The back burners of my mind have been plumb full these past few weeks. You know, those spaces on the outskirts of our consciousness, just outside of the focus of our daily doings. While we carry on with our duties, our dreams and ideas can sit and simmer, waiting for our attention. When we have free moments we can stir and season, discarding some thoughts and savoring others.
My back burners were all occupied with one thing. A couple of months ago I had agreed to speak with a group of homeschool moms in a neighboring town. I’d never done this before. It is completely out of my skill set. I had effectively put off thinking about it, but as the time drew near, I found that all of my many burners were overflowing with thoughts about this event.
Then the inner critic showed up. She sniffed disdainfully at each simmering idea. “Too bland.” “Too spicy.” “Not relevant!” She picked at every thought, sampling each flavor and finding them all wanting. In desperation, I threw up feeble prayers for help.
Whenever I sat down to write anything I found the thoughts either half-baked or congealed, completely inedible. I pushed the words around on the page like a picky toddler with her vegetables; halfheartedly sampling a snippet here and there with no real enthusiasm. I was stuck.
You see, I hate posers. And since I know that I am hands-down the very worst, most uncreative, horrible, very bad homeschool mom ever, I did not think I could do this thing without becoming that which I detest. A fake. A hypocrite. Who am I to offer encouragement to anyone else, when most of the time I’m barely keeping it together myself?
As the day drew closer, my Lord spoke softly. He reminded me that He has never asked me to be anything but myself. He merely asks me to be vulnerable enough to speak with honesty about my own journey. As I focused on that, on the many things he has taught me through this homeschooling odyssey, I found two main thoughts that percolated to the top. I sat down and wrote them out. I chronicled how I had come to learn these lessons.
Then I prayed. I practiced my words because I am a woman who can hardly make a doctor’s appointment without my voice getting shaky and my mind going blank. I go into full-on chihuahua mode, quivering from head to toe when confronted with new or scary situations. It’s quite embarrassing, really.
As the ladies arrived, I watched and listened to their conversations. They appeared much more godly and grown up than I felt. When we had a time of introduction, I found that many of these women have been at this homeschooling game longer than I. I wondered if my words would have any relevance for this group. I wondered how to appear confident while stripping down raw in front of people I didn’t know.
But most of all, I wondered if they would like me at all if they really knew me.
How would I know if I was being a poser, or if I was truly walking out what my Lord wanted me to do? How do we ever know if we are really being genuine? When we minister, when we do anything, how do we do it with humility and authenticity?
I recently watched the movie, Ragamuffin, about the life of Christian artist Rich Mullins. He epitomized the tension of desperately desiring to serve Christ while being far too aware of his own failings. His struggle to accept the love of his Creator drove him to a lifetime of alcohol abuse. And his fame in the Christian world, so at odds with his emotional baggage, was sheer torment.
We should all be able to relate, in some small way, to this dilemma. I know that I do. I so want to walk in the goodness of Christ; to immerse myself in his beauty and let his love pour out of me in rivers. Yet I know how small I am, how petty and dark. It makes me want to wail and run and hide because, really, how could he possibly use me at all?
I am a poser. I am sometimes a hypocrite. I hide under the misery of my own failings so that he can’t use me. Yet my Jesus loves me anyway. He loves me so much that he continues to knead and shape and mold me into something that will someday be a masterpiece.
As I began to share my story with these beautiful ladies, I felt a peace come over me. Looking into eyes that spoke of understanding and acceptance stilled my shaking hands. I realized that it really doesn’t matter who I am. It only matters who He is.
And the only authenticity I can really experience is in sharing the work he is doing in my life. That is what is real. My shortcomings don’t matter. They don’t define me. Only Jesus does.
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”
“And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8, HCSB