The worst dream
When I was a kid, I had a dream.
A lousy dream.
See, I was used to people being pretty mean to me. And I didn’t want to deal with it.
So I thought, one day, I’m going to work in an office.
Or a laboratory.
And I will talk to no one. No one. I won’t need to have any awkward interactions… because I just won’t have any at all.
Go in like a ninja, work, get out.
(I’m glad things shifted, eh?)
What do you do with your pain?
Like a lot of people, I got way more outgoing in my teens. Picked up some social skills. Cut my hair. Made some friends.
But I still carried a lot of that brokenness.
Before I got to a place of ministry, I had to process a lot of my past.
Especially being rejected and labeled.
I had to understand – with my head and my heart – my identity in Jesus.
That I was accepted. I was loved.
I was created the way I was for a reason.
And even the sin in my life wasn’t hopeless. I was forgiven. I didn’t have to walk in guilt.
My weakness, the things I had to deal with, parts of my life that were broken or unfinished? They too could be used for good.
Fix your eyes
Worship was a huge part of that process. Singing songs to God and about God. Sometimes in my own room I’d play CDs (this was the late 90s/early 2000s!) but most often in a group of people. At church, a youth ministry, youth rally, worship service.
There’s something about shifting your posture.
Telling your lungs to obey.
Declaring truth and having it declared to you in a group.
Sometimes I’d feel happy.
Most often, I cried: angry tears or quiet ones. Salt water doing its work to wash away that week or that month. To neutralize the words I heard or the day at work I had.
Or conviction for the judgement in my own heart. For truly being a jerk.
For the way I’d acted towards someone, or thought about another.
For how badly I’d handled a situation. Been angry and acted poorly.
I saw my failings much more clearly. But also received forgiveness and grace and freedom.
I walked out ready to face another day and at peace.
Eventually I just stopped wearing mascara to any worship service. Probably gonna cry it off anyway, right?
And while I still wasn’t confident in my call…
I knew my personality and past didn’t have to be the dealbreaker.
He was able.
I didn’t have to be able yet.
Getting past myself
Yesterday I was out for coffee with a university student. We talked about the gift of worship in a church service. Of how much that helps us.
It has a lot of functions.
For one, God is great and He deserves our praise.
But He’s also designed worship to help us. A lot.
Problems look different. Attitudes are altered. Priorities shift.
Process and Priorities
The past few days I’ve been reading a letter in the New Testament. It was written to the church in ancient Colossae.
Colossians 3:16 talks about how songs shift our focus. They not only teach us truth, they fix our eyes on it. And it’s not something we do alone.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
We can use music to “admonish” each other (place our mind on something, correct us by altering our focus). It’s certainly been significant in my own life.
I’m not good with emotions. Not naturally, anyway.
And if you’re like me, maybe you’ve gone through the same “emotional intelligence” work. Spent time working through it.
Identifying my feelings, naming them, understanding what I’m going through.
Consciously looking at the mood others in a room, and being responsive.
If that comes naturally to you, that’s awesome. I’m glad that’s your gift, and we desperately need people like that! For others, it’s hard work.
See these people
Along the way as I had these worship experiences, I met a lot of pastors.
And wow, did they have a variety of personalities. Some were as I expected. Some far different.
That helped open my eyes. I didn’t have to be perfect. And I didn’t have to be a certain way.
And I laughed a little and thought “what am I worried about? It’s not like I’m the one, single, exception. Like I’m the ONE personality God can’t use here.”
There was still work to do, though.
Get uncomfortable on purpose.
Instead of being afraid of new things, I began to seek them out.
To throw myself into these situations. Places I knew no one. Brand new experiences.
(Plus we lived in the city now — so I could actually get places on my own.)
I got into theatre. Started with painting sets, eventually acting too.
Began working in retail, which was a strange blessing. Essentially, being a cashier forced me to be everything I naturally wasn’t.
It was a crash course in small talk, speaking clearly and projecting my voice.
Of showing warmth and concern and making connections in ten seconds.
A couple years later, I’d even get promoted for being good at that.
