For when I'm not Perfect.
I recently told a friend that if I had to use one word to describe what I have been feeling lately it would be terror. I like to be real in my relationships and in my writing, because I'm sure the things that I am feeling and experiencing are not uncommon and that many people can benefit from the lessons that God is teaching me. That confession of fear was obviously not coming from a place of faith or confidence in the Lord. Rather, it was a humble confession of the very human fear that I have been experiencing lately.
God has been very strategically chipping away at some old lies I have believed and although it has been a painful process, it has brought me to a greater level of freedom than I have ever experienced before. For several years, I have prayed for change. I have prayed for a new season. Now that the new season is here, the excitement and anticipation that I should be feeling oftentimes take a backseat to fear and uncertainty. This fear and uncertainty has brought me to a place where I have been forced to ask myself some hard questions. The primary question being what exactly is it that I am afraid of?
Over the past couple of days, God has exposed a familiar root in me: Perfectionism. This is an area of my life that God has brought to my attention before, but now I feel that He has made it an area of focus, in terms of my growth and maturity in him. Since childhood, I have always been the straight A student. If you give me a task to complete, I will do everything within my power to make sure I excel at it and that I get it right. In some ways, I have found my identity in that. I can remember times that I cried and cried over a B on a report card. I would feel this deep sense of disappointment in myself that I hadn't made the mark. There was no room for average or mediocre. I was either the best or I was nothing.
I am realizing that some of this attitude has carried over into my adult life. When I do something, I want to be excellent at it. I am extremely motivated and determined. These are great qualities to have. The problem is that I can't always be excellent. There are going to be things that I'm not gifted in and there are going to be some areas of my life where I will have to grow in my gifting. Growth comes by trial and error and making mistakes. It's all a part of the process.
I am realizing that God's plans for me are far greater than the plans that I have for myself. I have always seen myself as more of a support person, a behind the scenes girl. The more that my calling and gifts have evolved, the more and more God has required me to take the lead in more obvious ways. Despite the fact that I have always hated public speaking, I find myself preaching more and more. I have developed a sense of comfort preaching to the group of 30 students we minister to weekly, but I know that opportunities are fast approaching for me to speak to large groups of people that I don't know. The girl that finds comfort in being behind the scenes is being pushed out of the nest and asked to take the stage.
This scares me because its so new and so uncertain and so outside of my comfort zone that mistakes and goof ups are inevitable. Rough nights and slip-ups are bound to happen. I will say dumb things from time to time. I will wish at the end of the day that I had done things differently. I will walk in to situations and opportunities feeling like I don't know what I'm doing. But what I hear the Lord saying to me is "That's okay." It's okay to be uncertain. It's okay to make mistakes through this process. It's okay that some nights will go better than others. You live. You learn. You move on. At the end of the day, it is not about Theresa. It's not about how well I do or how eloquently I speak. At the end of the day, it is the Holy Spirit that does the work. It is He that puts His words on my lips. It is He who shows me step by step how to walk throughout each day of this amazing adventure. He does not require for me to be perfect. He only asks that I be willing and obedient. He will do the rest.
I am moved by the words of Paul that he writes to the Corinthians, "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling" ( 1 Cor. 2:1-3). This is Paul speaking, the great apostle, evangelist, church planter and author of much of the New Testament. Yet, even he was hyperaware of his own fear and weakness in the face of the enormous call on his life. Paul continues with these powerful words, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power" (1 Cor. 2:4-5). Paul was not the most wise or persuasive speaker, but He was willing and eager to be used by God. He was obedient to step out even if it was with weakness, fear and trembling. The spread of the Gospel message, the growth of the New Testament church and the miracles of Paul's day had nothing to do with Paul delivering a great sermon or commanding an audience's attention. Rather, it was by "a demonstration of the Spirit's power." It was and always is the Holy Spirit that does the work of salvation, deliverance and transformation. That is my prayer. My prayer is that God would use me as His vessel to arrange a time and a place for people to meet and to encounter God, but that God would move me out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do the work.
God is doing a deep work in my heart that is setting the stage for what comes next. He is causing all of my fears and insecurities to be exposed. He is shining his light on every weakness. He is no longer allowing me to hide behind what's comfortable and familiar and easy for me to control. He is causing me to take my trust in Him to a whole new level. He is asking me to believe that my greatest weaknesses can become my greatest strengths because these will be the areas where I depend on God the most. I believe that the areas in my life where I experience the most fear will be the areas where God unleashes the greatest opportunities. One thing I know for sure. At the end of my life, when I look back on all the miracles, the breakthroughs and the monument moments, I will be able to take no credit. The glory will be God's and God's alone.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with my weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)