I hope that you have been with a group of people before that you don’t have to explain yourself to. It’s not that you just sit there in silence without needing to communicate, but that the communication is free-flowing and unguarded. I have a group of friends that I have known since I was growing up in Santa Cruz. When we get together, it’s as if we are picking right where we left off the last time we were together. Having some people in my life like that is a huge gift. I get to be myself with them in a way that I don’t generally enjoy elsewhere.
These friends and I share enough of a common history that we know what the other person is talking about without having to wonder about it very long. We use old phrases and tell familiar stories that are enjoyable not because we’re hearing something new but because we’re hearing something familiar. We know how the story goes and it’s a delight to hear it sounded out again.
We know, for example, that Chris is habitually late and that he’s been trying to dunk a basketball for the past 30 years. No one has ever seen him dunk, but he likes telling us about all the times he has done it. We know that Danny is always careful about sharing his time with other people. He is often the first one to go home not because he’s anti-social, but because he’s good about conserving energy. He also doesn’t like idle chit chat, so when things go in that direction, he heads toward the door. And Joe is always telling stories or asking questions about moral conundrums. I think he invented the “Would you rather…” phenomenon long before it became popularized. “Would you rather have a large tattoo of Andy Gibb on your forehead or eat nothing but pork for the rest of your life?” Just one choice example.
Currently I’m at a retreat with five other ministers. We don’t have to explain ourselves. We share a lot of the same joys and challenges of serving churches. We don’t agree on everything, but we understand where the questions are coming from. “Why is it that I like officiating at funerals more than weddings?” “Have you every had someone walk out on one of your sermons?” “What is it going to take for progressive Christian churches to survive in the coming decades?”
Being with a group of people that don’t require you to explain yourself is a balm, a beautiful thing. It reminds you that you’re not alone in the universe, even the small universe of your individual life. It fulfills the need to know and to be known without having to justify your existence. It tells you, “I’m not crazy. I’m not the only one with these fears. I’m not the only one who struggles with these things.”
If it’s been awhile since you’ve been with a group of people who know you and accept you without explanation, I hope you can have that experience again sometime soon.