The parish I serve has an annual “pub night”—an evening of fellowship, food, fun, and entertainment, with a variety show—jokes, songs, skits, dancing. It’s a time when folks share and highlight their skills and (at whatever level!).
This year, I noticed a common theme: people were doing something they’d been told years ago they couldn’t do.
A now 80-something line dancer was told as a teen to stay off the floor; she joyfully kicked up her heels with the rest. Singers admitted that they had long ago been told to stay silent; they sang solos and duets for the hundred+ attendees.
Were there missed cues, wrong notes, missed steps, forgotten lines? Of course. Did it matter? Not at all. Was there applause? Every time.
The people up on the stage were giving it their best, being encouraged and supported by the community. The community was inadvertently (and sometimes unknowingly) empowering folks to reject the criticisms of the past, to silence the nay-sayers from years ago, to move beyond the negativity they had borne for a long time.
For many/most/all of us, we have heard that we are not good at something, that we should not do something. The sad reality is that for many/most/all of us, we have believed that message, and allowed that negativity to inform who we are.
I wonder how many of us continue to live under the “you mustn’t” and “don’t even try,” having believed whoever said it. I wonder how much ministry might be possible if we overcame the “you can’t”s of our histories.
I wonder how we, the ecclesia, can encourage one another to try new things, to experience what we feel called to, to overcome adversity to live our authentic life. We have countless examples through scriptures and history of those who were told not to do something, yet trusted in God to guide their skills and talents—and as a result, the good news is shared.
I hope all will find an affirming message from the church to try what they will. Will it be perfect the first time? Unlikely. Will it be perfect the 100th time? Who knows. Will the positive message of empowerment and encouragement be worth it? Every time.
For some, our pub night was a time to just let loose and have fun. For some, it was a time to let go of a long-held and externally imposed negation of our God-given gifts. For some, it might have been the inspiration to try new things—who knows who will be on stage next year.
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” ~Shel Silverstein