There’s a noise that comes with busy coffeehouses that’s oddly calming. Past the pretentious coffee names, wooden aesthetics, and contemporary mainstream music that passes for a “vibe,” it’s a millennial type of peaceful. This setting is the busy background to a conversation I’m having with a friend of mine who’s sharing his problems with anxiety and his constant, recurring panic attacks with myself and his friend I’ve just met. He’s visibly shaky. His nervous ticks heighten as he opens up more and more, each confession of vulnerability and fear pealing back a layer of his burdened psyche. It’s an intimate conversation between two people he’s entrusted with his secrets. It’s a therapeutic brotherhood, and three hours later, we were all the better for it. Yet the conversations impress upon my heart a burning question. The question you might ask? It’s simple, really, but its implications are the reasons I’m writing this article.
Do people really have people in their lives they can talk to? And what if they don’t?
I understand. Pastors will say, “How close are you to God? Talk to him.” Parents will say, “Social Media has ruined communication.” Pseudo-Intellectuals will say, “Find the voice within yourself, and let it guide you.” And while they each may have a point, most people will tell you that it’s hard opening up about how they feel. It’s even harder to find a group of people who are consistently willing to hear you out. Many of my generation feel trapped between a desire for depth and a fear of rejection. Across the board, there aren’t many therapeutic sisterhoods and even fewer brotherhoods.
NEXT STEPS: Young Adult Ministry Training
Many feel as though our religious institutions have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on a lot of topics that many young people deal with. How is it that God’s word expresses so much vulnerability and intimacy yet His people can be so closed-off and impersonal. Could it be that the culture we see in many churches, institutions, and educational hubs is one of hidden scars, muttered pains, and silent traumas as opposed to the healing, supportive, and transformative spirit we find in scripture? Many churches are filled with a culture of keeping to themselves and cutting themselves off from social vulnerability except in the brief and fleeting moments of a shared desire to be “whole” on one day at the breaking of each week but shared doctrine does not fill the need for shared connection. Just being a sinner isn’t the same as having the bravery to speak about what that experience entails.
In Acts, we are shown the experience of the famed Pentecost, yet a rarely touched thread is how they got there. The apostles first needed to have a shared moment of vulnerability. Honest discussion needed to occur among the entire group. I say, “apostles,” because they were more than simply disciples; it wasn’t just the twelve in that room. There were others: men and women, who had gathered to share this desire for the Spirit to fall. But for the Spirit to fall, they first needed to be empty. Prayer wasn’t enough. Worship and praise wasn’t enough. Shared doctrine wasn’t enough. There needed to be a shared intimacy in the admittance of their personal shortcomings, insecurities, sins, interpersonal issues, and desire for positions. They needed to deal with all these things and put them aside.
“Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship.” AA 37.1
The answer wasn’t intensity. The answer was intimacy. I’m sure you’ve read the statistics of how many youth are leaving the church, Heard the sermons that present them, and the arguments and solutions to solve them. I’m sure that if at some point you’ve gone into church and left feeling lonelier than when you entered, you’ve preferred to put on a”brave face as opposed to the broken one you come to terms with in the mirror every day. If you have, I want you to know that this is unabashedly against the precepts that are found within scripture. Christianity isn’t about hiding how broken you are. It’s about sharing that despite how broken or how lost those pieces are, there is a master sculpture who can put them together and continues to put your pieces together.
The solutions for the youth leaving the church, the divide between the old and young generation, etc. isn’t brighter lights, holier music, better programming, or consistent activities. The solution is simply being more vulnerable and in turn, more understanding with each other about our shortcomings and problems, because much like the busy coffeehouse, where three young men shared their doubts, their fears, their hopes, and their dreams, the setting wasn’t the focus, the stories were.
What does that have to do with the title you may ask?
I’m a firm believer that you can’t simply criticize culture; you need to create it. It is with this belief that a group of young people present “Anonymously.” Anonymously is a hotline where you can text your prayers, thoughts, fears, insecurities, and problems to an automated number.
How does it work?
You simply text 443-499-8518 with a prayer request, hope, thought, fear, insecurity, or problem and one of our correspondents from different walks of life and experiences will answer. Best Part? You’re completely anonymous. No names. No shared contact information and at the end of each conversation, the correspondent you speak with will delete your conversation.
I understand this isn’t for everyone, but it’s something. For those who feel like they can’t share anything or for those who simply want to share everything, you’re only a text away from people who want to be there for, simply because we believe the answer isn’t intensity. It’s intimacy…even it’s it’s just between two nameless numbers.