Every year for many years, my mom has organized a county-wide Christian women's retreat in East Tennessee. When I've been able to attend, I've participated in various ways; I've photographed and sung and taught breakout sessions, and this past year I was a main speaker. The theme was fear. I went into the situation feeling like I had some thoughts to contribute.
Generally, I feel tired after speaking; in recent years, I've noticed I feel tired even after teaching, but the fatigue that set in after this event may have been unprecedented. I was motivated to drive home that evening (and was rewarded, later, for making that decision) but needed to stop several times on the three-hour trip just to stay awake. I felt exhausted and heavy, awkward and almost bruised, like I'd fallen or run into a wall.
As time passed, every time I thought about my part in the event, I felt...icky. I'm generally confident in my words, so my discomfort was unusual. I was sure I'd said the wrong things in the wrong way with the wrong spirit. I suspected I'd been controversial, possibly offensive. I tried not to agonize or even mull over the situation, but for months, it was in the back of my mind, bothering me.
Then I allowed someone's words to wound me. I don't know this person but had known for years that I disagreed with some of his theology, so I have no idea why I internalized what he said...unless because I was already so busy second-guessing myself.
Two months after the retreat, my mom came to visit. She happened to have with her the recording of the event, and I asked to listen to my part. I can't express how much I dreaded hearing myself but had been so unusually miserable that I felt sure I'd said something for which I needed to repent. I just wanted to identify it and move forward. I cringed as my mom pressed play.
Listening to myself was an interesting exercise because I heard nothing to regret. Of course there was room for improvement (There always is!), but I didn't hear anything like what I'd expected. Instead, I heard myself trying to find points of agreement and connection, taking special care not to disparage others. I heard myself sharing active pain and struggle, also some hard-won wisdom. I was especially interested in the points at which I'd gone off script because it seemed possible to me that someone really needed to hear the things I hadn't planned to say. What a relief! How much energy, I wonder, had I wasted by allowing my mind to play tricks on me?
I have always blogged to write myself down for my children, and if that's all I accomplish with this post, I will be satisfied. But this is what I want to share, today, and it's nothing new:
Let your light shine.
Your pain is not off limits; in fact, your pain is your power. It just takes practice to know how to use it! If you practice enough, your pain will light your way into spaces you never imagined. You'll look around, and no one else will be there to do the work that needs done. There will be no competition; no one else will even want to do it. You may not want to do it, yourself, but you will know it to be your work, and you will be equipped to complete it.
Those who are wise in Christ know: in the Kingdom, we are short-handed. (The harvest is great, but the laborers are few.) There simply aren't enough willing hands. There is far more to do than what is being accomplished. Be inspired: you are desperately needed! Stay in the Spirit, and get to work.