The wounds I learned to operate from early on in life were the ones that screamed, “You don’t belong. You’re not enough.” It sounds ridiculous. I come from a stable middle class white American family; I should have always known where I fit. Yet I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like I’d missed the invitation to the party of the year.
Maybe a counselor would tell me it came from being the youngest grandchild, left in the yard alone wondering where the others had gone to play without me. Maybe it was the half-brother who stopped coming around when I was little. There was always this ache inside missing the brother I never knew, wondering was it a little bit my fault?
When I think of my childhood I’ve always wondered why I gravitated toward a spiritual life when it wasn’t a norm in our home. I asked for a Bible and poured over the King James words nestled between the lacy covers of this mysterious book. I latched onto a faith community as a teenager like it was the long-awaited life raft that would save me from the sinking ship of feeling like an outsider.
And yet … I didn’t quite fit with the church kids who knew all the answers either. I picked up the lingo quickly, but I wasn’t quite a member of their club. I clung to Jesus but never quite felt like I was in with his people. So, I spent my life trying harder. Maybe if I went into the ministry, I’d finally belong?
In the year and a half I lived in South Asia, I was brutally aware of my loneliness. Some people who said they would stay in touch weren’t there for me when I reached out to them in the depths of my anxiety. There were the few family and friends that were the constant safety net to my falling. They messaged me and held out prayers. I knew in my heart I wasn’t alone. And yet I felt so utterly cast out.
The first time I video-chatted with a spiritual director I was sure she could hear my heart beating into the computer microphone. I was so nervous about what she would say, what she would think of me. Would she judge me for doing this God-thing all wrong? I talked to her about my inability to find God in prayers full of words, so I’d turned to silent prayer. And still I couldn’t find what I was searching for. She mentioned the Enneagram; asked if I knew my type. I laughed, because I’d just finally started reading The Sacred Enneagram. I was just beginning to explore what it means to be a Type Six...
There is a reason I am a writer and not a public speaker. I have never been comfortable speaking in front of others. Sometimes when I even write it down ahead of time when I have something difficult to discuss with someone. Once they read it, we can talk. I just can't express myself out loud like I can on the page. It is definitely a weakness of mine.
I recently wrote an article for Christianity Today that got the attention of some Christian radio stations hosts. When a couple asked me for interviews, I desperately wanted to refuse. The thought of my voice on the radio made me nervous as well as the thought of having to "wing it." I love the power of editing and rewriting before sending your words out into the world. You can't exactly do that live!
But with the encouragement of some people I love and fellow writers, I chose to do the interviews. I prepared and prayed and then tried to set it aside, not think about it until I was on air.
I am not sure how I got through it in the moment. The words somehow just came and I was actually pretty happy with the result. I hung up the phone after the first interview and realized I was beat red. All of my nervous energy had exploded out of me in hives, but inside I had felt calm and collected. My voice only shook a little bit...
I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for giving me the words.
I have had people say I sound like a natural when I speak. They have no idea how I feel nothing but utter weakness when I speak.
In those moments I know it is only Christ's power residing in me that is shining through, making me sound like I have any idea what I am talking about. I definitely have no power of my own in that arena.
The assurance that God will cover us in our weakness comes in 2 Corinthians 2.19 (NET) when God says, "my grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Along with Paul I say, "so then I will boast most gladly about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may reside in me."
My skin may break out when I speak and I may not ever feel comfortable with it. But I do feel comfortable saying I don't mind being weak. My weak spots are the areas in which Christ's strength can shine through.
My heart can quietly trust His grace as enough when I understand that when I am weak, He is strong.