Lean In

I was nearly a coward last evening.

I told myself I didn’t want to go because I was tired, because I hadn’t unpacked yet, because I needed to write.

But really, I didn’t want to lean in.

***

I attended Hutchmoot this past weekend. In past years I’ve drunk from the fire hose of wisdom, laughter, and delight and found healing for my soul. I’ve brought others so that they could experience the overflow, the abundance that is the gathering. But this year—this year was another experience all together.

My first 24 hours are a bit of a blur. I remember moments of delight when my favorite songs were played at the Local Show Special Edition Concert. I remember good food. I remember lots and lots and lots and lots of conversations—but I barely recall what any of them were about.

I felt scattered, worn, squeezed out.

***

Friday afternoon I sat down with my friend Jason to catch up on where the currents of his life were flowing. And for the first time all weekend, I settled into a conversation. We sat on two chairs at the side of the living room. I know, vaguely, there were other people in the room. I even think we were interrupted once, but all I remember is the conversation. I was there.

From that point forward, I began to find myself able to sink in to conversations.

***

Luci Shaw, in her book Breath for the Bones, talks of the importance of seeing, of paying attention, for the artist: “For us to participate in the drama of creation presupposes our need to pay attention. (The word pay is significant—time and awareness, love, concentration and penetration are the price of seeing.)”

She goes on: “The word attention is derived from the Latin ad-tendere—‘to stretch toward’” (p. 116).

Pay attention. Lean in.

***

I awoke Saturday morning and prayed that God would help me to ask more questions than I talked. And He put me to the test on it.

In line for lunch I talked with Charly, who was processing his first Hutchmoot experience and doing his best to figure out what it meant for his family, his life, his ministry back home. And I asked questions, and he talked. And it was one of the most delightful conversations of my weekend.

At dinner God sat me beside Jeremiah, who seemed to answer every initial question with a slightly vague answer—the kind of answer that you could take at face value, or you could ask further questions to find out what story was behind it. I asked questions, and discovered a person with all kinds of fascinating experiences.

Pay attention. Lean in.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the theme had been resonating throughout my Friday as well; I’d just been too scattered to note it.

Jonathan Rogers spoke about Reepicheep, saying that though he was the smallest character in all of Narnia, he had this huge soul. And what made his soul so big was his longing, his stretching toward the Utter East and Aslan’s country. Jonathan said, “In Aslan’s Country, all selves will be free—and their freedom will be freedom from the self.” If that’s not leaning in, I don’t know what is.

When someone in the group asked how we take our inherent longing, our sehnsucht, and make it tactile, one suggestion in response was to slow down and see, paying attention. Jonathan mentioned a video of two kangaroos fighting in a suburban neighborhood that he’d seen online. “What a world this is!” he marveled. “We live in a world where that happens!”

***

Pay attention. Lean in.

Jill Phillips sang her new songs on Friday night, and throughout the lyrics this idea of paying attention and leaning in to relationships is vividly portrayed.

You run so you’ll never be the last one left alone
You hide from the very ones who care for you the most
You’re hanging by a thread, Feeling left for dead
But I’ll bear with you, I’ll bear with you instead
There’s no way around it, you have to walk through
Let me go, let me go with you

And

You are not alone
You are not the only one to walk this road
You are not alone
Even when you fight and run you are not alone

And

Higher ground is harder to believe in
When you’re drowning in a river of your tears
But the river always runs down to the valley
And when it does, I’ll meet you there

***

Jason noted in the debrief time at the end of the weekend that he’d never before had any desire to be mouse-like, but—after seeing Reepicheep anew through Jonathan’s eyes—he wanted a mouse-sized soul. The outward-focused soul grows bigger.

DinnerConversation

Photo by Africa Schaumann

I want to lean in. To stretch toward. To grow.

I met Andrew in line for dinner the first night of the weekend. Afterward, he wrote a poem in which he described Hutchmoot as the “rehearsal dinner of the Lamb.” There’s a photo of Andrew and I at dinner that first night, both leaning forward to listen to Bailey, who was sitting at the far end of the table. It looks as if there is no one between us (though there were), and we’re stretching out to be part of what she had to say.

At the marriage supper of the Lamb, that will be our posture: we will be leaning in—to the person next to us, to the heroes of our faith, to Christ.

***

I nearly was a coward last night. I blamed not wanting to go to the small group portion of our Bible Study on the fact that I still have bags on my floor or that I hadn’t done my homework.

But really, I didn’t want to lean in. I’ve struggled to find resonance in that group and having come from a weekend with people who speak my language, I didn’t want to expend the energy it would take to pay attention.

I even told someone I wouldn’t go.

And then, I sat at my desk and Jill’s words ran through my head again: “I’ll bear with you, I’ll bear with you instead.”

Bearing with one another is hard work. Leaning in. Stretching toward. Paying attention.

But it’s worth it. As Jill sings,

There’s gold in them hills
There’s gold in them hills
So don’t lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

 

4 thoughts on “Lean In

  1. Thank you for this, Carrie! I tend to always be the wallflower, more from my own insecurities than from being an introvert. I too have a hard time finding my place in my own circles, and maybe it’s just that I haven’t left the wall and leaned in.

  2. I was reminded of this again when I reread the quote I’d written down last year for the Hutchmoot sketchbook–pouring out oneself, giving, compassion…so much I needed to think about again. Time to pay attention.

  3. Paying. Attention.

    Thank you for that; it’s a thread in my own lessons from the weekend, though I haven’t managed to tame it into the tapestry yet.

  4. For how many people in this world is this completely inaccessible? May your eyes be opened to the rarity of the community that you are blessed to be a part of, and may you take special care not to suggest that it’s guaranteed to be there for all, not in this world. In God’s wisdom, some are not given this blessing in this life, yet they look to you, to the “halls of faith” for courage. Don’t fail to read on. Don’t make the mistake of pointing to your wealth and blessing as evidence that others might follow in your steps and find the same. Remind yourselves as you remind others of those of whom the world is not worthy. You who are privileged to have even a “Rehearsal of the Supper of the Lamb” in THIS world must remember that you are vastly outnumbered by those who do not, who silently and graciously wait “alone” for the promise. Do not forget that the poor in spirit look to you for courage, and can be saddened by simply hearing tell of your rich spirit. This is only half of the story. The entire story is that none of us receive what is promised until we are ALL together with Jesus. Do NOT forget to sing for the meek.

Comments are closed.