A few weeks ago I received a notice that my domain name for this site would be expiring soon and to keep it I needed to update my credit card information.
I didn’t immediately jump to action. I haven’t written much here lately, and wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. The nagging voices of self doubt penetrated my mind, making me wonder if I really had anything of value to say, or if anyone other than the loyal few would even be interested. I write about my life (boring!), and my opinion on current events (minefield!) and topics related to faith and spirituality. On the latter, I often have viewpoints that contradict what those in the mainstream believe, and it’s often a very lonely place. Social media has demonstrated that it’s difficult to have constructive conversation with people with whom you disagree, and I have always wanted this to be a place where people could thoughtfully and safely discuss a variety of issues. My hesitance to provide yet another space on the web for people to sling hurtful words has kept me from writing about a lot of things — and that’s sad. Not because I think my opinions are better or that the world desperately needs to hear my voice (lol), but because no one should be silenced by fear.
The more I considered what to do about that renewal notice, the more I thought about fear and the effect it’s had on my life. Fear (and a touch of ye olde inferiority complex) prevented me from taking chances as a kid. I didn’t play Little League baseball because I was afraid of being laughed at if I wasn’t good at it. I skipped the fourth grade county spelling bee because I was afraid of standing in front of all those people. I didn’t date in high school because my fragile heart was afraid of rejection. I avoided many of the nightlife and social scenes in college, smugly telling myself it was because I wanted to focus on my studies and keep my morality in tact — but really I feared not fitting in, not knowing how to navigate that world. I could have traveled the world, worked at awesome internships, made more friends … but that silly, self-righteous girl I was was terrified of stretching beyond the limits of comfort. Don’t misunderstand — those years brought memories and friendships I deeply cherish, and I wouldn’t trade those for anything. I just wonder what my life would have been like had I challenged myself more — or at all.
I’ve had a lot of catching up to do in the past couple of years. If you’ve read here before or know me in real life, you know that I got divorced two and a half years ago. It probably sounds cliche, but that event has so far been the most defining experience of my life. Through it, I learned what it meant to push beyond the limits (not because I wanted to, but because I had to). I learned that no matter what happens, I’m going to be okay. That whatever challenge is before me, I can overcome it. And that sometimes, the worst things that happen to us can also be the best.
I know these things, and yet still find myself battling against fear, and doubting God’s perfect provision. It’s always been my dream to have a family, and each passing day is a reminder that neither time nor age ever slow down. I worry myself to sleep sometimes wondering if the choices I made in the past have prevented me from having a happy future. Lately I’ve been working really hard to accept that perhaps God has a different plan for me, and to discern what that may be. Don’t let the televangelists fool you — it’s exhausting, confusing, difficult work. I have no idea of the outcome, but I do believe it’s worth the effort.
But the biggest fear that’s kept me from writing? Being labeled a hypocrite. There are people from my past who may — or may not, who knows, I don’t keep track of that stuff — read the words I post here. Some of them have seen me at my absolute worst, and have been on the receiving end of some extremely hurtful words and actions. There were many awful things that happened to me during my marriage and its demise and though I do not acknowledge them as “okay,” I have forgiven them and accepted them as part of my story.
But part of my story is also acknowledging the things I did wrong, too, and believe me, there were plenty. Mostly reactionary and founded upon fear, insecurity and immaturity, but wrong nonetheless. I know my words caused harm. I was scared senseless back in those days, and like a wounded dog lashes out at those even trying to help, many times hurt people … well, they hurt people. I do not wish for present circumstances to change, but if there’s one thing I do wish it’s that I could go back and handle some of those situations differently, and with a head held higher. And I sincerely hope that those I hurt have been able to move on in happiness, have grown through their own self-reflection, and have experienced the freedom that comes from forgiveness — not for my sake, but for their own.
I’ve been afraid to talk about forgiveness. I’ve been afraid to share my thoughts about God and about the ways in which Jesus completely wrecks and saves my life every. single. day. Just a few years ago, none of these things really mattered to me. I kept God at arm’s length because his expectations of me didn’t fit with my plan and frankly, I didn’t see much good in a lot of the people proclaiming his name. Christians got on my nerves (spoiler alert: they still do). This journey into deeper faith has often been a struggle, but at every turn I am reminded that I am not who I once was. My past, my pain, my scars — they are still with me, but they do not define me. I am a new creation.
I don’t think that makes me a hypocrite.
I think that makes me transformed.
Last month, blogger Micah J. Murray wrote a piece that’s been on my mind ever since I read it. I encourage you to check it out for yourself, but I wanted to share a section that I particularly loved. Micah describes a video of a dog on a boat in a river. He writes:
A wave crashed over the front of the boat, and the terrified dog landed in the water — whether he jumped or was swept over, I’m not sure. Probably both. But the moment he splashed to the surface, his human reached into the water, fished him out of danger, and set him back in the front of the boat.
I am that dog. This is my relationship with faith, with church, with Jesus. Every time I am swept overboard, every time I leave the church, every time I lose my faith, God grabs me and puts me back in the boat.
All my fear and flailing and honest searching and hopeless swearing ultimately have very little to do with my staying.
Jesus can’t seem to lose me.
I’ll make more mistakes; you can bet on that. I’ll have more sleepless nights, more questions, more doubts. I’ll probably even hurt more feelings, though I’d really like to avoid that one. People past and present may look at my life and my words and judge what they think doesn’t measure up. That’s okay. Faith is messy and hard, and none of us is perfect.
But I can tell you one thing — I’m in the boat.
And there is zero room left for fear.