How the tour feels, III

This is the last in my series of more self-ful and personal comments on the tour. The choir will find these dreary and is probably after the ‘blogging the tour’ posts.

How was yesterday, the Amsterdam day? Even more intense than most time with the choir. The morning was fine, with all the normal angst about making sensible calls and being seen as judgemental. Whether I failed grossly or just garnered misunderstanding, I was still "judgemental, mocking, and fun-spoiling", a strong pause for recurring thought through the day. I know I generally have a big problem communicating to people who do not know me well, but what my options are to radically change my image is not clear, within the freedom to do good and love justice. With some conversations, there is argument disagreement on almost my every sentence over things I did not say, which makes it especially hard to know how to respond. I know I have a lot of work to do to talk more clearly, but sometimes it just seems not worth carrying on when it is hard to give the benefit of the doubt and maintain respect. So, at lunch I wimped out and managed to hardly talk all meal, having gone to a table where I knew I had strongly annoyed most of the people there. I want to work on those friendships, and gambled that the conversation would be fine, but the subjects ended up not being such that I could not really talk without offending further. I really wish sometimes I were less reserved and more of a ‘people person’, especially in these situations which are simply too hard for me with ample confidence but no skills at friendliness besides those I have been able to learn by mimicry. The usual modern response that shy people can have friends too by being gentle and quiet only seems to work for me with Christians. So, with much customary periphrasis, I have just tried to set out one aspect of friendships I found hard yesterday.

The evening was another whole trouble. A couple of nice walks along the waterside were helpful, but several hours of wonky discussion of the choir’s future carried on for long afterwards. If I can ever bring myself to write about it, it will certainly have to be forked off into some separate posts. Unrelated to the painful subject matter, I will comment that more than ever I dislike drunkenness for its effect on conversations. It destroys real discussion. To address the most common objection, that many of those conversations would not happen without alcohol, I will say that though entirely true, it totally misses the point. If your friendship or meeting cannot handle or produce a real conversation without alcohol, you need to work on that without loathsomely rotting your wits and dulling your senses with an emotionally cheap substitute for a real solution to your social problems. Any conversation had when drunk should instead be had better when not, and that is a general comment only motivated by the deterioration of things last night rather than given as a specific attempt to get at anyone. Drunkenness is a sin; repent and be saved—please remember my positivity (though as above not all do). We all know I stick with God’s truth, and this note is just me doing that rather than a condemnation of anyone in particular.

On the other hand, yesterday and today have had many really useful conversations, most of which I have messed up in some way or another, but still very encouraging. Some of them have been conversations I have really wanted to have for a long time, and begun by dint of just starting them despite my usual awkwardness. One conclusion I have very reluctantly come to but am still reticent about is that chapel is not really adequate as a substitute for church, and genuinely lets down the girls particularly. A congregation must represent the body, with godly older women able to help the younger. Where that is not the case, there is a real problem. Unfortunately, in the case where we have extremely low expectations from church to point of not even noticing or minding, there seems to be very little to do. Three years have given me next to no success at enticing people to a rich view of church that encourages serious hunting for growth and pro-actively building a community deep enough to centre around the word rather than mundane or light chit-chat. In fact, I am so cautious about mentioning this that I would omit this without having spotted as encouragement an article in today’s 9Marks journal (in fact, the whole issue looks to have relevant articles).