Absence of Presence or Presence of Absence?

I've just spent the weekend on retreat with twenty or so women from my church (a.k.a. "St. Paul and the Redeemers," as the retreat center signs identified us).  I wish that I could gush about what a moving experience it was for me, but truth be told, I don't feel "moved," just calm (as well as tired!).  It may be in part that I managed to volunteer myself to lead one of our discussions (on "decluttering," no less; our theme was "abundance"), so more or less by default I was less likely to be surprised by what we talked about as such.  But I am not sure that this is the most important lesson here.

I could have been "moved" by having to lead the discussion and, this time a year ago, most likely would have been.  But in a bad way: moved to anxiety about whether what I said was important, or stirring, or challenging enough.  Moved by my ego to worry about the impression I made.  And yet, while I do have some regrets about how I handled the flow of the conversation at one point (missing the opportunity to bring someone new into the conversation who hadn't spoken yet), curiously (and blissfully enough), I do not feel that it was a bad thing, just a thing.  Nothing to beat myself up about, simply something to notice for the next time that I find myself in a similar context.

Likewise, and even more amazingly, the conversations that I had with my fellow parishioners.  I cannot recall ever having such intense conversations with so many people in such a short time and not feeling somehow threatened, if not by what I said (or failed to say), then by what others said to me.  To be sure, this was a special situation: everyone was assured that what we said over the weekend would stay with the weekend (as it were).  Also, this was a group of women willing to talk about difficult things not just as women, but as Christians (or, at least, willing to take a Christian perspective on things).  But at no point do I recall feeling like I needed to protect myself.

Which makes me wonder.  What was it that I used to feel whenever I felt "moved"?  Affected by other people's reactions.  Overwhelmed by a sense of belonging.  Loved.  Several of the women mentioned feeling lots and lots of love this weekend, but that isn't what I felt.  At least, not in the way that I have in previous situations in which I was desperate to feel accepted.  I wanted the session that I led to go well, but for their sake, not for mine.  I'm not saying this well, but that is okay, too.  This is unfamiliar territory for me.  Could it be that all this time I have been confused about love?

I think we all know the answer to that one.  But if that desperate anxiety to be accepted--and the corollary relief at not being rejected that I used on occasion to feel--isn't love, then what is?

Comments

  1. St. Paul and the Redeemers sounds like a twisted name for a Christian rock band! So funny!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've got the vocalists, we'd just need some musicians!

      Delete

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