This is my sixth blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. For the Just Show Up blog post in response to the mundanefaithfulness.com call, please see Day 4 Love is a Home Like No Other.
Matthew 22: 37
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
2 Chronicles 14: 10
Then Asa prayed to God, “O GOD, you aren’t impressed by numbers or intimidated by a show of force once you decide to help”
As the busy school year resumed and I assumed a new position with additional responsibilities, the joy that had begun to unravel from opening my hands to God’s daily gifts of beauty was slowly stifled, as exhaustion began to mount in place of rest. My confidence as a teacher was waning, as grief began to catch up with me. It felt as if the world had become unstable, with the foundational love of my mother having been torn out from under me like a rug. And the energy and confidence I had once had for my passion of teaching, slowly dissipated.
I found hurt and anger mounting in my heart. I missed my Mom so very much, especially starting out in a new job. She had always been there for every new milestone, carried me in her prayers, her supportive emails and marathon phone calls. She had been a mother who had held me in her heart from the day I was conceived.
Around the same time my eyes and heart were opened to how I looked to friends, family and acquaintances to confirm my worth in this world. My lack of confidence in the cloud of grief exacerbated this desire to be seen, loved and accepted. I felt God urging me to stop participating in social media, to remove myself from an even greater drive for affirmation from the world, rather than from Him.
But even in retreating from the world of social media, I still found myself intimidated by people and their opinions of me. Especially in professing my faith to others, the fear within me would grow into an exponential force. But rather than shielding me from this fear, God encouraged me to step into its full force, much like a mother who coaxes her baby from a distance to take his very first steps toward her, as she kneels waiting before him with outstretched arms.
And so, I answered His call to give my testimony of faith at a special harvest service at our church. Each step leading up to standing before the crowd to witness to God’s powerful love was a step into trembling fear: asking the church leaders for permission, telling my story in advance to a woman in the church who would introduce me, choosing obedience above words of disapproval, requesting prayerful support minutes before rather than choosing to flee. And yet amazingly, as I stood there to profess the greatness of a God who calls us into His Great Love, the words flowed from my lips with ease. It felt much like the verse God had given me beforehand to strengthen my trust in Him from 1 Corinthians 2: 3-5 (The Message), although in my case I am unable to know, as Paul did, the impact my testimony had through the Spirit of God on those present:
I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate- I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it- and so, nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
Afterwards, a woman who had lost her husband to the exact same cancer as my mother, stepped forward to talk to me. She was astounded at this link between us, as the cancer was an extremely rare form. Little did she know the pivotal role God would use her in to draw me into much greater fears that would ultimately lead to a release from a bondage of fear that had crippled me for more than twenty years.
From that one step into deep-rooted fear, trusting in His Strength to carry me and His Spirit to speak through me, many more would come, as God would encourage me to (Deuteronomy 21: 6):
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail or forsake you.