At Auburn, I minored in Creative Writing. All of my writing classes (besides one poetry writing class but that is a story for another day) were what I looked forward too each semester. I was a bit of an outsider in each of those classes. It was rare that a little sorority girl would minor in Creative Writing apparently because I got some strange looks when I rolled up to my first day of classes.
In my classes, I often found myself suppressing belly deep laughter because I often didn’t know if the things people were talking about in my class were serious or a joke.
Let me give you some examples.
In one of my poetry writing classes I often found myself getting roasted. Every. Single. Class. Which was fine. I have relatively thick skin, but I was hoping just one time that my class would like something that I wrote.
So this is what happens. Almost every week we would write a poem and have it critiqued by the class. While your poem is being critiqued, you cannot speak. If you are asked a question, you can’t even nod your head.
You just listen and observe.
So, after many tough critiques by my class, I was up again. I completely forgot that I had a poem due, so in about 30 minutes I whipped together a poem about orphans.
Don’t ask me why. Maybe I had recently watched Annie? I’m truly unsure.
Anyway. My poem could not be any clearer. Very much about orphans.
So the critique begins. It’s going fine. And then, this guy goes and I kid you not, “The themes about deforestation across America are very clear throughout this poem. I love that you tied that together in such a way that relates deforestation to orphans.”
My eyes got SO BIG. But you see, my childhood dream was to be an actress, so in true actress form, I remained composed.
But then it continued. Another classmate said they thought the same thing. Then another was like “Wow, that actually makes so much sense. This is your best work.”
I was shaking so hard on the inside I’m about to burst.
Finally, the critique ends. The class applauds me for it being my best work yet.
How often do we jump to conclusions about people’s words without understanding their true meaning? Are we gracious enough to make sure we understand the words written before we jump to a conclusion? How often do we just listen and observe?
We never know the impact of our words. We never know how the people around us will view what we say. Everyone takes things a little differently, even if we feel like we’re being clear as day.
That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I’ve never seen so much fighting over social media. It’s been a little disheartening. Everyone fights their battles a little differently, and there have been a lot of battles to face this year. I’ve been quick to jump to conclusions.
A lot of brokenness. A lot of hopelessness. A lot of tears. Aren’t we all a little more ready after this year for Jesus to come back and take away the racism, disease, divisiveness?
I know I am.
In another one of my writing classes, one day we had a substitute. A substitute in college? Didn’t know that was a thing. But believe me, in Creative Writing it was.
Our substitute asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves and mention a fun fact.
Per usual, I casually slide in that I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Do not worry. My 5 minutes of fame were ripped away by the next guy. We’ll call him John.
“My name is John and my fun fact is I frequently LARP.”
Now here I am, crunching the numbers in my head. And for the life of me I cannot determine what that stands for. So, in true Enneagram 8 fashion, I whip around and bluntly ask, “What in the world is LARP?”
AND THEN ALMOST EVERY KID IN MY CLASS TURNS AROUND AT ME WITH WIDE EYES.
In unison they ask me, “You don’t know what LARPing is?!”
I was unaware I lived under a rock. Now I’m embarrassed.
Then, the explanations begin. Live action role playing. It happens in the park at Auburn every week. I’m invited.
Once again, I’m trying not to giggle. I know they take this very seriously. And it’s really not funny. But their passion behind it catches me off guard.
So, I keep a straight face and carry on. Then, the next girl, we’ll call her Alexis. She says, “Hi, I’m Alexis and my fun fact is I’m actually a LARPing seamstress.”
Okay, I will be honest. I couldn’t stop a small giggle from escaping.
I think John fell in love with Alexis in that moment but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is they both pulled out LARPING BUSINESS CARDS and exchanged them. They’re going to work together.
We never know what’s important to people. And we can’t pass judgment on them because I know I probably enjoy doing some things they would find strange.
What I’m learning is I have to be willing to see the other side of the coin. And I have to be willing to learn. I don’t have to agree with everything people say; I don’t have to even like what everyone says, but I have to love people like Jesus loves me. Like Jesus loves all people.
And sometimes I get the opportunity to experience something new. Like LARPing. Just by listening I get to understand someone’s perspective a little better. And I want to be known as someone who listens.
I hope and pray I grow more and more into someone that cares enough to listen well and encourage relentlessly.
We can pause, breathe and listen long enough to grow in understanding. Not anger.
And that’s my hope. During this hard, crazy, heavy time. I don’t understand everything, I don’t agree with everything. But I’ll listen. Just like Jesus would.
After my critique with my deforestation poem, the guy who originally said it was about deforestation asked me, “Was it really about deforestation?”
I told him, “Um, kind of.” And then ran away. I didn’t want to disappoint my class yet again.
But now I wonder what he would’ve said if I had just told him it wasn’t. If I hadn’t wanted to please my class so bad.
I also learned about LARPing some more throughout the semester. And our substitute turned out to be our professor’s husband. We didn’t know it. He asked the class how we liked our professor and there were mixed reviews. Which he took back to our professor.
We never know who we’re speaking to, but we don’t want to deceive people. Speak with love. Speak with honesty. Speak with encouragement. Speak with a humble heart. We don’t all have to agree with each other, but let’s be known as people that lean in and listen anyway. We never know what we might learn.
And may we all remember we have a common thread: brokenness that has been redeemed by a Savior on a cross.
Thank you Jesus.
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