Sunday, February 20, 2011

Small Beginnings

I used to be a very bold person. I never met a stranger, never walked into a crowd with my head down, and never hesitated to take a risk. Somewhere along the way I got scared. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I became beyond fearful. It was very likely when I got divorced that this change happened, although it was a few years in the making but the result was I convinced myself that I was not special, nor was I loveable. I convinced myself that I was being punished for poor decisions, for bad choices. I convinced myself that I had gotten exactly what I deserved out of life because I had made mistakes. I convinced myself that God was the one punishing me because I needed to be taught a lesson. There were times when I was anxious about walking into a coffee shop because I thought everyone would judge me when I walked through the door… was I wearing the right thing? Was my hair a mess? Was my lipstick smeared? I began to worry about every single move that I made.

My life is somewhat different now, but not as different as it should be. Right now my car is filthy. The outside gets washed when I get the oil changed. Sometimes. See, car washes are not what they used to be. They are so very advanced and automated now, and I find that every time I drive past one I think about stopping in-- and then I remember the track that you have to maneuver your wheels onto, the precise moment you have to shift the gear into neutral and the flashing signs that warn you “DO NOT MOVE YOUR STEERING WHEEL!” and “DO NOT PUT YOUR CAR IN DRIVE”. The moment of entering the car wash sends me into a panic. The idea of leaving my car in neutral and losing control of the situation. The act of taking my hands off of the wheel and taking my foot off of the gas and the brakes. I visualize myself… what? Careening into the walls? Wrecking my car? Breaking the car wash? I am terrified of breaking things in my life now. I have become an extremely careful person. One who does not step too far out of her comfort zone and becomes anxious when others do. Crossing the street with a friend before the crosswalk sign said to threw me into a tizzy. He looked at me and said, “There are no cars, we will be okay” and I spouted off about the rules of pedestrians and how you could get ticketed by the police if you didn’t wait until the sign told you to walk. There really were no cars. We made it safely across the street but I had a FIT. The 18 year old me would have skipped across the street backwards, maybe done a cartwheel, but the 28 year old me was stuck and terrified at the idea of doing something that made me uncomfortable. Please don’t take this as me saying that my friend was right that rules were made to be broken. I think that for the most part rules are in place for a very good reason, but at 11pm with a great view of empty streets on both sides of the crosswalk, sometimes it makes sense to walk ahead even though the lights aren’t flashing you permission.

I am so terrified of little trivial things that I refuse to make a move. I am figuratively rooted to the ground afraid that any decision that I make will result in disaster. That once again my life will derail and I’ll be left off the tracks in the middle of a car wash paying for damages I cannot afford. This is an unhealthy fear. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not doing the things that I need to be doing to lead a full life; to lead a fulfilled life. I am actively aware of the need to change this but again, I’m scared to choose a path to do it. There are so many options, so many chances for failure that instead of doing something… ANYTHING, I sit still and wait… maybe tomorrow... maybe next week… maybe next year. The time for maybe is over.

I have a fear of failure that is causing me to fail by not trying anything at all. I have a self-actualizing fear complex!!!! How in the world did I get to that place?! Well, I can tell you exactly how I got there and when I do that, you’ll see the solution as clearly as I do now.

There was a time in my life, my younger backwards-skipping-cartwheeling life when God was the center of my world. I practically lived up at the church, I worshipped, I had fellowship with my peers, I sang, I participated, I had a church family. I had a group of people who loved the same thing that I did, had the same desires, the same hopes, and our commonality was God. I had moments of leadership, many late night philosophical conversations, we read the same things, sang the same songs, saw the same movies, we talked about the same sermons. There was camaraderie. There was love. There was hope. There was worship. I felt peaceful the moment that I walked through the doors of the church. I felt a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. I knew the narrow hallways in the dark as well as I did when the lights were on. I could locate anyone in the church, I knew where I was going, not only in the building but in life because I had these things that made me feel so fulfilled, so special. I had a relationship with God. I talked to Him, I studied His word, I wrote about Him, I praised Him. I looked for any excuse to be up at that church, to be in God’s presence. I was happy there. I knew my place. I knew my purpose. I knew the meaning of God’s love for me.

…And then things changed. I separated myself from the church, I pursued things that I thought I wanted for myself, I lost my core group of friends. I let people down, I let myself down, and worst of all, I felt like I had let God down. I tried going to church a couple of times during this period and I entered with worry and guilt and sadness instead of the joy and peace that was so commonplace before. I stopped going. I stopped talking to God at all. I felt like I had betrayed Him and I should punish myself by removing myself from His presence. Guilt is a very tricky thing. I broke my own heart when I should have known from all of my teachings that God would accept me no matter what mistakes I had made.

There have been moments over the years when I have thought about getting involved in a church again but each time I hear that little voice in my head telling me that I am not worthy of that love anymore. I hear that voice whispering in my ear that I can’t pick up where I left off, that I would be a hypocrite to walk back into church and worship a God that I abandoned for my own will so many years ago. I never stopped believing in God, I only stopped believing in my own worth. I convinced myself that I wasn’t a beautiful child of God anymore, that I was caked with sin and ungratefulness for the things that He offered me and I turned down. The time for that thinking is over.

Over the past few weeks I have started to reignite my interest in making God the center of my life again. Each time I do this I find that I am faced with a trial that tries to derail me. This time I thanked God for the trial set before me. I thanked Him for the opportunity to trust Him and grow from adversity. Immediately after I did that I felt completely peaceful about the situation. For the first time in years I was able to say thank you and hand over the struggle to God and say that I am not in control of it anymore… and to be completely okay with that knowledge. Wow, what a major step for me!

My challenge this week is to continue to let God shape my life, to actively seek Him and the plan that He has for my life. I’ve just finished Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life that was recommended to me by my dearest friend and I am amazed at how clear my purpose feels to me right now.

It is one thing to feel that you have a purpose and another thing to DO what you are being called to do though. And so the journey begins…

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1

“If we confess our sins he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9

“ For I know the plans I have for you—This is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”
Jeremiah 29:11

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