Thoughts on Travel and Testimony
This is a belated post (like 6 days), but life has been busy and filled with travel and catching up on all sorts of things I’ve been behind on, so here you go, you get it today (and probably another one tomorrow). This post and what I have planned for tomorrow work together—I’ve been thinking about the benefit of sharing experiences, thoughts sparked by traveling in Dublin alone immediately on the heels of gallivanting around London and the UK with a troop of 40-some odd students/friends/colleagues. (Incidentally this may also dovetail with some thoughts I shared in a talk I gave in London on how fasting can heal our hearts, so that’s fun.)
At the start of my London adventure, I was really looking forward to capping it off with a few days in Dublin on my own. I thought it would be a nice palate cleanser to just have time totally to myself. However, as it came closer and closer, I was better and better friends with all the students on the study abroad with me and wished I could take a handful with me. The first day I was in Dublin was nice, I walked around the city, letting my mind wander and somewhat processing the past seven weeks. Having that space to reflect and process was excellent. It was also somewhat rejuvenating to be able to just be. Though as I got to my Airbnb that night, I felt empty and anxious and like something was missing.
There was no one to share my experience with.
I spent the next couple of days stewing on this idea and bounced it off a friend or two and I think it’s true. (Perhaps I should have already figured this out since it was more or less the focus of my final blog/essay for the courses that I took whilst in London—yes, I was also in school, I know it looked like I just partied and went to shows all the time, but I did school stuff too—but it didn’t quite sink in until I had this travel without people to share with experience.)
What is it about sharing that helps travel transcend and be more than it is otherwise? I’m not quite sure. I think sharing generally creates a bond and when you share experiences it helps you process them and can help you pull meaning from them. Some of it may also just be that we are social creatures and enjoy the company and presence of others (even me, a largely introverted person felt this desire to share and connect with other people).
Now, I think this desire to share experiences can take different forms and mean different things to different people and perhaps some people don’t feel it at all. It can be traveling with other people and literally sharing the experience with them, all experiencing together (the ideal group size varies depending on the activity and the people involved). Maybe it’s sharing photos and other aspects of the experience online or something during/after and there’s a sort of mediated sharing/connection taking place. Perhaps it’s simply talking about your experiences with others after they happen. Or even blogging and writing the experiences and then sharing them that way.
I think this applies to testimonies and spiritual experiences too. At least for me, there’s something about sharing those experiences and thoughts and concerns and the working through of what things mean and what I felt/experienced/etc. that is remarkably beneficial (hence my continued blogging and engaging in other faith-related conversations with great frequency).
It strikes me that testimony and the sharing of it is one manifestation of hearing the healing word of God (as Jacob describes the reason we gather together). Some of you probably don’t find much of fast and testimony meeting healing or even count it as “the word of God”, but for me there’s something profound and personal and vulnerable and sincere and authentic about testimony meeting that lends it a power I don’t always feel at Church.
That power seems to be rooted in this act of sharing. Being invited into that space of vulnerability and sharing is healing. I fairly regularly share my own testimony and doing so is an integral part of my Church-experience. I feel more integrated into the community and like I am welcomed and belong than when I sit and stew in silence. I’m not saying that everyone needs to share that way or that everyone will feel welcomed if they did. But I have been.
This communal sharing of experience feels to me like an effort to work together to build Zion and to draw closer to God. There’s something that all these experiences together (however different, contradictory, random, ludicrous, self-promoting, irritating, hilarious, eyebrow-raising, tear-jerking that they may be) provides that I don’t find on my own. I need to be in this communal setting to really see and feel how the things that matter to me and I think are important play out on a large scale.
I’m reminded that the ideal that I envision for the Church and the world is not necessarily 100% compatible with the ideal that others envision. I’m obviously partial to mine, but am not confident (arrogant? deluded?) enough to believe that it is necessarily absolutely the best option for all people.
Sharing my experiences and thoughts and beliefs helps me to refine them. It gives me more accountability. It introduces other, real, flesh and blood people into the scenario that cause me to really think through the implications and practical aspects of what I say and believe and do. It invites me to not only speak, but to listen. To hear the words and experiences of others and to then re-evaluate my own. To think why what I experienced may be radically different from that of someone next to me.
I guess I need all of you (and maybe you too need me?). Here’s to sharing (since after all, sharing is caring).