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Monday, November 19, 2012

Celebrating Death

You may not be able to tell, but that picture is of me catching Ryan Woods after he swung across a gap on a ropes course at Camp Yamhill. Yesterday we celebrated his life and mourned his death.

One of my first memories of Ryan is from youth group games. I was a college volunteer and he was in high school. We'd play games at a weekly church gathering. Almost invariably, Ryan would look for a way to bend or break the rules. He never saw the rules as confining. Instead, he found ways to work around them to get what he wanted.

At first it frustrated me. I was supposed to keep these kids in line; I was supposed to be an authority. But Ryan's joyful flouting of the rules taught me that people are more important than rules. I'm still trying to move that lesson from my head to my heart.

Ryan kept breaking the rules for the sake of people. You can read his story about life, cancer and death here. It's raw, honest, thoughtful and blunt. People aren't supposed to be that transparent on the internet. But Ryan was and it touched thousands of people.

Yesterday, as I was listening to stories about Ryan, it occurred to me that his powerful affect on people came out of his belief that embracing awkwardness doesn't hurt relationships, it helps them. Of course this is a naive belief; sophisticated people avoid awkwardness at all costs. But his naivete let him touch and bless many people who were invited to embrace the awkwardness with him.

That's hard for me. I don't like being awkward. It terrifies me. I want to be right. I want to be sophisticated, not naive. Being right and sophisticated, however, doesn't do much to help relationships. Naive awkwardness does.

Today I'm celebrating Ryan's life and taking fearful steps toward embracing awkwardness.

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