God: "Just be yourself and don't worry about it."
Me: "What? What did you say?"
God: "Just be yourself and don't worry about it."
Me: "That is not helpful."
I'm a curious sort of person. By that, I mean I can get inquisitive. When I am on a roll, I ask questions and ponder and dig and ask more questions and do more pondering and then, well, dig some more.
Several years ago, I asked God how He sees me. He showed me a white bulldog puppy, adorned with a very big pink bow, whose attention was focused on a chew toy. That puppy was tenacious about the chew toy. She would gnaw on it then lay down for a nap, keeping one paw on the chew toy while she napped. Then she would get up and pace circles around the chew toy, paw it for a bit then gnaw some more, then she would lie still for a while and stare at the chew toy. Over and over again.
After objecting to the great pinkness of the bow, I had to laugh because that is an accurate portrait of how I get when I'm into something. Bulldoggedly tenacious. Until I get bored, that is. When I get bored with something then time's up. I lose all interest.
I'm that way with the online world. I find a website and look around to see what I can see. I click on available links to see where they lead. One never knows what will be discovered by following links. That's how I found my online tribe.
I'd discovered a networking site affiliated with Ransomed Heart Ministries and made some connections there. While doing that, I found a link on someone's page and followed it. That led me to an online group of people, a tribe.
The tribe's description was enough to make me stand up on the inside and shout, "YES!!" I had been looking for a group of people like this for years.
Here's the tribe's description:
* You are desperately & authentically in love with Jesus.
* You have gone "all in" with God--fully surrendered, fully engaged.
* You will not let him go. Period.
* You know Grace.
* You have experienced supernatural transformation.
* You have transcended all the petty and ridiculous lines of division in the Church.
* You hate religion--more specifically, the religious spirit.
* You befriend--and do life with--non Christ Followers.
* You know God has called you into a Larger Story, a bigger and much scarier life, and you have said yes.
* You will do anything he asks of you.
* You are committed to the dual ambition of ever-deepening intimacy with God and to the bold expansion of his Kingdom in the world.
* You know that this is war.
* You ache with the beauty & wonder & majesty of life...and see the glory & splendor God has woven into every human soul.
* You want to join with others who have crossed the line from "safe" Christianity into the realm of the Dangerous, Radical Free.
After much internal debate, I decided to join the Dangerous Radical Free tribe.
It has been a gift to me. Connections made on the DRF site led to Facebook connections and Twitter connections. Online relationships have translated into real-world relationships. I've enjoyed wonderful phone conversations and have met tribe members face-to-face.
None of it has been easy.
It's a lot easier to show up as myself in the online world. I don't see the widened eyes and flared nostrils of someone whose toes I might have accidentally stepped on. I don't see the glazed look of incomprehension that shows up when I say something that makes complete sense to me but which nobody else gets. I don't see the offended glare of someone whose nose gets out of joint when I leapfrog over their thinking process to reach a conclusion about something. There's a kind of anonymity that comes with online connections, so I feel safer being authentic there.
I have trust and rejection issues. Sizeable ones. Stepping out and connecting with people, showing up as my real self, taking online connections offline...all of it is pretty scary to me.
Still, God told me at the beginning of the year to be myself and not worry about it. I'm doing okay with the being myself part. Not great, but okay.
I'm not doing so well with the "don't worry about it" part. I do worry about it. I worry that I'll do something or say something incredibly stupid. Or maybe I'll cross the line with someone and not realize it until it's too late. Or I could hurt someone's feelings. Or I could...
There are lots of things I could do wrong if I show up as myself. But I've been doing it anyway, even though I constantly second-guess.
Part of "doing it anyway" is showing up at a home church that meets in Austin every other week. Some of the group's members are also members of the DRF tribe. That's how I got involved with them in the first place. DRF to Facebook to the offline world.
It costs me to meet with this group of people. It's a three hour trip from here to there. But it has been worth it.
This group of people has made me feel welcomed and wanted. I don't often feel welcomed and wanted, so it's a big deal to me. They really seem to care about what's going on in my inner world, even when I don't want to share. They're willing to press past my defenses to get to the real me. I'm learning to feel safe in this group. I'm learning that it really is okay to just be myself.
In a previous post I mentioned how God loves me too much to leave me alone, trapped in a life of isolation and darkness. I can see His fingerprints on the connections I've made with this group of people who have welcomed me into their homes and lives.
I also mentioned how Satan has a plan for my life, a plan to keep me trapped in a life of isolation and darkness.
I didn't recognize it until recently but every time I'm about to make the trip to Austin all of the insecurities I battle rise to the surface. All of my fears and rejection issues come alive, screaming at me to stay hidden. Then, once I've gotten home from a trip, it all comes back again. Fear rises up, shouting at me that I'm crazy for doing this, announcing that the people with whom I just spent considerable time are going to reject me because rejection is inevitable. Everything I did or said that could be taken in a negative light traipses across my inner screen, taunting me.
It's a freaking war zone.
Today I spoke with someone who asked me why I still struggle with the "don't worry about it" part of God's instructions. That "why" question hadn't even entered my mind until she asked. I was too busy focusing on the "just be yourself" part.
While I think there are several answers to the "why" question, there is one answer that stands out the most.
It IS a war zone. Satan still has a plan for my life and will work to fulfill it, just like God is working to fulfill HIS plan for my life. Looking at it from that perspective, I can see that all of the doubts and fears and wounds I have are targeted by the enemy of my soul. He punches them, hard, trying to undermine what God is doing in my life. He throws thoughts at me, hoping I'll believe them and take them as my own. He stirs the pot, working on my emotions, trying to cause me to crater into despair.
I've cratered before. It wasn't pretty. I'm still cleaning up the mess that was made when that happened.
Satan knows this. So does God. So do I.
So, what is the best thing I can do with all of the above?
I can just be myself and NOT WORRY ABOUT IT! I can accept the love and community that is offered by this wonderful group of people with whom I've connected. I can recognize that this life is a war zone and everyone is broken. I can celebrate the fact that, in the midst of all the fear and torment and heartache and crap, God's love is real and true and bigger than anything else.
So, maybe I do feel feelings of darkness. Maybe I get scared, really scared, every time I am going to let down my boundaries and show up as myself. Maybe I am scared that I'll get hurt, or feel rejected, or embarrass myself.
All of those feelings are real. But they are not necessarily true.
The truth is this: I can step out in all of my broken, messy, quirky, weird, obnoxious splendor and there are those who will genuinely embrace me. The broken, messy, quirky, weird, obnoxious stuff doesn't make me less acceptable. It makes me human. There's beauty in the mess.
That's why I can, in spite of what feelings show up, just be myself and not worry about it. I may not do it well, but that's not really the point. The point is that I'll do it.
That's the paradox - beauty in the mess.