I recently spoke during a retreat at the Laity Lodge near Leaky, Texas. It's a great place that always seems to attract great people. But, what happened this time took me by surprise. I learned a lesson about myself (is that being reflective or merely narcissistic?) that I'm a little disappointed to admit.
We all enjoyed the beautiful music of two, well-known musicians. A brilliant children's author shared her story through her clever stories. Every time they finished their part, the intimate crowd of 60 participants applauded. Whenever I stopped talking, there was always an awkward silence. It happened over and over again. Music, applause. Speaker one, silence. Speaker two, applause.
I was walking with one of the participants to the favorite spot of most retreaters, "The Blue Hole" (a spring-fed swimming pool encased by beautiful rock formations of the Rio Frio). She said, "Well, Rodney. You sure have stirred up a lot of conversation--made us wrestle with many questions." I said, "Yeah. I get that a lot."
"It's been really good, though. Your talk is unsettling, then Sally tells one of her stories and everyone laughs."
(Laughing) "Oh, I get it. I'm the irritant and she's the balm. I like that."
"Yeah. No, wait, that's not what I meant. It's just that we need both, don't we?"
"Yes, I think we do."
Then I shared my observation regarding the "irregular" applause and made her promise not to tell anyone. At which point this young lady, being a kind and sensitive person, tried to cheer me up: "Well, I've never really heard many preachers get much applause when they finish speaking. Besides," she said perceptively, "you probably wouldn't want it." "Yes. You're right. Applause would make me feel like I'm not doing my job."
But, deep down, sometimes I wish there were applause. Then, the pretentious "prophetic voice" rises within me and says, "What are you whining about? Just be glad these days they don't kill you."
"Yeah. Who needs applause, anyway?"
But sometimes one gets weary of the calling.