When I'm hanging out with people I'm just getting to know I have a fear that conversations are going to veer into subjects where I have nothing to add.
Have you ever had this happen to you when you're having dinner, hanging out at church or talking with co-workers? You try your best to participate, but you know nothing of the subject they're discussing. You stand or sit smiling and hoping that the conversation will head back into territory where you can find your footing once again.
I think at least some of the fears that get exposed in these situations is that your lack of value is finally being laid bare.
You don't have any contributions.
You don't have any knowledge.
You don't have any reason to be there.
I usually find that these spaces create so much anxiety that I'm not even able to be present. I'm so in my own head wrestling with thoughts of inadequacy that there's almost no part of me that can remain to learn about these subjects. I'm not able to learn because I've believed the voice in my head that says that having insightful comments is equivalent to having social value.
So, I jump in when I think there's an opening and try and take the conversation somewhere I feel more informed in. I try to and use control to feel better about myself and the things I already know. This isn't usually a conscious decision, but something that happens naturally and without my control.
I wonder over the years how much I've missed out on because I haven't allowed myself to be led and informed by others. I worry that my concern about appearing informed has kept me from truly ever becoming informed. It's hard work to stay present to a conversation you don't feel in charge of or well-informed about.
Well, all of this is true for me, but I think that there are many of you reading this who have found yourself in this position all too often. You haven't felt that you had the ability to steer the conversation differently, so you listened and nodded your head and heard all about new things and ideas. Feeling like you can steer a conversation differently is a power.
This Sunday we're going to have a conversation about power dynamics and race. This has proven to be a difficult conversation for people who make up the majority race in the United States, which is white people (76.6% of the US population identifies as "white"). Being a part of the majority race means that there are insights into power dynamics and race that are really hard to experience or see.
It can feel like being in a conversation where you don't have much to add. My prayer is that you're able to be present to the conversation this Sunday and hear the ways that Jesus is inviting us to have eyes to see and ears to hear. If seeing the Kingdom of God come to earth involves the valuing of all people, then staying present to the stories we may not see or hear is vital. God works powerfully in these spaces to move us ever forward.