Just Shy of Success… May 14, 2012

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I was at the funeral of my brother Dan, standing out in the lobby of the mortuary with my younger brother, Alan. We began to swap stories about Dan’s life—his discoveries and struggles. In no time at all, we got tickled and started to giggle, only to be interrupted by a young man—the assistant director of the funeral home. He popped his head from around the corner and said, “Shhhh!”

Honestly, my dear friends, I have never been a great fan of overly officious, schoolmarm mentality. It was disturbing to be scolded at my own brother’s funeral. But I took a breath, went inside and in a few moments was introduced to speak on Dan’s behalf.

I just continued the conversation I was having with Alan in the hallway. The gathered souls who had come to tribute my dear brother laughed and cried, and there was a great sense of relief and joy in the room.

Yet I continued to get frowns from my rebuker. But I didn’t care.

Human beings were never meant to be subdued.

Likewise, a few days ago, a gentleman came to my book table after one of my church performances. He disagreed with my contention that there was too much somberness in religious services. He said there were times when we needed to be quiet and acknowledge the solemnity of the moment. He cited his visit of the USS Arizona inHawaiiand the battlefield inGettysburg. He explained that on those occasions, applause, laughter or any other emotion other than silence would be completely inappropriate.

I was very kind to him. But you see, the problem with his logic is that the locations he cited were …cemeteries. Memorials.

The church was never meant to be a gathering of those who are commemorating a death. Matter of fact, two thousand years ago, when some women showed up in tears at a tomb to memorialize their dead friend, they were greeted by jubilant angels, who, in an off-the-cuff way, chided them by saying, “Why do you seek the living amongst the dead? Jesus is not here. He is risen.”

Exactly. Why DO we seek something living amongst the dying embers of a once-roaring fire of faith? Where does this come from? Why have we unearthed a grave that causes us to retreat from life instead of vivaciously attacking it?

There is a contingency in our country that believes that some people are “just shy.”  I suppose this theory might hold some water if those individuals maintained the same backward attitude all the time—but most shy people are just waiting for the right moment to find something that really interests them, so they can cut loose and be enthusiastic. So the man who refuses to speak to his wife and practically ignores his kids will all at once turn into a chatterbox on the fishing trip with his buddies. The woman who pulls away from interaction with others, insisting that she’s too “bashful” to participate in the church choir, will metamorphosis into a flitting butterfly as she gossips over needlepoint with her cronies.

Shy is a lie.

More often than not, it’s a way for us to hide our antipathy for what’s going on behind the presumption that we’re “just not very outgoing.” It’s also a lie because no one who is shy is ever able to achieve his or her full potential. It’s just too painful to encourage people to come out of their shells and do their best all the time. There are people who get nervous—but they learn how to overcome those nerves in order to grant themselves enough gregarious personality to express their talents. There are folks who prefer being alone—but the knowledge that they both require and desire fellowship causes them to overcome that hermit mentality to find the sweet fellowship that enriches their souls.

In an era when we seem to be obsessed with the notion that we are “born” a certain way, we have forgotten the importance of what Jesus said—the option of being “born again.”

I, for instance, have a strongly backward nature, which often prefers to retreat from gatherings instead of jumping in with both feet. But my calling, my life, my human need and my intelligence have all taught me to counteract those instincts by placing myself in a little bit of jeopardy—and allowing for blessing to seep in, dodging my inadequacy.

If you allow people to be shy, you remove money from their lives. If you believe that “shy” is a condition of birth, you trap people in a loneliness that is completely unnecessary. And if you think for one moment that a God who celebrated His own gift of creation by calling everything “good,” and requested that we praise him with high-sounding cymbals and the blare of trumpets, is going to favor anyone who hides his light under a bushel, you are sadly mistaken.

Verily, verily, I say unto you: burying your talent in the earth will still get you booted into outer darkness. There is no room for timidity in the lifestyle of Jesus of Nazareth.

Truly, we should be merciful to those who are learning to replace their emotional lethargy with a sense of new discovery. We shouldn’t be critical. We shouldn’t mock them. But we should never trap them in a way of thinking, feeling and living that leaves them alone instead of embraced.

Two weeks ago I leaned down to a young boy who was standing next to his mother and asked him what his name was. He stuck his thumb in his mouth and hid behind her skirt. She looked at me, a little embarrassed, and said, “Oh, he’s just shy. He’s been that way since birth.”

I lifted myself up, looked her in the eye and said, “I sure hope he gets over it—before he starts believing that what you say is true.”

  

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