All my life, I've carried a particular fear within me. I joke about being introverted and socially awkward, but here's the truth about it:
I fear being unwanted and un-welcomed.
I'm twenty-three-years-old. I'm still figuring out this adult thing, especially the complicated identity stuff that's thrown in with financial worries and having babies.
It's easy to blame my response to fear on a personality flaw. But lately, I can feel the Holy Spirit asking me to take a deeper look, beyond my excuses, to unwrap all the lies I've believed about who God says I am.
An old memory came to surface of my thoughts recently.
It was back during middle school, and I was backstage in the auditorium working on props during my art class. Twice a year since the time I was 7, I would perform in dance recitals on this very stage. I remember the feeling of the lights turning on, the music playing, the smell of hairspray, the itchy, frilly costumes, and glitter flying everywhere as we tapped and twirled upon these old wooden floors. It was exhausting but fun.
I finished my painting assignment early, so I started to wander around the stage to pass the time. The large red curtains were closed, hiding the hundreds of seats that I faced when I danced.
When I peeked my head in from behind the heavy curtain, what I saw shouldn't have surprised me —but it did. I'd never before seen this auditorium so dark and empty. And as I stepped out onto the main stage, I let the curtain fall behind me, shutting out every last bit of light. I stood upon a dark stage with only the faint outline of chairs to behold me.
No music. No frills. No eyes to see me perform.
It maybe should have felt eery. But oddly, I felt so safe.
Because for the first time, I felt alone. Truly alone. I could take a breath. No one could watch me perform. I was free to just be myself.
And as I pondered that memory, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper in my heart:
"Jeana, you believe the lie that if you hide yourself from judgement, you'll be safe."
Of course I believe that. I'm safer if I never show anyone my art, or grow deeper in relationships, or speak out boldly. After all, am I not safer when I shut the world out behind me?
No. Of course not.
I could blame my tendency to hide on my upbringing.
Or on my personality. Or I could tell myself that I have nothing important to say or give, and I might as well hide within the boundaries I call "safe."
Because "safe" to me always meant "not messing up."
or "not falling."
"not gaining negative attention."
"not saying the wrong things."
"not hurting anyone's feelings."
"not disappointing anyone, especially those I love."
But here's the thing —I love to dance. I make art, I write, and I love making new friends. And fear often tempts us away from the things we love to create because it feels risky to pour your heart out in front of other people.
But that's what community is —the beauty of vulnerability. And God's Kingdom should be filled with people who are free to be themselves in the presence of Jesus and others, without fear of judgement or the drive of competition.
And don't I want to live a life like that?
Yes. Of course I do.
"Children who know they are loved are free to fall, to make mistakes —thus free to try, free to adventure, to have fun. Life is a game, however serious, and joy undergirds it all. But the uptight, who fear they will be lost if they fail to perform rightly, will never discover the twinkle of the Father's eye. That is, until God's love breaks the shackles of performance. His laughter bubbles behind the melodramas of human life, and His chuckle is suppressed by His hand, even as our parents put hand to mouth so as not to embarrass us."
- John Sanford // The Elijah Task
I always thought that confidence would come when I was sure I could do everything right.
And I thought I was supposed to hide until that happened.
But I'm learning these days that confidence is not having the world love and appreciate the things you do —it's being who you are and doing what God made you to do despite what you fear the world may think.
Confidence is acknowledging outcomes and possible mistakes —but moving forward anyway.
Confidence is listening to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit that says,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. So move forward, don’t be afraid to fail, and expect My joy to follow you along the way.”
Here's the thing: you don’t have to wait for confidence —you’re always allowed to go forward into the places God is calling you to be.
Onto the old wooden stage.
Into new community.
Out of hiding, and into a new perspective on who you are in Christ.
Because you have the freedom to fail and fall into the love & laughter of God —over and over, again and again.
And you and I can expect joy along the way, because we are always wanted and welcomed into the presence of God.
I so appreciate you being here! I wrote these words for you, and I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
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