I turned forty in July and it has felt a little like a coming home to myself. I feel more comfortable in my own skin, more secure in my unique calling, more confident in who God has made me to be, and more sure of the space that I am called to fill in this world.
I’ve also developed a new found appreciation for honesty, authenticity, and vulnerabilijty.
I know who I am and I know whose I am. I know the One who defines me and who assigns my value. I do not let anyone besides my Father determine or decide my worth.
Most of the time.
But there are still some times when the desire for approval causes me to shrink and silences me.
Recently, in a discipleship cohort that I am participating in, I had a little moment where the Holy Spirit convicted me about this. In this cohort, we have been learning how to be effective disciples who not only abide with God, but can share their Jesus story and the gospel message with others.
During the first class, we were asked to share the story of our faith journey and give a brief summary of the gospel message. For some reason, I had that pull to get small and quiet. As the leader went around the circle and other Pastors, Ministers, and leaders shared, I hoped I wouldn’t get called on.
Would my messy come-to-Jesus story be too much for these people? Would they look down on me? Would my story be a little too rough around the edges?
If I shared the gospel with this group of people, would I sound silly? Would my theologically unschooled version sound as good as theirs? Would it be obvious that I’m just an average Joe who loves God but has never been to seminary? What if I said something wrong? Would I look foolish?
And then it happened. The leader called on me.
Pretend you’re at a coffee shop and you’re chatting with a friend that doesn’t know Jesus. They tell you that they are having a really hard time in their marriage because they don’t feel loved. How can you give them the hope of Jesus?”
“Well,” I began, nervously. “I think I’d probably do this a little differently than you all have, just because of who I am and my own personal journey. I guess I’d say, ‘I know what it’s like to feel unloved. My parents divorced when I was little and my daddy just couldn’t be present. I didn’t understand and felt rejected and unloved. It left a whole in my heart. I spent a lot of my teenage years making some pretty bad choices searching for approval from others. As a young adult, I made a complete mess of my life hoping to fill that void. In the depth of that pit, I met Jesus and found the One who loved unconditionally, who would never leave of forsake me, and who wanted me enough that he’d die to save me, even when I was messy and broken, so that I could live eternally with Him. He changed every part of my life. And now, I just want others to know Him so they can experience that kind of love.’ I guess, that’s probably what I’d say.”
I took a slow, nervous breath and looked around to see how everyone would respond to my very short and very vulnerable answer.
After a minute, the leader spoke up.
“Wow. That would definitely do the job. Who else feels like they are ready to recommit their lives to Jesus?” he asked, smiling, as he surveyed the nodding group.
And that’s when it struck me.
There are times when I am afraid to speak up because I’m afraid I won’t do it well. I might sound silly. I might not have the right words. People might think I’m weird. I might make a fool of myself or, worse yet, make the gospel sound foolish.
But people don’t want to hear a perfectly polished, squeaky clean, eloquent, theological exposition of the gospel. What they appreciate is the very same thing that I’ve come to appreciate in these forty years.
Honesty. Authenticity. Vulnerability.
And in case you’re curious, that’s all Our Triune God wants, too. He wants us to share what He’s done in our lives with honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability. He isn’t asking us to preach an eloquent message or give a theological exposition, but He has equipped and called each and every one of us to share what He’s done in our life with those around us.
That’s all we’re responsible for. We can trust Him to do all the rest.
I came across this verse in Psalm 40:9-10 NIV and am using it as a personal mantra to overcome the desire to shrink or silence myself out of fear.
“I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.”
I do not seal my lips.
I do not hide.
I do not conceal.