Permission to Shine

FEARLESS! That was going to be my word for 2019! I chose it prayerfully and purposefully. I chose it hoping God would align events and opportunities in my life throughout the next year that would allow me the chance to exercise this declaration and grow to really claim the identity of a woman who laughs without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25)… I like to think of my prayer life like the children’s book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” (I hope that reference is relevant and I didn’t just show how uncool I am!) Basically I mean, if you ask God for the opportunity to grow, he WILL ask you to do things outside your comfort zone. I asked God to make me fearless and I should’ve known He’d ask me to do things that make me fearful. Lesson learned: you don’t become fearless by staying safe. You become fearless by doing the dangerous and learning no matter what, God will be faithful like He says He will. The way the year’s kicked off, I’m betting I’m not done being uncomfortable, but I’ve never been more excited to do what scares me! 

IMG_7026Lesson learned: you don’t become fearless by staying safe. You become fearless by doing the dangerous and learning no matter what, God will be faithful like He says He will.

Have you ever thought about the role fear plays in your life? Before recently, I wouldn’t have considered myself a fearful person. I was always quieter; slower to speak and slower to act, but confident. My parents instilled confidence in me from a young age and it’s always come pretty naturally to me. I am an introvert, a deep thinker, and I believe that being slow to speak is wise. (James 1:19) These are things that made me, me and I was proud of them growing up. Once my pastor called meekness “quiet confidence” and I deeply identified with the description. I liked being that person… until I got older. Slowly I became aware that the world values extroverts and bubbly girls get more attention. Life taught me that the loudest people are listened to and to be outgoing is to be more successful and I started to believe these lies. I began to hear that I was “intimidating” because of the qualities I used to appreciate and, while I think it was usually meant as a compliment (or at least nothing negative), I did not see it that way and it did not feel that way. In college these fears were confirmed for me when I heard that a group of girls in my dorm called me scary. This devastated me! I didn’t want to be scary! Jesus was warm and inviting and welcoming, right?! How can I be like him if I’m not those things?

Friendly reminder: Just because someone identifies you as something does not mean you have to own it as your identity! 

(And even if the results didn’t read “extrovert” on that personality questionnaire – you have immense value to offer! Just another friendly reminder. 😉 )

I did own it, unfortunately, and so began a self transformation that actually led to a lot of positive growth I’m grateful for, but also a confused heart that needed to be reminded of her real identity and the opinion that matters. I stopped acting out of calm confidence and started acting out of fear. Fear of offending anyone or being misunderstood or coming across in any way I didn’t intend to carefully communicate. I decided that I would do everything it takes to be someone people thought of as warm and joyful. Unconsciously I decided that making myself small and harmonious was better than being big and potentially rubbing anyone the wrong way. My number one goal, as far as people were concerned, was to basically be so nice no one could have anything negative to say about me. This desire is so dangerous. Because no matter if you are the sweetest honey there ever was, some people just don’t like honey and you being the sweetest isn’t going to change their mind. Nobody needs that kind of pressure. It isn’t our job to control what other people think of us, so why let those hypothetical, possible opinions dictate our actions?! In the words of Henry Cloud and John Townsend, “Nowhere are we commanded to have “other-control,” although we spend a lot of time and energy trying to get it!” (From “Boundaries” – highly recommend!)

The funny thing is, even though the root of these changes was fear, a lot of good came from it. I did grow in my capacity to communicate warmth and make other’s feel welcome. I leaned into the characteristics of Jesus that I wanted to emulate more. Today I’m a kinder person and eventually some of that fake-it-till-you-make-it bubbly outgoingness turned into real extroversion. I know better than to value extroversion above introverted strengths now, but that change has allowed me to connect and encourage in a way I didn’t have the confidence to before. I’m reminded of when Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done” (Genesis 50:20) Thankfully God can use imperfect people and our imperfect efforts to work out His perfect plan in and through us. 

It wasn’t until so many other things I relied on to make me feel safe and confident were gone that the root of fear in my life became obvious. No good grades or impressive internship or cool job… When it was just me and God left I found myself asking that new mom-identity crisis question I thought I never would: “who am I?!” The approval is so tangible when you’re accomplishing and achieving, but when things slow down a little, so does the cheering. We spend so much time prioritizing growth and development and self help. All such great things! Sometimes though, under all the curated qualities and goals and resolutions, the us we were created and called to embrace gets lost. We have to be careful not to trade in authenticity for a murky combination of do it all/please them all efforts in our pursuit of the best version of ourselves. 

The bottom line is that I want to be so consumed with finding out who God is that I’m not consumed by the existential questions about myself. I want to believe that “the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me” so unwaveringly that I’m unconcerned with my personal limitations. (Romans 8:11) I want my life to be so characterized by the fruits of the Spirit that I’m un-phased by the opinions of my personality from a critic. I’m not interested in reaching a place of self love and confidence because I’m “good enough.” I chose “fearless” for 2019 because I was made by a God who did not give me “a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) And I think it’s about time I owned that. Because if that isn’t permission to shine, I don’t know what is. 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

-Marianne Williamson

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Wearing “Fearless” around my neck as a reminder thanks to The Crowning Jewels! I was so blown away blessed by them sending this necklace to me and so thankful for the heart and ministry behind their beautiful jewelry! You can learn more about them on their website AND they gave me a discount code for you to shop with!! Use “LAUREN15” to get $15 off a purchase of $75 or more! Feel free to send this article to the man in your life as a little hint hint 😉

Bless you friends!

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