By Conference Minister Diane Weible
When my children were young, one of our favorite movies was, My Neighbor Totoro, a 1988 Japanese animated film by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Early in the movie, the family moves out to an abandoned farm outside of the busy city. They begin to open windows and doors to let in the light and the breeze and then, as they clean their new house, the animated dust bunnies come to life and scurry away. Their darkness, where they were allowed to grow and multiply, has been disturbed. They have nowhere to go but away.
Last week, I attended a training in which the trainer told the story of a church where “parking lot conversations” were the norm. One day, the Pastor went out to the far corner of the parking lot and painted some lines, labeling the space he had created, “Parking Lot Conversations.” It was a playful way for the Pastor to acknowledge that he knew about the conversations that happened after the meeting in the parking lot where only a few people were included, and which had the potential to un-do the good work that had been done in the meeting.
The members of the church responded to this in a positive way. Whenever someone would begin a conversation as they were making their way to the cars, someone else would remind them that the space for those conversations was over there. They would laugh and get in their cars, because the truth was, what was about to be said was not important enough to walk to the far corner of the parking lot. Instead, they said good night to one another and learned the importance of saying what they needed to say in the bright room that was their gathering space for the meeting and where everyone was included.
I was thinking about this story and about Totoro today in a conversation I had about transparency. When we are brave enough to state our truth, the dust bunnies of our relationships have nowhere to hide. These dust bunnies that thrive on secrets and parking lot conversations scurry away because in the light of sharing our truth with one another we can say clearly, “I know that story and that is not how I heard it.” Doubt, suspicion, whispers, triangulation can be eliminated.
Our ability to enter into a safe space to say what we are experiencing and feeling in a way that is not accusatory or punishing but honest and loving is what happens in a healthy church. It is what happens in community when we say that we care for one another and mean it.
As cute as the Totoro dust bunnies are, I’m ok letting them scurry away to look for another place to land. I want light to shine and love to prevail. It’s a much better way to live our faith.