of their problems, or talk about everything wrong that has happened to them doesn’t feel like showing up.  People who invite others to see their brokenness and don’t ask others to fix them or carry their burdens, but rather just be present with them—because that’s what you do with the people you love—that feels more like showing up.  People who share their authentic, messy, broken, yet real, passionate, and beautiful self because they know that might be just what is needed to open up a situation and bring true connection—that feels more like showing up.

People who show up have convictions and are willing to fight for them.

People who show up don’t let fear guide their decisions or actions.

People who show up don’t worry about how others will receive them.

People who show up know they have something to offer.

People who show up choose to risk vulnerability.

I’m pretty sure the feeling that comes right before showing up is fear and a crazy sense of vulnerability, and the showing up happens when we decide to not care and say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done anyway.

This brings up the second reason I don’t show up.

Fear.

Showing up is hard.  Risking vulnerability is hard.  Putting my real and vulnerable self out there is hard.

If I fail, I can’t say it’s because I didn’t really try.  I did try.  I gave it everything I had.  Too often I’ll hold back because then I can tell myself that my failure doesn’t really reflect on my ability, and I can convince myself that if I really wanted to I could have done it.

Showing up risks failure on a much deeper level, a level with no excuses left other than realizing I wasn’t enough.  I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid that very situation.

Showing up comes with a cost, and I think that’s where wisdom and discernment come into play for knowing if the risk is worth it.  I don’t think we are always supposed to show up.  Bringing our whole selves into every situation of every day would be exhausting and probably feel a little bit like trying too hard.

But not showing up at all, that, I think, has to do with letting our lives be ruled by fear.

What helps me more than anything to step into this area of my life is to realize that I’m not going down this road alone.

I am deeply grateful for the community I live in that is learning how to do this with me, and for the people who are giving me so much grace for the bumps and awkward moments I’m hitting along the way.

But even more than that, I’m thankful for a God who shows up.

The root meaning of the word confidence is “with faith” (con is with and fid is faith).  With faith.  Someone with confidence is someone with faith.  And I think an essential component I’ve found to be able to show up is the confidence to step into those moments knowing that I am not alone.

I believe in a God who shows up.  I believe Jesus Christ is one of the best examples you will ever find of someone who unreservedly put himself on display and offered himself up to the world, knowing that many would reject him.

And I believe God continues to show up today.  I believe God is with us, every second of every day, and that He will never leave or abandon us.  So that fear of being left alone out in the cold, or showing up and being rejected, isn’t as scary anymore when I realize I’ll never really be alone.

And as I think about the excitement of serving alongside a God who is at work in this world, whose Spirit is doing incredible things, bringing hope and freedom and light to the dark and broken places in our world and also in the hearts of people, I want to show up too.  I want to join in with God in the work of bringing hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness in our world.  I know that my half-hearted effort will have little to no impact, but I think that if God is at work and he invites us to show up with him, bringing our whole selves and our whole effort to bear on the situation in front of us, then I think we get to start seeing real change happen in the world and in the lives of people around us.

It doesn’t mean I’m still not afraid.  It doesn’t make showing up any easier to do.  But it does help me find the strength, the confidence, the faith, to press forward and move into those uncomfortable situations rather than running for safety.

Today, I have faith that my God will show up.  So today I will show up too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  What does showing up look like for you?  What are stories of when you have seen other people show up?  Let me know below!

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Faith, Doubt, and My First Car Accident

I can still vividly recall my first car accident.  Especially the part where I totaled my mom’s car.

I was 17, driving my mom’s forest green Dodge Neon to soccer practice.  I had just pulled up to a stop sign in the neighborhood by my high school, waiting and watching the cross traffic, ready to turn left and hoping to not be late to practice.  I saw the oncoming car slow down to make a right turn onto the street I was waiting on, and then I saw that same car lose control, skid straight towards me, and slam into the front of my mom’s car (thankfully no one was hurt—but the damage to the car was extensive enough to declare it totaled.  Yep, that’s right.  I totaled a car by sitting at a stop sign.  What did YOU do when you were a teenage driver?).

