So its been a while. And although I have deep and life-altering things brewing this was just a quick one-off idea that I had yesterday and wanted to share.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts called the Robcast by Rob Bell. If you haven't heard of him and you're a big fan of living an awesome life and becoming a more fantastic human being, you must listen to him. He's brilliant and open and loving and charismatic and cool and calm and truly embodies everything I believe a Christian should be. If you aren't of any faith you may be surprised at how his Christianity weaves into his brilliant reflections. If you are extremely religious and traditional or conservative in your Christian beliefs, well, I'll leave it up to you. But don't hate on him. Or on me, for thinking he's super.
Sorry I digress.
Anyways, he just did a podcast called "Empty Seats and Elephants" wherein he talks about some of his struggles in following his spirit and his passion. He was pastoring a church and left to do some wonderful things but some folks viewed them as radical, heretical and wrong. So after already having a successful ministry and speaking background he set out on this new path only to arrive at venues of 50-100 people. Not bad you might think. Except he'd visited these venues before with 1500-2000 people awaiting him. But some of his new stuff was, well, new. Apparently more controversial. It ruffled feathers and it wasn't what his followers expected of him.
Man it took my breath away when I heard him share about this. I know what it's like to have empty seats. To have amazing ideas that you are sure are divinely inspired. To put conviction, hard work and hours of creative thinking, toiling and practicing into these ideas.
Then nothing. Empty seats. Vacancies. Voids. Empty stalls.
Please let me stop here because of course not ALL the seats are empty, and I would never want to disregard or devalue the folks in those few full seats. They are supportive. They are keen. They are amazing souls with their own stories, journeys, passions and missions. Don't we always say that if we made a difference to just one person it would be worth it?
But those empty seats haunt us.
And it's not always just the empty seats themselves. It's analyzing why they are empty.
It's resistance, criticism and slander. It's the talk from the sidelines, from the armchairs, from those outside of the "arena". It's folks from our past who have certain expectations, and those who are threatened by new and radical thinking, or by success.
These things can slow us down, make us stumble and sometimes even lead to turning from our dreams and passions.
Then I had a thought.
What if they didn't.
Or maybe better stated, What if we didn't let them?
What if we let nothing subtract?
How would it look if we took every obstacle, every failure, every hurt and every discouragement and decided to make it part of our story? What if we decided that each of these empty seats was perfectly as it should be?
What if we didn't let any of these "icky" things subtract from our mission or distract us from our goals? What kind of people would we be if we ignored those 1950 empty seats and just kept on preaching to the 50 who were there?
I can tell you exactly what kind of people we'd be.
We'd be Rob Bell kind of people. People who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have something to share with the world and they are not willing to get knocked down so hard they lose their voice. We'd be vulnerable and open and honest but we'd also be tough as nails.
We'd have the wisdom and fortitude of so many of the people I've come to love and admire like Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Gretchen Rubin, Richard Rohr, Dave Ramsey and many, many more.
I bet each these people had some empty seats. Some critics. Some fall-flat-on-your-face-in-the-mud-in-front-of-everyone moments.
In fact, I know they did.
These folks and many, many more all share stories of failure, heartbreak and certain destruction of life as they knew it. But they didn't let it stop them. They didn't let it steal from them. For these folks, nothing subtracts. It all adds. To the story, to the strength, to the mission.
We will all feel times of anger, discouragement and bitterness. Times when everything in us will want to sit down and become an arm-chair critic ourselves. But we must stay in the ring. We must stay in the game. We MUST not let these things take away from us.
We must not let them make us less.
Use them. Mold them. Drink a beer and have a laugh at them if nothing else.
But keep moving. Keep dreaming. Someone needs to learn from you, hear your story, feel your love.
If we are daringly creative we can use our entire journey, good, bad or ugly, as part of our story. It all adds something. Some element of humanity, honesty, and accessibility. It all becomes good. It all becomes worthy.
And nothing subtracts.