I was painfully shy when I was young, unable to even take a bottle from my aunt. She had to leave it for me in an empty room before I would gather up enough courage to go retrieve it. I got over that shyness and most people would call me a “people person.”
Those people never know the fear underneath the surface, the way I struggle with each interaction to fight the desire to please everyone, scared of what others think of me. In the past I have let this fear disable me completely.
But in my writing I can be bold and brave.
There is also this magical thing called editing. I can take back my initially clumsy words, make sure my ideas are fully formed, my prose beautifully expressed.
I wish there was the ability to edit what comes out of my mouth, to hide my fearful eyes behind a screen so people can’t really see.
But then that isn’t really being known, is it?
In a year already full of exciting and scary adventures, I am about to embark on another trip that has me equally thrilled and frightened.
A week from today I will be heading out to Grand Rapids, Michigan for The Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing. It is a gathering that happens every two years which brings together speakers and writers to discuss issues of “faith, ethics, justice, and the craft of storytelling.”
The over 61-page program I have been perusing highlighting the speakers, workshops, dinners, and networking times with writing industry professions has me reeling. I have a list already two pages long of people I hope to meet in the four-day period of the festival.
Many of these are people who I feel like I have gotten to know over the past couple years. I have read their words and peeked into the deep recesses of their lives, but not seen their faces outside of a photo on a computer screen.
These are people I have let know me as well as I have been vulnerable, poured my deepest feelings out onto the page and sent them out into the world.
There are writers alongside me in the Redbud Writer’s Guild, The Mudroom, and SheLoves Magazine (the three most frequent places I read and write). These ladies have prayed with me, counseled me, spurred me on when I was ready to give up, and shared the dark and scary parts of sharing your faith on the page with me.
Up until now they have been two-dimensional. Now they are going to become flesh.
In the past year, if I needed prayer, one of the first places I would go is to my computer screen to cry out online and ask my sisters and brothers all over the country and world to carry me to the Father.
One of the most precious moments of feeling God’s presence lately happened early this year when someone I write with asked for prayer for a debilitating depression that had come over her. A facebook message was sent and instantly sisters across the country were praying.
I was moved to light a candle and cry out for the Father to shine light into the dark places overtaking her heart. I felt a deep connecting in prayer to someone I had never met. A few hours later she messaged that she’d gotten out of bed for the first time in days thanks to our prayers.
I knew in that moment that there was more to this online community of writers than “building a platform” or marketing our work.
This is a Body of Christ.
So, why am I so afraid? While it is comforting to know they will be there when I need them, there is also a sort of anonymity in being “online friends.”
These people don’t have to see my tears when I am praying through the hard things, the fear in my eyes when I hit “send” on that piece they have encouraged me to submit to another magazine.
They won’t be able to detect the shaking in my voice that is a reminder of the doubt I carry around like a security blanket when I am near people like them – the feeling that I don’t really belong among them, that I am a fraud.
I have always had this ability to write my feelings so much better than I can speak them. Early in our marriage if I had something difficult to discuss with my husband, he would come home to find me sitting with a handwritten note in my hand. I would hand it to him, sit and watch him read it, and then be ready to discuss it with him.
I knew I couldn’t adequately get my feelings out if I spoke them, voice shaking, my tears inevitably betraying me. We have gotten past that in our marriage but I haven’t gotten past it in my life. I still hide behind my words. I still fear really being known.
As I step off of that plane next week I will be stepping off of the page and into real life friendships. I will probably have a lot of awkward moments where I don’t know what to say or I wish I could fade into the background of a crowded room, moments in which I feel like a child in a roomful of grown-ups.
But I’m hoping there will also be many warm hugs, many moments when I realize we are more alike than different – these writing friends of mine and me.
I am hoping I find a place where I belong and where I can let myself be known. Isn’t that what we are all hoping, after all?