After the dust settled and I was back on my way to practice, my hands shook as they gripped the steering wheel.  For the next few weeks, whenever I sat at a stop sign, I eyed every car driving by as a potential wrecking ball bound for impact.

Before that accident, I had never questioned the safety of sitting at a stop sign.  It took a few weeks of safe driving experiences to finally move out of that stage when I suspected any oncoming vehicle of devious means, but eventually life as a teenage driver went back to as safe as could be expected.

It’s been 14 years since that accident.  Thankfully since then my driving safety has suffered little more than two slight accidents where I was rear ended.  Even with those, I experienced some minor PTSD for the next few weeks of irrationally bracing myself when I slowed down, expecting the car behind me to barrel into my bumper.

As I think about life, specifically in regards to faith and doubt, it helps me to think about how I react to car accidents.

I’m going through life thinking everything is fine and then – WHAM – something happens that completely knocks me off base.  Sometimes it is something unexpected, or sometimes it is something expected that fails to deliver and becomes a major disappointment.  Either way, my regular pattern of life gets hammered by a brutal reality check.

Over the course of my life I’ve driven countless hours in a car, and I almost never suffer anxiety about getting rear ended.  In my day-to-day experience of the world, drivers stop when they are supposed to stop.  It’s not until that regular pattern gets disrupted and I have a reason to question my experience, based on this new data of actually getting rear ended, that I’ll experience some sweaty palms and heart palpitations when I get behind the wheel for the next week or so.  But then, after a few weeks of reassuring normalcy that cars indeed will not crash into me on a regular basis, my anxiety subsides and I go back to my normal driving routine.

Let’s think about this now in the context of faith and doubt.  We all have the things in life that we place our faith in.  By the way, I like to define faith as trust in what we have reason to believe is true.  Based on our understanding and experience of the world and this life as we know it, we choose to place our trust and order our lives according to that which we believe to be true.  Faith, I think, is more of a choice about how to order our lives, what we choose to acknowledge as trustworthy, and how we make decisions in line with what we believe, and less of a feeling.

What I’ve observed in my own experience is that I’ll be going through life as usual, with no reason to question or doubt the things I’ve placed my faith in.  Then — WHAM! — the rug gets pulled out from under me.  Tragedy strikes, hopes are crushed, life hasn’t turned out how I thought it would, someone I trust hurts me, or some other life experience happens that makes me question if my way of thinking about the world, and how I’ve trusted certain things to be true, can really be trusted after all.

The question we’re faced with in these moments, as doubt creeps in and we wonder if we can really continue trusting those things we have set our faith in, is how much we let these unexpected moments define our experience of life.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m a much more fickle person than you.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that if we’re honest with what we really think, we all have moments of serious doubt at times.

What, then, are we to make of the tension that exists between faith and doubt?

While I think there is much to be unpacked in that question, I want to focus on one aspect of the relationship between faith and doubt that I’ve been thinking about more lately.  And it’s this:

Doubt is seasonal.

I think it is normal, natural, and actually healthy for our faith to go through seasons of doubt.

For faith to remain vibrant, and for us to not settle into ruts and do things simply for the sake of doing things, we have to constantly remember why we chose to orient our life and follow certain paths to begin with.  Seasons of doubt make us question what we really believe, and out of that is a healthy process of seeking the truth and either reaffirming that which we previously believed in with a renewed faith, or refining our faith and shedding false belief that hindered us from being growing people.

