A couple of years ago, I attended an amazing transformation retreat in South Africa. Many things happened – so may I could write a series on this trip alone – but there was one particular insight that struck me then and has governed my life since. Surrounded by incredible people, hearing their stories, I realized that in life I was not playing full out. I was sitting on the sidelines, watching the game, thinking it looked so fun and so terrifying. Hearing the heartbreak, the love, the trials that my fellow participants were going through, I recognized that they were each giving it their all. Their hearts were out there to be broken. Their lives were entangled, and they were reaching towards greater levels of joy with those they chose to journey through this life with. I made a commitment to myself that I would jump in the game whenever I could, even if I sucked at it.
Fast forward to three weeks ago, when my normally risk-adverse friend announced he was responding to a random cold call from an international exchange student placement agency. He would host a foreign student for a year while the kid went to high school. I confess – I thought he was certifiably insane. Had he thought about it? Was the agency even a legitimate organization? (Who cold calls people to ask if they will host a high school foreign exchange student?!?!) Did he have any memory of how horrible American high school really is and what torture this kid would go through? How would he get him to school?
I said some of this to him, and he looked at me like I had grown five additional heads. “You’re thinking too negatively,” he said. Clearly, my friend is playing full out on this one. So is this brave young man coming to spend a year living in a foreign country, knowing no one at all, starting American high school in senior year. These are huge, life-changing decisions.
Playing life full-out doesn’t always look so dramatic. My own role looks tiny and insignificant; my friend needed a babysitter for a week, and had about a week’s notice that he had to arrange this. I knew logistically I could handle it probably easiest of all of his friends, but I dreaded the whole idea. Looking after a teenage boy I’d never met who was one week into a complete life upheaval sounded really scary. What if I sucked? What if it was too hard? What if there was some kind of crisis?
Finally my soul woke up and started asking more important questions – was I willing to show up for my friend? Was I willing to be a part of the experience of this brave young man on his life adventure? Was I really considering prioritizing staying home and reading over jumping into the game as a temporary relief player?
So, friends, my post is short today, as I’m off to show my new teenage friend the joys of Southern California in the summer. My questions for you today – where can you play full out? What areas of your life are you still sitting on the sidelines?
Leave a comment below and let us know where you’re willing to allow yourself to get involved, to jump in, to let your life get messy.