Don’t Wait to Be Invited to Your Life

When I was in elementary school the “thing” was wall ball. At recess, everybody who was anybody played. Wall ball was a game where you clasped your hands together in one giant fist, smacked that fist against a bouncy ball (a “wall ball” duh) and bounced that wall ball against a wall.

Now that I’m explaining it, I feel kind of stupid. The game basically explains itself.

invited

Photo Credit: John Tornow, Creative Commons

Anyway, since only two people could play wall ball at a time, and there were only a few wall ball “courts” on the playground, the really good players would try to group together so they could get the most quality playing time in. The less-skilled wall ball players would wait to be invited to a group.

I’ll give you three guesses about which side I was on.

Yup. I was the one waiting to be invited to a team. And while wall ball might be unique to my situation, or my time period, or my school, this is an age-old dilemma.

Haven’t we all done our share of waiting to be picked for a team?

And yet, the biggest problem with this mentality is that it doesn’t leave us when we leave elementary school. Maybe you can identify with this. I’ve spent most of my life waiting to be picked for stuff: I waited to be chosen for a certain group of friends, for the perfect job, for a title or position I wanted.

When I was single, I waited for years for the perfect guy to show up knocking on my door.

I waited for someone to tell me a was  “good writer” or that I should write a book. And you know what? I waited (and wasted away) years of my life. No one ever invited me to the things I wanted. It wasn’t their job. It was my job to decide what I wanted and to pursue it myself.

This is the biggest problem with waiting to be invited: we put all the responsibility for our life onto someone else.

It feels great to be invited, doesn’t it?

It really does. This must be why we wait for it. There is something pretty profound about being included, even when you haven’t asked.

But the problem with waiting to be included (at least for me) is that I end up feeling incredibly resentful and angry toward people for failing to do something that was my job in the first place. This would be like yelling at a roommate for not doing my dishes in the sink. Not only would it be pointless, but it would probably make the roommate less likely to include me (or do dishes for me) in the future.

Here’s the crazy thing I’m learning about being invited:

When I think back to the wall ball players, or to any of the other people along the way who seemed to be included in the group while I was left out, I see it differently now. I realize most of the people who were “invited” to the team weren’t invited because they were the best players.

They were invited because they weren’t waiting to be invited.

They had guts. Moxie. They believed in themselves.

They didn’t need someone to tell them they were good at wall ball, or that they were a great writer, or that they deserved a happy marriage. They already believed those things were true. And because they believed that, they put themselves in the game. They played with a sort of abandon. They got better and better.

So these days, I’m not waiting for anyone to invite me to my life.

What I’m finding is the more I make space for myself, the more others make space for me. When I am clear about what I want and what I’m about, the invitations aren’t quite so scarce. It’s not because I’m amazing. It’s because people want to help those who want to help themselves.

I don’t need an invitation. Neither do you. What we need is a little more moxie, a little more guts. We we need is a willingness to know what we want. What we need is to practice, practice, practice—and to make a little room for ourselves on the court.

Don’t you think?

Sex, Christians and Being in the Middle

Recently I was asked to speak at a conference focused on adolescent sexuality. The conference was sponsored by a few secular non-profits, including Planned Parenthood and The Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force; and the mission of the event was clear: to help young people make positive sexual choices and avoid teen pregnancies.

This was not a usual venue, or topic, for me.

In fact, at first, I wasn’t even totally sure why I would be invited. But they asked if I would speak about abstinence as one of many healthy sexual choices a teen could make, and I agreed.

And then, there I was, right where I always am, in the middle.

sex

Photo Credit: calvin w, Creative Commons

I’m a middle child, and so obviously, I have issues—all the freudian idiosyncrasies that come along with middle-childness. It’s this need to be the peacemaker, the bridge-builder, this constant tendency to find myself in the middle of things. I’m usually the one who sees things from this side, but also from that side.

I’m the one who can’t pick a position, can’t make a choice, the one who always finds herself riding the fence with things.

I have, in the past, hated myself for this, tried to talk myself out of it, told myself this was unhealthy and “weak” and that one day I would grow out of it.

But, for now at least, this is where I am.

On the one hand, I was certain the “abstinence” talk would be by far the least popular conversation at a conference centered around sex. I mean, really? Nobody ever wrote a song with lyrics that go, “let’s talk about abstinence, baby.” This is exactly nobody’s favorite topic.