When I was driving during the weeks following a car accident, I questioned the safety of the drivers around me.  Generally speaking, I have faith in the rules of the road, and faith that the other drivers on the road will be following the same set of rules as I am.  I have faith when I’m driving down the freeway that the car next to me will stay in his lane and not drift into mine.  I have faith that cars will stop at red lights and go at green lights.  I have faith that cars will drive on the right side of the road.  We literally could not function as a society and drive our individual vehicles to and from work, soccer practice, dinner parties, and the grocery store if we did not all have faith that other drivers were following the same set of driving rules.   So it’s no wonder that when someone breaks one of the rules, resulting in an accident, that our faith in the safety of driving is shaken.  We panic.  We reevaluate how safe driving really is.  We question if we can trust what we previously trusted.  We wonder if there’s something we could have done differently to prevent the situation.

Maybe my response to these feelings of doubt is to look into buying a safer car.  Maybe I realize I’m not as aware of the other cars around me as I should be.  Maybe I realize my own guilt of being a distracted driver and resolve to change that.  Whatever my response, this disruption of my normal assumed safety is a good cause for self-examination and re-evaluation of what I’ve previously trusted.

However, just because I’ve been in an accident, it doesn’t mean I give up driving all together.  It reminds me that there really are no guarantees of safety in this world and that at any moment things can come crashing in and disrupt my day-to-day routine and experience of life.

Just because my faith has been shaken, just because I’m experiencing doubt, just because I’m questioning God, it doesn’t mean I give up my faith all together.  It reminds me that I live in a very fallen, very broken, very messy world and there really are no guarantees of safety.  It reminds me that at any moment things can completely fall apart, and there literally is nothing I can do to prevent it.

But just because I have doubts, it doesn’t mean I throw away my faith all together.

I’ve found over and over again that in these seasons of doubt, if I run away from God and stop trusting Him altogether, if I run away from my community of faith, I wind up running away from the very answers I’m looking for.

I’m not saying faith should be blind.  I’m not saying that we should just ignore hard questions and pretend everything is ok.  I’m actually a huge advocate of intellectual honesty in our faith.  I’m saying we should give God the benefit of the doubt in these situations and rather than running away, we should lean in even more.

Yes, ask hard questions.  Yes, be honest about how you’re feeling.  But do so as you press into God.  So the rug got pulled out from under you?  Do you think you’ll find the answers you’re looking for apart from God?

In my own experience, I’ve found that even though it’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings, entering into my doubt and not running from my fears has helped bring resolution sooner and grown my faith in significant ways.  Sometimes it hurts like hell, and often things get worse before they get better, but running away from my doubts and questions has never helped at all.

This is one of those sticky, messy areas of faith.  It’s the real life, dirty, gritty, blood-sweat-and-tears part of faith.  The part where I’m very aware of my humanity.  The part where I do a lot of yelling and cussing and crying in my conversations with God.  But it’s also the part where the dark corners of my heart, the places where the hope and love of the gospel haven’t penetrated to yet, get brought to the table and some real breakthroughs happen.  It’s where the most real growth and change happen.

I wish I had more answers.  I wish I could tell you that bad things won’t happen.  But the truth is, sometimes life can really screw with you.  Hard things happen, and we are left with lots of questions.  The point of all this is to say that when you find yourself with those hard questions, that you can take them to God and see what He does with them.  Don’t hide the questions.  Don’t feel guilty about asking them.

I wish I could tell you I know the answers to some of those hard questions.  I wish you had answers for some of mine.  All I know is that every time I hit one of these seasons, God is right there in the thick of it with me.  And the more I’ve learned to lean INTO him rather that away from him, it’s turned out a little bit better.

Remember that it’s a season.  Eventually, after an accident, you get back to a place where you can be on the road without being driven by fear.  Eventually, after a crisis, your faith will stop expecting the worst to happen.  I know that if you’re in a crisis of faith right now, it might not feel like it.  That’s ok.  This is where community is such a beautiful thing because where your faith is weak I can lend you some of mine.

Lean into God.  Lean into your community of faith.  Bring your questions, your heart, your honest self to the table.  Don’t let your fear drive you.  Lean in.  I know you can.