I am allergic to emotions. As soon as I feel a strong emotion, my neck turns splotchy red. I feel it creeping up from the edges of my shirt and I can’t stop it. Anger, joy, embarrassment, excitement. Good emotions, bad emotions. My red neck does not differentiate. I can be in complete control, and still my neck splotches red. It makes me special.
My co-workers know it. Recently, when dealing with a patient’s difficult family member, my neck splotched red as I calmly dealt with the complaint. They knew my calmness was only skin deep, even before I finished the conversation. My small group knows it. I turn red while speaking most every time. I am generally comfortable leading small groups, but the redness rises, betraying my calm demeanor.
This past weekend, I traveled to Austin to meet up with Facebook friends at Jen Hatmaker’s house. One would expect my emotional allergies would flare up from beginning to end. However, I cannot remember one time that my neck turned red. Not even when I walked up to Jen for a quick hug and a picture.
Over the course of the weekend, I met over 100 people for the first time. I hugged necks, struck up conversations with strangers, and shared life with the For the Love launch team. I did all of that without becoming overly emotional. My neck stayed pasty-white.
At one point, while standing near the steps of the Hatmaker Farm House (featured on HGTV’s My Big Family Renovation), I realized I hadn’t felt a butterfly flutter in my tummy since leaving for the airport. It was a strange thing, really–to be even-tempered, pale-necked and calm at one of the biggest events I have ever attended.
I thought about why my neck never turned red. I felt incredibly comfortable around this group of virtual friends. Over the course of 6 months, we created a community of grace. We gathered around a common interest–a book by Jen Hatmaker. We began to open up, to share from the hard places. We found kinship. We made a church.
My red neck stayed white when I met Jen. This author, speaker and Jesus-lady extraordinaire entered this space with us. She was authentic and real, sharing the good and the bad with us. She felt like a friend, not a distant New York Times bestselling author. I was just as comfortable meeting her as I was meeting the other women at the party. As a matter of fact, the party would have been just as fun without her there (although I am SO happy she was there!).
Over the past six months, while engaging with these ladies online, I have had my red-neck moments. Excitement over making the team. Brokeness when the pain of life hit my friends hard. Joy over true community happening on my computer screen. The heat would rise at my neckline and I knew what was happening online was real.
I think, in Austin, my red neck felt at home. I was with my people, my tribe. I am sure, even if my neck had turned bright red, these women would have loved me just the same.
Entering into community is risky business. You put your neck out there, and sometimes it will turn red. I seriously want to hide when that happens. I am learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Wearing my emotions on my neck like a scarf is worth the connections I make with others.
What holds you back from finding community? Will you join me in being comfortable with being uncomfortable? If we inch our way forward out of our comfort zones, out of hiding, we will find community. And it has the potential to be the party of our lives!
“People crave what they have always craved: to be known and loved, to belong somewhere. Community is such a basic human need. It helps us weather virtually every storm.” (Jen Hatmaker, For the Love)
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