I didn't realise how much I'd missed the fresh air. I headed straight for the Downs - and found myself almost gulping it in. When I realised I was wheezing like an 80-year-old asthmatic I slowed down, but it didn't stop a slow grin from spreading over my face.
I love being outside. And I love being alone.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I love people. I memorize the lines of your face and the way you smile or frown or scowl. I learn your laughter, the things that make you tick, because they're important. I can see by the line of your shoulders if you're happy or tense or upset or frustrated.
I had to learn these things because I'm an introvert. By nature, I get my energy from being by myself, from having moments to breathe. In busyness, I can very easily forget that I need it, or that I simply need to run away for a bit and let the wind whistle through the space between my ears and force my busy brain to relax and wind down.
But I equally need connection. We all do. Moments of connecting with people in a real, genuine way.
We never damaged ourselves more than when society decided to start 'I'm fine.' For social niceties to be observed in the asking, but not in the telling.
Our alarm is almost comical, if someone answers 'how are you?' with something other than 'just dandy, thankyouverymuch'. We become experts at turning away confidence, at ensuring that conversation stays light and never strays into uncomfortable territory where, horror of horrors, you could see someone vulnerable. Real answers have to be coaxed out of you over tea or in between teasing so you almost don't realise you've told the truth until ten minutes later when we're in a genuine conversation.
And I hate it. I hate it in society. I hate it in the workplace. But most of all, most excruciatingly, I hate it in church.
Church is family. The bride is messy and she is raw and she is made up of imperfect people. We hurt each other unknowingly - even knowingly and that is wrong and not fine - but we are also followers of a God who is all about family, and all about using that which is messy.
God's tapestry has an over-arcing story we cannot see yet - but he weaves with threads that can clash and will happily zig-zag instead of running in a neat, ordered line. The material he uses could be smooth or coarse or textured or brown or green or lime or indigo or bright yellow but he delights in their variety. He never intended them to be all the same. With the skill of a master, he somehow joins this mess into something beautiful, because its head is Someone beautiful.
Jesus is just breath-taking. And he is so very, very passionate about his bride. He loves her. He loves you. He fought for you.
So when we're stuck in this rut of stilted formality, we lose something really precious. Honesty doesn't have to do away with tact or gentleness. You don't have to tear your hurts and wounds open and lay them bare to the first person you meet on a sunday morning, but God wants his church real.
I'm not saying that every person asking you how you are is the right time to tell all. But if you're not okay, please don't pretend you are.
There is no shame in being vulnerable, because pity has no place in church. In family.
Only compassion. Genuine love and worry for you. Wanting the best for you. Wanting healing for you.
You're right, that person you open up to may not have the answer. Your Father does. Let them pray with you.
You're right, that person you open up to cannot heal your hurt. Your Father can. Let them cry with you. Be angry on your behalf.
Let them brother you, sister you.
Mother you, father you.
Let them walk with you - yes, they'll see your mess and your crap and the things not-yet-sorted. You'll see theirs as well. There's a massive difference between someone judging you and someone loving you enough to challenge you.
Please, family, don't let 'I'm fine' be our legacy.
God's calling us to family. And families... need to tell the truth.
All my love,