A few months ago, I was invited to speak at Willow Creek, a megachurch in Chicago. I've long admired and loved Willow from afar, as a lot of the greatest leaders and most effective pastors I know have learned from the leaders on their stage. And there I was, on the phone to talk about an invitation to love the women of their church.
Kellye said, "Tricia, we need to laugh. We want to bring in someone who can be really deep and really funny. We think that's you."
I immediately pictured my brother and his lifelong, steadfast commitment to be the funny one in our family, forever teasing me that I'm not funny at all. (I'm a little funny. Sometimes.)
Deep and funny. That's a tall order.
"I'm not sure that's me, Kellye."
"Oh, but it is! I've been reading your stuff for a long time, many of us have, and you live at the intersection of funny and deep. Our community is navigating a dark season, and we really need that combination of a good evening."
I said, "Well, I do think we can strike that balance. But please, don't say I'll be hysterically funny. The only thing worse than that is if you introduce me and say that my story is so sad, and everyone should be prepared to cry."
(That has happened. It's a hard intro to follow.)
I said, "I promise that we will laugh that night. But laughter without depth can feel like empty slapstick, and that's not what I'm about… it's not what I can do. So I promise we will laugh, if you promise not to promote me as a standup comic."
She promised. I promised. And we celebrated our friendship by putting our numbers in each other's phones.
And then the bottom fell out of Willow Creek's community last week, as their lead pastors and entire board resigned in the wake of allegations that had long been denied and now were proving to be true. Everything feels shaky and unknown.
They're not in a season of laughter. They're in a season of lament.
I read their stories, and my mind processed through a repetitive cycle. I would think of another someone I knew, either by name or by position, who is deeply affected by this, and my heart would break for the pervasiveness of broken trust and loss.
And then I'd think, "Oh Lord, you've asked me to step into this."
And then I'd think, "God, you have to go before me. You have to. Please. Make a way. And show it to me."
An endless loop, day and night, this cycle of broken, overwhelmed, surrendered asking.
Here's where I have landed, after days of praying and thinking and loving and praying some more.
I would be remiss to not address the broken hearts. And I am woefully ill-equipped to counsel them through the season they're navigating as a community and a church family. There is a tension in between that is mine to own.
But I do know how it is to feel so shaken that you don't know if you'll ever laugh again.
And I know how beautiful it is to come together and remember what is true.
And I do know that laughter and sorrow are not opposites, but rather they are often companions who travel together, holding hands. Sometimes they each take hold of one of your hands and they walk with you tucked safely in between.
So, I'm coming for you, Willow Creek. I'll be there.
Let's celebrate two of the best things God gave us: laughter and each other.
We will be honest together. We will laugh together. And we will be together.
See you on Thursday, new friends. I cannot wait to know you.