And yet, I was welcomed by the conference staff warmly when I arrived. I shared what I’d been taught in youth group growing up, what conversations we’d had about sex in my house, what worked for me when it came to abstinence, and what I never understood as a teen.

I shared some of the sexual decisions I made, and why they weren’t the right choices for me, and how I found the courage to make the right ones.

After my presentation, I had several people thank me sincerely for sharing.

On the other hand, outside, I could feel the protestors looming.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there were protestors outside the whole time. They were upset the liberal conference was being hosted in their small town, disapproving of the non-profits who supported it and frustrated that adolescents were allowed to attend the event (because of the sexual content).

They were pretty calm, I guess, as far as protestors go. In fact, I don’t think most of the conference attendees minded them too much.

But for me, from my place in the middle, I couldn’t help but feel like, “Hey, while you’re out here being angry, I’m going to go inside and have a dialogue.” And in this sense, being in the middle wasn’t a weak place or a wishy-washy place. It was a terrifying place, a growing, confusing and sometimes awkward place. It took a ton of courage to stand in the middle.

I think, as Christians, we need to rethink the way we’ve always talked about sex.

I don’t think we can keep reusing old language to talk to new young people, or using old language to talk about new topics (sexting is a thing for teens now, for example). We can’t keep saying, “because the Bible says so” and expect adolescents are going to listen (the Bible doesn’t say anything about sexting, I checked).

Sure, God is the Word, and God is alive, but I think that means our words need to be alive with Him, always shifting and changing and growing as our culture changes and grows. We need to find new ways to explain the benefits of putting off sex, even if (and when) others don’t make the choices we think they should.

We need to expand the conversation, to be willing to go places we haven’t been willing to go before.

We need to be building bridges, not burning them.

If we don’t learn to talk about it in a new way—if we keep holding signs out in front of buildings—we won’t make any progress.

Saying all that feels hard for me, but I’m owning my place in the middle.

The middle isn’t a weak place like I’ve always thought it was. It’s not a non-position position. It’s a position in itself. It isn’t easy standing in the middle—any more than it is easy to stand on one side or the other. We need people who are willing to stand their ground, to fight for what they believe is good.

Including in the middle.

So, as for me, I’ll keep doing what I do—keep seeing both sides from where I’m standing, and keep standing here, in the middle. And I guess you can keep doing what you do, too, even if it’s holding signs out in front of buildings. Chances are you feel as passionate about your positions as I do mine, here in the middle. So I won’t try to talk you out of it.

In fact, next time I just might stop and ask you your story.

Weekend Reading

photo: Vinoth Chandar, Creative Commons

photo: Vinoth Chandar, Creative Commons

Each weekend I love to leave you with a list of the best things I have read on the Internet because, well, sometimes, you just need something great to read. I’m so excited to share these articles with you, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

If you read something great this week, leave me a note in the comments. And mostly, enjoy your weekend. Do something awesome!

The Lie And The Truth About Marriage by Glennon Melton (Momastery)

I wish more people would talk about marriage this way. In my experience, people tend to glorify what marriage is really like and what it’s about. Marriage is amazing, but it also hurts like hell. I absolutely adored this post by Glennon.

Secrets of Success: How Reading Gives You An Edge by Alli Worthington

Thankfully, I love reading and don’t need much encouragement to lose myself in a book. But in case you find yourself tending toward TV or social media instead of a book, here are a few things that motivate you to pick up a book next time, instead.

8 Ways Neuroscience Can Improve Your Presentations by Geoffrey James

I just found this so profoundly helpful. It doesn’t matter if you’re preparing lesson plans as a teacher, if you’re presenting something at a meeting, or if you’re speaking at a conference or at church—this will help you organize your ideas and communicate them clearly.

Five Attributes of an Innovator by Cole NeSmith

Many of us want to be innovators, and several of us call ourselves innovators. But what does it really take to be an innovator? I was convicted by this list from Cole. I especially liked #1.

 The Bottomless Pit of People-Pleasing by Seth Godin

I’ve been thinking about this so much lately, trying to curb my tendency to people-please. What about you? Do you find yourself trying to make everybody happy?