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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

istock_000004142818xsmallEver since my accident a couple of months ago, I’ve been reminded again and again of how God’s power is made perfect in weakness. The most recent occasion was at my church’s Christmas eve service. I was scheduled to play “Silent Night” on guitar for the final song of the evening. I was certainly nervous beforehand, but as the service progressed I was flooded with joy and peace and began to relax. As the second-last number neared its end, I strapped my guitar on and got ready to walk on stage. I made my way into the spotlight, plugged in my guitar, took a deep breath and began to play. Suddenly I felt extremely vulnerable, the sound of my lone acoustic guitar coming through the speakers. My hands started to shake uncontrollably. It got so bad that I didn’t think I’d be able to finish. I silently begged God to help me, hoping my sudden case of the shakes wasn’t too obvious. He answered my cry for help and I made it through. I spoke to a close friend afterwards, and she said something that really stuck with me. When I told her I thought I wouldn’t make it, she said, “yes, but you did.” I saw in an instant how faithful God is when we step out and trust Him. It may have been a difficult experience for me, but it was an excellent example of what God said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It has taken a long time for me to see my frailty in a positive light. Until recently, the thought of my weaknesses and struggles being exposed evoked feelings of fear and shame. Fear of being seen as I really am – flawed, weak, broken. Shame about the fact that I’m not perfect, and that people might find out – and reject me.

You might laugh at that last sentence. After all, it’s ridiculous to suggest that I might be perfect or anywhere near it. Growing up, I absorbed the unspoken message that being loved and accepted depended on two things: performance and pretending. It was very important to behave well, to achieve high, and to be the best at everything. On top of that, unpleasant things were not acknowledged or discussed. Instead of facing conflict head on, we pretended everything was okay. I learned how to perform and pretend early on in life, and carried those skills with me into adulthood.

I was never very good at pretending. Something in me raged against it from a young age. I’ve always had this hunger for truth, to talk openly about what’s really going on inside, to connect with others in genuine, meaningful ways, to resolve conflict, to mend relationships. I tried to put 100% into everything, but the weight of perfectionism crushed me with its impossibly high standards. I wanted more than anything to be loved and accepted just for me, but I felt as though the real, flawed me was unacceptable, so I ambivalently tried to keep her hidden.

Have you ever had that experience of hearing how others perceive you and realizing that it’s nothing like how you see yourself? That’s a good sign that you have a carefully crafted “mask” to keep the real you hidden. I’ve had people describe me as confident, self-sufficient, very “together”, and so on. In a way I’m glad that’s how they see me, but that’s not how I feel about myself, or how I actually am. I have worked hard to conceal the truth because I’ve been ashamed of my weakness. Here’s the truth: I’m not confident, I’m insecure. I’m not self-sufficient, I’m needy. I don’t have it all together – I’m plagued by doubts and fears. I’ve had all sorts of private struggles that I’m embarrassed to admit because they seem so immature.

But I’ve realized, especially since my accident, that my weaknesses are an excellent opportunity to show God’s strength. Hiding and pretending are things we all do to some extent. God says that the truth will set us free – not the truth about someone else, the truth about me. What is the truth, from God’s vantage point? We are all flawed, broken, needy. Every one of us needs His grace, His mercy to get through every day of our life. I can be an instrument of hope and healing in God’s hands by acknowledging my weaknesses and letting Him work through them. If I submit my frailties and struggles to God, then He gets all the glory when I break free.

On Christmas Eve, when despite my shaking hands, I made it through “Silent Night”, I received such a precious gift from God. In the past, I would’ve been humiliated and ashamed at the fact that my hands were visibly shaking, whether I made it through the song or not. But this time, I came away being a little bit embarrassed, but mostly just thanking Him for standing by me in my time of need. It’s even possible that the song was better, not worse, because I had to depend on Him. It isn’t necessary to be a “superstar” to achieve something of lasting value in God’s Kingdom. What it takes is an attitude of radical reliance on Him, and the recognition that without Him, we can do nothing.

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