Trust, Bandanas, and Listening

The Power of a Simple Piece of Fabric

Everything is dark. I smile to cover up that I don’t like that it’s dark and I have no control over what’s about to happen. It’s just a piece of cloth, but it owns me. I feel the powerful small piece of fabric start to warm over my eyes and nose. I start to remember the countless times I played this game as a kid. The times that a friend was given all authority to guide me through a room or across a playground. My ankles were now in their, hopefully, capable hands.

I remember the numerous moments I took, as a Youth Director, making teenagers do the very same thing, and strategically placing couches, pillows, webs made of rope, and anything else I could think of around the room to really make the students have to work hard for the freedom from the bandana. (Or maybe I just made it difficult to make them have to go through the same torture I did… I may have some stuff to work out here.)

Something happens after that bandana goes on. An entire worldview changes. A doorstop placed carelessly in the wrong place at the wrong time now becomes the biggest hurdle ever! Couches, end tables, and lamps threaten to take me down at any moment. My well-being in a stranger’s hand that leads me through a now treacherous landmine that is a living room.

Yet, we play. We play this terrifying game. Youth group leaders usually use this game as a way to talk about trust and faith. Having been a former Youth Director I would even go so far as to call it a community building activity instead of a game. Why?

Because it's true. This game reveals something about humanity. It uncovers whether a person is trustworthy or callused. It helps us discover where our trust really lives. Where we place our faith. And here I am, once again, subjecting myself to the metaphorical bandana. Yet, this time, it isn’t a tangible hand guiding my way, it is the soft guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I believe this bandana describes a life of following Christ. Christians choose to let go of control and no longer be responsible for our fate. Which has at least two outcomes: a sense of freedom for no longer being answerable for the entirety of life and/or a sense of fear for no longer being answerable for the entirety of life. Either way, it is a risk. A bandana-wearing risk.

After seminary people usually aspire to one of two options: get ordained and get a job as a pastor or continue on into the academic world. This unorthodox choice I have made has many people confused with why I would choose it. I wanted to shed some light on how the idea of The Listening in Place Project came about. This is a shedding of light onto my choice to put on the bandana. 

Putting on the Bandana: Two Influences

Influence #1: The idea of collecting stories really started unfolding when I completed my Integrative Project. For this project I completed 5 different interviews with 5 different pastors, talking about the complicated nature of the pastoral office.

After the first few interviews, I realized I was actually conducting less interview and more story collection. I loved hearing about the ins and outs of these pastors’ lives. By the time I finished the last of the story collecting, I had wished I could have spent more time with them all or actually gone to visit them to see them in action.

Influence #2: I have had the pleasure of helping produce the Inhabit Conference for the last three years. This last year was the most incredible conference yet. The heart of Inhabit is to bring practitioners, pastors, social entrepreneurs, and community organizers of neighborhood ministries throughout the world together to share the stories from their particularity.  The repercussions being that of bringing hope to each other, encouraging each other in faith, supporting those who are weary from the work, and cultivate creative ways to continue in Kingdom work.

As I spent two days listening to the amazing stories brought forward from all over the world, all I could think was that I wanted to actually go see these people in their neighborhoods. I wished I could go visit these people in their locatedness. I longed to be in the presence of these people with their people. I longed to experience the complexity that comes with fully being present in their space. But it was a lofty idea that just seemed too far fetched.

Then I had the pleasure of chatting with a couple who had shared their story with the conference. As they told me more about the details of their what their world looked like, they just invited me to visit. At that moment it hit me: WHY NOT?!

Why not see if I could pull this off? All I have to do is find some people that want to give me money to travel around and have a great adventure. “Yeah right!” was the phrase ringing in my ears. However, right after the ringing was over a flutter hit my heart, a thought came to my mind, and desire was born. “Go tell my story.”

Choosing to Risk

I could not get this desire out of my head. I spoke with trusted advisors, friends, and confidants. Mostly, asking them if I was crazy. If this was just a pipe dream. Yet, I continually got support and encouragement. The details started to take shape. I did the math. I knew three things: I didn’t want to do this without going under the banner of a larger organization, I want that organization to be The Seattle School, and if I don’t get their endorsement then I am not supposed to do this work.

I was able to present my idea to Nicole Greenwald, Director of Enrollment Management & Marketing at The Seattle School. I proposed a possible partnership. As I would travel I would let everyone know it was The Seattle School helping me make this happen. I told her all about how I would blog and make videos about what, where, and who I experienced.

I was done, I pitched my idea and all I had to do was wait for Nicole’s response. Nicole had listened well, nodded her head, and took notes. Then, without skipping a beat, said, “Yes, I love this. Would you want to do a podcast too?”

WHAT? A podcast? Not really the response I was expecting. As you can imagine I quickly said yes. We went right to work hammering out details of how the partnership would look and what it all entailed. I was so amazed at Nicole’s quick acceptance and support to the project. For me, it was the confirmation that I needed, from my community and trusted confidant, that this was about to be doing what God was calling me into this year.

Stories That Need to Be Told

My idea was to visit at least 8 different locations where I could connect with  multiple people to help share their story of hope. I would blog, interview, and video about my experience to hopefully hear what God has to say.

There are two reasons for this project:

  • There are those within the Church that are afraid of the change that is happening in our culture and they need to hear stories of hope for the People of God.
  • There is something specific that God has for me to hear over this next year. I have no idea what it is, but I know that it will unfold as this journey unfolds.

(See "So What are you doing after graduating" post for more details on the Listening in Place Project.)

Blindfolded and Ready to Go

So here it is - my bandana covered, trusting, hopeful, risky faith-walk with God. The Listening in Place Project has been placed on my heart and I can’t seem to ignore it. I have a gut feeling that I would regret it if I didn’t choose to put this bandana over eyes.

I am scared and nervous, of course. I am constantly wondering if people will think this is frivolous or if I will have enough money to actually finish. I assume this is where the “trusting that God has placed this project on my heart for a reason” comes into play. Thankfully, God continually reveals to me moments and people of encouragement just when I need it most.

I do not know how far or how long this project will last. But I am willing to take the risk to find out. Thank you so much for the support I have already received.  Thank you in advance for helping me continue in this work. I will continue on this journey as long as the financial support keeps coming in. I hope this project goes for the entire year and I know that God’s timeline is not my own. I pray that God will give me the ears to hear when this project is over. As well as, the courage to end well.

Until then, may God bless this work and may it bring hope to those who are weary.