Despite my lack of aptitude, I tried some sports. I began wrestling (very unsuccessfully) and running (which I wouldn’t get good at till college).
I ended up playing rugby (which was way more fun!) I ran short distances, tackled people, and someone else dealt with the depth-perception issue of catching the ball and running with it.
Plus I was on great teams.
That was an incredible change for me.
And eventually I’d step up in a church leadership situation. (More on that tomorrow.)
Resting jerk face
Resting jerk face.
Well, that’s not the common term, but it’s the most polite one I can come up with.
Even if I’m happy, my face might not match that.
I don’t naturally smile in most situations. Which makes me even more intimidating.
So I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.
During my retail career, I learned one for speaking. When you pick up the phone, smile before you talk. You’ll sound a lot nicer.
(Later I’d pick up on other tricks. This still takes work, right?)
Even these days, I’ve installed extra mirrors around the house so I can see myself and remember to smile. I’ll put on chapstick or lipstick more often, just so I’m aware. I even take a lot of selfies (that I don’t post!)
And when a nerve in my jaw was cut during surgery, and a corner of my mouth permanently sagged? I had to learn to compensate. Now I pull up that one side of my face in a smirk, and it’s a lot easier to naturally smile from there. Even though my face is never going to be even again.
(Or you think I’m smirking at you sometimes.)
And if I have oatmeal or soup on my face, I honestly don’t know it’s there.
It’s ok. My husband just has to say “blind spot” and I reflexively wipe that part of my jaw.
Good and funny stuff from a bad surgery, that’s for sure.
So what’s the point?
Why would God make me like this? Wouldn’t it just be better if I was naturally warm and outgoing and had a great aptitude for connecting with people?
Why would I have to work at it?
Is it just reflective of the brokenness of the world we live in? Am I lower than the ideal?
Is it some moral failing? Am I really just more of a jerk than other people?
Or did he have a purpose for this personality?
I believe there is great purpose to it.
Not only are there strengths that are the flip side to this weakness…
Not only do I like and respect the experiences that brought me here…
The result is fantastic. I thank God for that every day.
There’s a persistence and confidence I have now.
I don’t think I would have them any other way.
I don’t need the same level of affirmation and agreement in situations that many others do.
It’s nice to have. It’s not necessary.
And while I work hard to include people and make group decisions? My mood doesn’t rest on the outcome.
Work is something I’m used to. I don’t think I’m that great.
If I encounter information that I’m not perfect?
That’s no surprise, I can tell you that! And I’ll put in the effort to change what can be changed.
And I think I developed – somewhat strangely – a lot more empathy and concern.
I may not be able to tell you the emotional temperature of a room.
I may not pick up on who’s sad or happy instantly.
I have to work at that.
But I’ve already honed in on the three people who are new and haven’t talked to anyone.
I’ve opened up that conversation to include others.
You’ve been prayed for that week.
I’ve planned a lesson that speaks to you cognitively, emotionally, socially, and a host of other ways.
And I’m careful – so careful! – to not use shame or manipulation on others.
I can now identify when people are sharing constructive criticism…
Or they’re just lashing out from their own insecurity.
And the times where I’ve been labeled since then?
Called “weird,” or “different,” or any other thing, repeatedly?
It hurts, sure.
It still does damage over time.
But those labels? They don’t have the teeth they once would have.
And I know my need to focus on God.
To gather others to speak truth to me.
And to not lose sight of my call.
It’s Chihuahua damage, not wolf damage. (You still stop them from biting you… don’t let yourself get infected by whatever they carry… but the recovery is a lot smoother! Unless you get a whole pack of them, but that’s another story.)
I know my focus.
I know my strength.
And I know that God’s used me – just as I am – so far.
He’s gonna keep doing the job.
10. The path of wisdom
11. Redeemed and resurrected
12. Three big lies
13. Courage to change
14. Adulting is hard…
15. And mentoring is harder
16. Bombs and truth bombs
17. Females and finances
18. Two hundred bad sermons
19. Evangelical, Pentecostal, Female, and Not Alone
20. Strong arms or feeble hands?
21. Strength to strength