What do you really want to talk about?
He asked me this question when I arrived in his office, syllabus in hand, asking about one of our assignments for that semester’s Moral Theology class. I’d met Father Drexler the year before in my Sacred Scriptures class, but it took me until the next year to work up the courage to even go to his office.
I was startled by his direct, yet kind, question.
“Uh….my assignment,” I said, chewing on his words.
“No,” he said. “ You want to talk about something else.”
I was 19 years old, and less than a month in to my sophomore year at Gannon University. Truth be told, I was burning with questions - but not about classwork. I was intent on figuring out my purpose in life. Sure, I partied on weekends with my friends, made lasting friendships, and played sports but I was absolutely burning with the curiosity of what God’s plan was for me.
Father Drexler was one of those rare birds to whom I felt an immediate connection. With his ocean blue eyes and stark silver hair, he was a striking yet quiet presence.
Up until that moment in his office though, I’d never been invited to speak about my feelings. And I was both refreshed and paralyzed by his invitation.
The next day, I showed up at his office with a manilla envelope filled with my writing. I had poems, thoughts, questions and essays written on scraps of paper, typed up on my word processor, and neatly printed on notepaper. I’d never shown anyone my thoughts in such naked honesty as when I handed him that envelope.
He returned it to me the next day with the following quote:
“Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
When he handed me back that envelope, he also became my spiritual director. He became the first person in my life to ask me about my vulnerability. To ask me what was really on my mind. To listen to me and ask me thoughtful questions. To hear me with his heart.
Later that year, I went on my first silent retreat where I relished five days of silence, sprinkled in with prayer and reflective time. I was given a book at the retreat titled “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” The book was about vulnerability - about learning what it means to open up, about what it means to allow others to open up.
The best way to get someone else to open up?
To open up about yourself.
Maybe it’s because of that book that I write so openly about myself. Because maybe, while I’m telling you pieces of my story, you can know that you’re not alone. That it’s not just you. That what you think and what you feel matter. That the feelings and thoughts you are most ashamed of might be shared by someone else.
Tomorrow night, I’m hosting a book discussion on Brene Brown’s “I Thought it Was Just Me” book. The discussion is open to everyone, whether or not you belong to Spurling, whether or not you’ve read the book, whether or not you want to come and talk or just come and listen.
We are all living our own questions - and we can live them on our own if we want to. But you don’t have to.
I’d love for you to join me. And even if you can’t join me tomorrow night, I’d still love to know what you’d really like to talk about.
Consider that your open invitation.