When I was preaching, one of the questions I employed to help me get to the heart of the text, relate the Word to my life, and find current applications was the “So what?” question. I’d read the scripture passage, then ask myself “So what? What does this story have to do with me and my life? Why and how does it matter? Does it matter?”
Those questions still pop up for me, but in a different incarnation.
Writing is a joy to me, bearing all sorts of gifts and graces. It is also humbling, scary, challenging, and deep. Sometimes the story just flows – full, complete and rich. Sometimes the process more closely resembles the blacksmith beating the sword into a plowshare. Sometimes a flood of ideas pours onto the page, but then requires a ruthless Marie Kondo regimen – purging the extraneous until only the essential remains.
When I get stuck, frustrated, groping for – but never quite making it – to find the right words, when everything has turned to dust and ashes, my inner critic takes over, turning that question I used to use to find meaning and connection on me: “So what? It’s just your opinion. Like Dennis Miller said, you “could be wrong.” In fact, you probably are. Why bother? Who cares what you have to say?”
And then I look up and see the Sean Thomas Dougherty quote that hangs to the left of my desk: “Why bother? Because right now, there is someone out there with a wound in the exact shape of your words.”
I perceived them negatively when my inner critic posed them, but just like there was in my sermon prep days, there is invitation in those “So what? Why Bother? Who cares?” questions to dig deeper, to find meaning, and to share what we learn.
The Resurrection story of my spiritual tradition spread – and ignited faith – because the women – the first ones to the tomb – went back and told the others what they’d seen (or not) there. Everyone thought the story was over. And it might have been, had the women not shared their experience.
Simply put, we need each other.
I need to tell my story, and I need to hear yours.
None of us has all the answers. I don’t even know all the questions. I can’t tell you what to think or do or be. But sharing my story offers companionship and may serve as a doorway through which you can see connections and applications to your life. If nothing else, as Catherine Aird says, “If [I] can’t be a good example, [I’ll] just have to serve as a horrible warning.” Knowing what not to do – what doesn’t work for you – is just as valuable as how-to or a road map.
And hearing your story is just as essential for me. I need the wisdom, experience, and knowledge of my fellow travelers to enhance, fill in, and bridge the gaps in my understanding. Even if your path is vastly different than mine, your experience may still provide a new perspective that will help me move forward.
This applies to all of us. Regardless of our vocation, no matter our circumstances or what season of life we happen to be in, we have a part to play, a contribution to make for good, some small ray of light to shine into the world that may help someone else find their way. When your inner critic tries to convince you otherwise, turn those words into an invitation to dig deeper.
Thank you, dear reader, for companioning me on this journey and sharing what you know.
May grace and blessing be yours in this Holiest of weeks.