Most of us, it seems, spend the first quarter century of our lives trying to figure out who the heck we are. We discover what we like, what we don’t like, our pecking order in our circles and in society. And with this information (quasi) firmly established, we find a comfortable rhythm within those comfortable parameters. In short: we tend to live in a box.
Sarcastic: I am basically Chandler Bing. No need for awkward silence – insert mildly inappropriate (but never mean-spirited) pun. Everyone is laughing and the silence goes away. Win!
Even-keeled: For the most part, I have my emotions completely under control. You will never have to worry about my causing any drama, nor will you have to bother with consoling me as I weep. Good, bad, or otherwise – I am not a crier.
Shy/Reserved: I kind of operate on the “don’t speak unless spoken to” mentality. This is not one of my best qualities. And, in fact, I have been told it makes me appear unapproachable. But, the truth is, if I’m not positive you want to talk to me, then I don’t want to risk bothering you. And mostly because I’m an…
Introvert: Truth be told, for a long time I saw this as a character flaw. Jesus can’t possibly use introverts who would rather be at home alone than anywhere else in the world (except maybe on a beach alone, with a book. Anyone??) But I’m not even a normal introvert. I am this weird paradox known as a high-functioning introvert. While I love love love my alone time, I get most filled up by spending time with one to three other people engaged in deep conversation. Don’t talk to me about the weather – I just might throw you out the window. (Consider yourself warned.)
If you’ve known me for more than a week, you are probably nodding your head in agreement with the above description. I’ve got “me” pretty well-defined.
So because of my disdain for small talk and approaching people at random, I very rarely (and only with deep conviction) go anywhere, where conversation will be required, where I will not know at least one person. Don’t worry, I have no issues with going to Target by myself – in fact, I quite enjoy it! But a random social engagement? A root canal sounds more appealing.
Despite God knowing these things about me (after all, it is He who made me), there have been times He has led me to a place *gasp* outside my comfort zone! And ironically, every time, I have been incredibly blessed even in my discomfort.
A few of my more notable examples:
In 2007, I went on my fifth missions trip to Venezuela. But this time, though I went with a group (made up of people all over the country), I essentially went alone. No friends, or even acquaintances, from my church went with me. This ended up being the greatest of my 5 trips in how I experienced God and how I saw Him work!
In 2014, an acquaintance of mine at the time, and fellow preschool mom, was telling me about this mom conference (Dot Mom) that another preschool mom had invited her to go to. It sounded interesting so I invited myself along, too. When you have a baby and a preschooler, you could use a conference to help you be a better mom! Amen? Though it wasn’t until I had already decided to go that I then discovered it was not local, but rather it was in Nashville. I highly considered backing out. For this introvert, the idea of spending an entire weekend with a close acquaintance, a girl I’d only met, and a girl I’d never met (who would also be the one driving us) was enough to make me want to curl up in the fetal position and pull a blanket over my head. Nevertheless, I went – bracing myself for the most awkward weekend of my life. But instead, I walked away having made some of my now dearest friends. One of whom has remarked on more than one occasion: “Knowing you now, I can’t believe you went to Nashville with us!” Me, too, Sister. ME, TOO.
Most recently, this past weekend I decided, last minute, to go to a local simulcast of the IF:Gathering conference. IF is an organization focused on equipping and unleashing women to make disciples who make disciples. I have kind of been following them online for a couple of years. When I first read about the conference, I was determined to go! I eagerly invited a few close friends, because I sure as heck didn’t want to go by myself. They all declined. And then I found out that it started a 2:00 on Friday; not at a more convenient time like 6:00 (after husband is home from work and kids are home from school). So I wrote it off as “oh well. Maybe next year” and I just forgot about it. Then, for some reason, the weekend before the dates of the conference, it was brought back to my mind and I could just not let it go. I talked to my husband who said he could work from home that day and pick up our son from school if I really wanted to go. Bless him. So on the Tuesday before the Friday it started, I signed up. All. By. Myself.
On Friday night, we were given a 2-hour break for dinner. I was tempted to just go home since I surely didn’t want to just invite myself along to dinner with anyone. But a couple of the ladies sitting around me invited me to go to dinner with them. So I obliged. (Later, I texted my friend – the one I mentioned above – and told her I had gone to dinner with some people I had just met after coming to the conference alone. Her response was epicly accurate: “What?? Who are you?” I was starting to wonder that myself.)
The weekend was packed with so many amazing speakers who had messy lives and a heart for God’s Word. I admire every single one of them. But knew I could never be like them. I hated public speaking or attention put on me, ever. My required college speech class was full of the things that nightmares are made of for me!
But, then something happened. One of the last speakers, Angie Smith, admitted how incredibly nervous she was. I never would have guessed it! She is such a gifted, eloquent-yet-sarcastic speaker – I could listen to her talk about Jesus for hours! And then, Jennie Allen, the founder and visionary of IF, told her story of how up until just a few years ago, she was a stay-at-home mom with no twitter account and no blog and effectively no influence on the world at large, and yet there she was speaking to thousands of people a message that was being simulcasted around the globe!
That’s when I realized, I’ve wrapped my life up into such a tiny, comfortable box that there is very little room for me to grow and for God to use me. Then He gently tells me: “Forget what you like, forget what you don’t like. Forget your preferences and insecurities. And RUN! Just run!”
As I am still trying to process all that I heard this past weekend, both from the speakers and from God, I am anxious to see what this year brings. I’m both afraid and excited that it might mean discomfort – stepping outside my comfort zone and my own self-imposed constraints. But I fully realize that it is outside my box where I am obedient and I will grow! In becoming undefined, I am becoming refined and redefined by Him.
What does your box look like? What colors have you used to paint your life? What scares you about letting God redefine you? There is freedom in running! IF God is who He says He is – then what does that mean for us? Let’s, together, run free!