If you’ve spent any time reading this blog or talking to me, you’ll no doubt recognize the theme of my getting in trouble very frequently as a child. I say “as a child,” but let’s be real, I probably get in trouble just as often today, it’s just that when you’re 23 years old, no one feels comfortable trying to ground you from watching cartoons.
Among my extensive list of offenses were many instances of my failure to communicate with my parents about what I might be up to, where I might be going, with whom, etc. A prime example of this was when I was in about 3rd or 4th grade. Church had just ended, and it so happened that my friend’s birthday party was that afternoon. Before the party, though, he and his family were going to go to Joe’s Crab Shack for lunch and he invited me to go along with him. So of course I was going to go! Joe’s Crab Shack? This was top tier post-church material- the play area outside had these mechanical diggers in the sand pit, there were shirts that had innuendos about crabs (which we didn’t understand specifically, but understood there was something inappropriate, and therefore funny, about them), and for crying out loud, they served crabs, which are basically bug/weapon hybrids that only the briny mystery of the ocean could produce! Surely this was not an invitation to be turned down.
Thus, I went to Joe’s Crab Shack with my friend and his family, but unbeknownst to me, not all was well in doing so. See, in my mind, I figured the logistics of this trip had already been settled by the parents. Like, surely I wouldn’t have even been invited if my mom and dad hadn’t already been made aware and approved of my going. So while I was digging in dirt and eating sea bugs in celebration of my friend’s birthday, my parents had no idea where I was and started scrambling on their 50 pound circa 2003 Cingular Wireless flip phones, attempting to triangulate my location by calling around to anyone I might be hanging out with.
So, happy ending: they found me, scolded me, and still allowed me to go to my friend’s birthday party. But this is the first instance I can remember specifically of something I’m not particularly good at.Checking in. And I’m not particularly good at catching myself on it, though, as the story clearly illustrates, my family specifically is attuned to.
Hopefully I’m not alone in this. Whether it’s checking in for the sake of others knowing where I am, either geographically or just “in life,” or checking in on others about their own lives, I find myself to be woefully inconsistent. If you tried to graph my posting on people’s Facebook walls for their birthdays over the last few years, it would look like a remote control boat with a gel pen taped to it had been set loose on a sheet of graph paper.
It’s a pretty significant problem to have as a Christian, as one who seeks daily to live into the pattern of presence, compassion, and advocacy set forth by Jesus. I don’t feel like I have to defend myself and say that it’s not that I don’t care about what’s going on in other people’s lives. I’d hope the assumption that I do precedes me. But I too often find myself being prompted by others where, ideally, I’d rather have had the mind to bring it up and ask them, to check in on them.
I was reminded of the importance and impact of this simple act a couple weeks ago when two of my best friends texted me to check up on a meeting I’d told them I’d be having that evening. The meeting had gone reasonably well, though there were several loose ends, yet their simply remembering that it was happening and then asking me how it went provided a sense of peace, a chance to reflect, a space of concern and company.
Checking in isn’t like a high and mighty scriptural commandment. It wasn’t etched in a tablet with 9 others. But it is in line with what walking in Jesus’ way might look like. It’s two fold: are you so concerned with those around you that you’re always curious; are you self-disclosing to them, entrusting them with some measure of care for some moment in your life?
I don’t know that this will manifest itself in a recommitment to greater consistency with Facebook birthdays. Maybe, though, it will look like having a second question to ask after “how are you?” And as far as self-disclosure, well, let me check in with you on what life’s like right now…
I haven’t posted since the Pulse shooting. That’s a long period of silence, and for anyone who looks forward to reading my posts (i.e. just my mom), I’m sorry I haven’t been on the up and up. I’ve been exhausted at the prospect of what to write about. How do you address and promote conversation about the important issues of politics, race, culture, and faith, especially when in a new ministry role and while taking 9 hours in your first semester of grad school?
Because, oh yeah, that happened, too. Summer’s usual chaos gave way to a new and exciting season as I am now the student minister at Highland Oaks Church of Christ, something I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled by. It’s not without its challenges, though, and navigating those can be strenuous. I’m grateful for the people I’m surrounded by, many of whom, are pretty good at checking in and therefore tend to get longer answers than they anticipated when wanting to catch up with me.
In short, I just feel like there’s a lot. But that’s one reason I wanted to jump back on here, break that long silence. this blog has been a solid place for conversation and the sharing of ideas. It’s been a place of learning, teaching, talking, mourning, creativity, and much more. And I know I need that now more than ever. Maybe you do, too.