Saturday evening. On such a night, many young people my age have plans doing whatever it is that people do when they have a social life and friends living within driving distance. I don’t get out much. Which is why on most Saturday nights, I stay in. I sit in the big red comfy chair downstairs with my computer on my lap and a Diet Coke on the floor by my feet as I scroll through Netflix Watch Instantly to find something to entertain me. I write out some thoughts, pin a few things, and am satisfied in doing absolutely nothing.
Only tonight, my sister was on a mission. She had begun laying the groundwork for said mission earlier in the week, dropping subtle hints and thinly veiled threats. She’s kind of stealthy with a dash of meanness, so she tends to get what she wants. So on this Saturday evening, when I was prepared to embark on my lazy night in, she declares, “Get up. We’re going to church in twenty minutes. And I don’t like those boots with that dress.”
Considering I wouldn’t be able to talk my way out of church, I kept on the boots as a silent rebellion (and still maintain they looked great).
For many of you, this might not seem all that unusual, the whole going to church every weekend, but for me it’s not the norm. I’m not a regular church-goer. I could give you a few excuses that might have had truth when I first started using them, most of them some version of being disillusioned with organized religion. But as months turn into years, it becomes easier not to go.
It becomes easier to convince yourself that a personal relationship with God is more important than which church building you walk into every Sunday. It becomes easier to lie to yourself and say that fellowshipping doesn’t help your faith grow and worshipping can be done in private. It becomes easier to be lazy, to give up, to turn your back even when you know you shouldn’t.
I’ve never truly understood why the very idea of going to church, setting foot in a sanctuary, surrounding myself with other believers as we listen to a sermon brings on something akin to a panic attack. It stresses me out. There is no reason for it, no logical explanation. But every time my sisters invite me to accompany them to church, I feel as if my blood has turned to ice and my throat is closing up.
I wasn’t given a choice tonight. I was going; my sister declared it to be so. And as we pulled into the parking lot, I could feel that shadow beginning to surround me. I was uncomfortable. I was out of place. I didn’t belong here.
We sat near my sisters friends, shook hands with people I didn’t know as I tried to hide my discomfort. I smiled a smile that could have been painted on, and I counted the minutes.
And when the pastor began to pray and the worship band filled the space with their music, I realized why I don’t like being in church. I realized why I avoid it more than I avoid going to the doctor. I realize why I feel so extremely uncomfortable and unlike myself the moment I step foot into God’s presence.
I am moved. I am moved by His Spirit, moved by His love. I am filled with a sense of knowing. I am close to Him, surrounded by Him. I have placed myself in the midst of His presence and He welcomes me into it. He takes me by the hand and envelopes me. He speaks to me through the songs, prayers, and message of His faithful followers, and I cannot escape Him.
It terrifies me. And I hate that I’m afraid of those feelings.
I live my life in fear. I’m afraid of making mistakes and I’m afraid of what I’m capable of. I’m afraid that just maybe, I might actually have a gift, a calling that could take me somewhere I can’t even dream of. I’m afraid of what I could do if I gave everything to God.
I’m afraid of being good at something, or being blessed. I’m afraid of the responsibility that would mean. I’m afraid of failing, of being rejected, of embarrassing our God.
I’m afraid that maybe I do have what it takes, that I can go places and make a difference. I’m afraid of letting go and trusting that it will be alright. I’m afraid of what it would mean to be fully and truly a person who is called to serve a powerful God.
We aren’t called to live in that fear. 2 Timothy says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God gave us a spirit to do things, a spirit of action, a spirit of power. We are given, each of us, gifts and callings. We are blessed with them. We are all an amazing and special part of the body of Christ, and each part is significant. God knew that His church would someday need a person who can do things that only you can do, so He breathed us into existence so that it may be so.
It’s an insult to our Father and to ourselves to ignore, hide, or waste those gifts. It’s detrimental to the Church when we actively decide to walk away and choose a different path. It’s unfair to ourselves to deny what we have been created to do, to pretend that we can’t do it. It’s a tragedy when our calling goes unanswered and our talents are wasted.
Marianne Williamson wrote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
I’m afraid of what I could be. The idea of being called to do something is absolutely terrifying. The realization that I don’t technically have control over my gifts or where they could lead leaves me in a panic. So I retreat. I hide in my red chair and cross my fingers that maybe I’ll just be able to pretend enough, believe enough, pray enough to get by without actually doing anything.
But God did not give me the spirit of fear. He gave me, instead, His Holy Spirit. He dwells within me. He wants me to act on the gifts I’ve been given. He wants me to go out and do what He has called me to do. And He wants me to ask for His help, His support, His love as I navigate through the frustrations of this world. He wants me to be a bit terrified, because nothing about living for an all-powerful God is safe or easy.
It requires trust, faith, and giving up control. And I sincerely don’t know if I can do it. I’m not sure I’m ready. Perhaps I’ll never be ready. But God meets us wherever we are. He’s not waiting for me to be ready or perfect. He’s just waiting for me to finally say, “Yes.”
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