Share Your Joy, Share Your Pain

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness. But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy.

I don’t think I ever expected to be sitting where I am right now. Not physically, I mean, I am in my bed which makes sense because it is 1:30 A.M. But emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I never knew that my heart could be both so heavy and so light.

It’s one of those weeks where you look back and think “Am I even the same person I was seven days ago?” The answer is honestly no for me. Usually these weeks of exponential growth come after I receive a big ole yes from a job, a club, a class. That isn’t actually the case this week.

In fact, this week I have gotten a few no’s.

I sat across the table in a coffeeshop and wrestled with vulnerability and God’s timing.

I picked up a test with a grade I was not excited to see.

I sat in the car after a long day of deciding the leadership for the organization I love so much. Realizing that this would be a team I would not be a part of. That I had just replaced myself with one of these incredible leaders.

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness.

But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy. Averting joy is an idea I learned from Brene Brown, an author who has specialized her research in shame. The idea is that whenever we approach a situation where we have to risk failure or rejection we cannot downplay our emotions, but instead we revel in the joy the opportunity presents. She writes in The Gifts of Imperfection,

“It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take away the pain when it doesn’t happen. It also creates a lot of isolation. Once you’ve diminished the importance of something your friends are not likely to call and say, “I am sorry that didn’t work out. I know you were excited about it.”

With each step I am taking entering into this next phase of work, internships, stepping down from leadership, new relationships, and eventually the impending doom of whatever lies beyond graduation day, it is so important not to downplay these next phases of life. It is crucial that we invite our community into the joy and the pain that these various rejections and acceptances can bring. That isn’t easy. In fact, it is often terrifying to be honest with people about hopefulness.

This weekend I have experienced so much joy by playing a role in the engagement of two of my best friends. Sharing in their love with our community has been so inspiring. Even as I have faced rejection this week I have not walked alone. Just as they invited us into their joy, I have invited them into my struggle. The same goes for those selected for cabinet and those who weren’t. I can be so incredibly excited for those ready to take on this commitment but I can also empathize with those not selected as I get ready to watch these people form a new community that I won’t get to fully be a part of. When we have empathy for each other out of humility we have the same victories and short-comings.

But the joy I feel is not discounted by my doubt. God is not limited by my shallow vision. The community will not let me feel the highs and the lows alone. I am standing in a place I could have never chosen for myself and for that I am truly grateful.

This week I will turn 20 years old. I will get on a plane and fly to Ireland. I will welcome a new cabinet. I will love people well. I will make time to seek God’s will. I will feel every emotion and every fear and I will not allow them paralyze me.

Risk sharing your heart with your community. Risk walking with them. Risk doing life together. See the difference it makes when you share in this journey with humility.

Why SLC?

At a time in my life when I have every reason to be totally selfish, SLC challenges me to do something different.

Picture this. You are a prospective student on campus for the first time. You are swarmed with information about classes, programs, majors, and residential halls. You walk through the center of campus and through what seems like hundreds of students representing different clubs. A little afraid and a little excited you look at all the options in front of you.

Someone comes up to you and starts to just talk. They ask you where you are from and how you are doing. They want to help you and answer any questions you have. They talk to you and help you feel a little less overwhelmed. The friendly face and patience in the madness helps you feel at home on the chaotic campus.

This was what my first SLC experience was like. They asked me my interests and suggested I keep them in mind for when I got to campus in 2015. The people I encountered during my first few trips to Lee where often students from SLC and they were the people who made Lee feel like home from the very start.

Being at college, it can be really really hard to not be selfish, like, all the time. You spend everyday learning and asking questions about yourself. Everyone wants to know what you want to do with your life. You spend all this time growing and focusing on you. You don’t have your family with you. Your whole life revolves around you.

For me, SLC pulls me out of the orbit of my own selfishness.

I care about the people in our organization and in this community. It taught me to be less judgmental of others and to put them before myself. I have learned that whether someone is in a greek club or homeless they deserve to be loved and to be shown mercy. I am learning humility and servant leadership. I am learning that literally taking the trash out and speaking at a conference should be done by the same people. Being a leader doesn’t make you too good for the little things, in fact, it makes you responsible for them.

It’s the people as much as the work. I could go on and on about how blessed I am to have the incredible wonderful friends I have made in SLC. I could go on and on about events that I have been to and helped organize. The thing that I love most of all though is the thing I cared about the least when I first joined.

Tonight was Tap Night for all of the greek clubs on campus. SLC helped set up a little mixer for all of the greek clubs so that they could tap their new brothers and sisters and eat together. It was a pretty low key event for us. Other than passing out sandwiches and picking up trash we were just supposed to mingle around and talk to members of the greek clubs. Through out the night we got to watch as they excitedly welcomed new members. The whole thing was both terrifying and energetic.

Eventually everyone left and we all started to clean up. I grabbed a vacuum and started cleaning the floor, something I never pictured myself doing on a Thursday night at college. As I vacuumed I realized that I hadn’t thought about myself all night. After days of obsessing over my own plans and schedules I had finally gone a few hours just admiring the joy and encouragement in the community around me. I admired the sacrifices people were making. All of my energy was directed towards the people I was serving and serving with. And even though all I did was vacuum and talk to people, I realized that it was changing my heart.

So that is why I do SLC. Because at a time in my life where I have permission from culture to make everything about me, SLC reminds me that I am a part of something bigger. That God wants something better for me. That time and time again, joy comes from the grit and hard work that comes from true community.

Because SLC is a family and it is shaping me to become the leader that God has called me to be.