We sat out on the grass yesterday evening, and as I watched the people shaking their hips and moving their feet to the rhythms of the funk band, I knew something was true:
I've become afraid to dance.
When I was 17 years old, on summer break between my junior and senior year of high school, we went to the mountains of North Carolina, where we went every year for our youth group trip. There were students there from churches all over the South, and it was my intention to meet every single one of them. And I almost did.
It was the joke every year that I'd come home with 50 email addresses, and just as many love clips (clothespins that you wrote words of encouragement/notes on and sneakily clipped to someone's shirttail or sleeve). I loved this about myself; there was no fear, just a seizing of the opportunity to know another person, laugh with them, sing with them, and if it happens to be a cute boy, flirt with him (ah, sweet summer camp).
But, now, I've become afraid, afraid of what people will think of me.
Will they think I'm weird? Will they wonder why I want to talk to them? Will they think I'm childish? Will they stare at me?
What's interesting is that none of these things matter. Even if someone does think any of these things, does it really matter? Can we really manage what others assume about us before they know us? And if they do think we're weird, can we do anything about that? And... why do we care?
I could take time to answer these questions (as I've done a lot of analyzing - of myself and others - over this topic) but what I want to get to is this: it doesn't matter what they think.
I'm not talking about character here - character matters. Here, I mean that it doesn't matter what people assume before ever getting to know us; it matters that we still walk up to their table, sit down beside them, and ask for their names. It matters that we get those email addresses and stay in touch. It matters that we walk down the sidewalk, wave our hands, and ask the first questions.
We're all full of assumptions; you and I are both guilty of assumptions about others.
It's important to not let fear immobilize us from connecting with people, and it's important that our identity isn't wrapped up in other people's assumptions about us. It's important that we love others and connect deeply and make mistakes along the way.
And it's important that we dance.