I’m amazed again by the power of creativity and vulnerability.
Last weekend, I joined a circle of 30 yet-to-be-friends from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as a guest leader at their Pres House Fall Retreat. The first night, in that far too long and quiet moment just before I opened my mouth, the air felt thick with our hopes and hesitations. Would we trust each other? Would something wonderful happen? Would we have fun?
It took all my courage and a hundred silent prayers to speak up after that thick pause, with my whole heart, as open and unguarded as I could be. My inner critic was fierce that night about all my peculiarities and mistakes. I felt entirely vulnerable offering my art and stories. But I kept going– despite wanting to bolt out the door at least twice– hanging on to faith that authenticity and love would make it through my critic’s fears.
Then the students and staff opened their brave selves too. Each time we gathered in the circle over the weekend, more and more of their beauty showed up. I admired they way they included new members, jumped boldly into making art collage, gave honest, thoughtful answers in small group conversations, played hard and laughed even harder, and welcomed me so generously. They reflected deeply on their lives and purpose, and it shone bright in their art images. Their openness and beauty brought out more of mine, too! By the end of the retreat, we wrote gorgeous group prayers together and were sad to say goodbye.
A week later, I’m still savoring the fruit of our vulnerability at play.
Photos by Mark Elsdon