Back in November, my phone number was listed on this blog for one solid millisecond.
Yes, that’s right, my seven digits wafted around the internet like a butterfly just unearthing the power of its own wings and, unfortunately, those digits fell into all the wrong nets.
Now wait, wait. Before y’all start clutching your pretty little heads and elongating your words in panicked fashion to be like Hannnnahhhhhhhhh, whatttttt isssss wrrrongggggggg withhhhhh youuuuuuuu? I’ll stand by the facts that I’ve got stories to share, I’ve got lessons learned, and I’ve got explanations, so each of you can thank me later for stepping up to bring this Stranger Danger tale to life.
First, the explanation. A favorite author of mine, Bob Goff, made a really bold move when he published all copies of his book “Love Does” with his phone number printed in the back of it. Beside his number, he made it clear that he welcomed phone calls at all hours to talk over the text, ask questions, and really get down to the bone and grit of some God issues. I thought to myself, Wow. Now that would be a way to really connect with people, and proceeded to see myself sipping sweet tea on some random back deck overlooking a chunk of the ocean I’ve never owned while listening to strangers tell me their random stories and their losses of faith and their triumphs.
Now the lesson learned in all of this is that it is probably, certainly, definitely different for a burly, 50-year-old man to give his phone number to the world than for a 24-year-old young woman to post her phone number on the internet.
Regardless, I did post it. And was forced to take it down nearly a day later after getting dozens of phone calls from strange men who made me feel a bit like I was standing in the middle of an unplanned rose ceremony. And I am still getting phone calls from boys that saved the number in their phone so they could call me up while on their way to Wal-Mart to get Tylenol and leave me voice mails about wanting to hold me like a piece of fine stationery. Needless to say, my attempts to get deeper with people were an epic fail. And now I’m forced to interact by way of email because some people translate me “giving them my number” into “I can book a bus ticket tonight. I only live in Reno.”
All this to say that I am still figuring out how to bob and weave in a world that is surface level when all I’ve ever wanted to do was get real with people.
I pinned the tail on the donkey and cracked open the pinata the other day with a realization about myself: I’m no small talker.
I’m not the gal who cares about the weather. I’m not the one to lead the crowd in movie quote recitations. I haven’t seen nearly enough movies to make me that girl but if you feel like reciting the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of the Child then maybe, just maybe, I’ll somehow be the life of your party (that’s a proclamation that gets me a little rowdy).
I’m that awkward soul that stands beside you at a party and hates the preliminary banter because I don’t think I actually need 1,000 words to just grab your wrist and say, “Girl, what is really up?” I’ve been known to make people cry on the first interaction, not because I’m grinchy but because I basically skipped sewing my heart onto my sleeve and stapled it to my face instead. You cannot meet me or ever plan to "know" me without staring my heart in the face. I have to keep it that way.
But I grew up believing there was something really wrong with me for this. While all my peers wanted to talk about the latest boy bands and fashion trends, I had this burning inside of me to talk about bigger things. Greater things. Harder things. As all my peers slugged down vodka and played flip cup, I always felt like I was the girl standing in concrete shoes who just wanted to address poverty. A loss of God. A culture of disconnect. Among a sea of drunken college students, I tried my best to fit in without ever realizing that standing apart would be the thing to set me free.
I could rage cage about the fact that our culture gravitates towards shallowness, seeking to make us mindless followers of a strange, tan folk who made a lifestyle and a couple mill out of fist pumping and the precarious schedule of gym, tan, and laundry. I could preach that, and complain about that, or I could simply say this: We’re all a lot deeper than we give ourselves credit for. And we live within a world that never lets us fully know that. It’s a culture that keeps our intensity, and the fire in our eyes, and the lost hope in our bones at bay because shallow sells and the harder questions make us wince. But you, you, will always be hungry to go deeper than this world has ever let you believe you could.
Going deeper isn't easy. It's not pretty. But it is so, so, so, so, so, so, (so, so, so) life giving. To walk away from a conversation having hashed out broken relationships and strength-filled moments of yesterday is to know & finally feel what God has created for our deep spirits all along.
This world is much, much shallower than your sweet identity.
And maybe you already cry over that at night. And maybe no one ever thought to tell you but, yea, you're kind of deep. Deeper, deeper than you even allow yourself to see. But the scary truth in all of it is that we have to be the ones to wade out into deeper water. Nothing in this world-- not the magazines, not the networks, not the hyperlinks-- will get us there. We have to be the ones to push aside the small talk and just resolve to be present, and connected, and intentional with one another, not because it makes us better human beings but because we were created with an emptiness in our souls that only gets filled by the things that are bigger than us. And you've got to be willing to look weird for that. And strange for that. And not of this world because of that.
If you choose to walk forward, leave some of the smallness behind, plenty of others will stay to pick up your load but you’ve got be the intentional one in all of this. The one who sets the space for something more. Or else, you’ll stay a clam shell. You’ll stay surface level. And no one will ever fault you for that but you’ll probably start to feel those concrete shoes getting buckled to your feet when you look at your hands and ask, wasn’t I supposed to do something more with these?