Sunday, March 15, 2009


Ever have a period in your life when the same theme keeps repeating itself? I keep bumping into the same idea lately. It comes to mind during conversations I have, in books I'm reading, in songs I hear, in my prayer time, and even in those random thoughts that assault me as I am quieting my mind before sleep. It just came up again, about an hour ago in a conversation I was having with someone after church. I think God's telling me to pony up and dig in deep and explore it.

First, let me start with this:

It is a quote by Nelson Mandela. I first read it in July 2001, when I went for a job interview. This exact painting was in the stairwell of the company where I was interviewing. I was nervous about the interview, and took the stairs up to the receptionist's desk. There, on the stair landing, this painting stopped me dead in my tracks. I read it and a sense of calm spread over me. I knew I was where I needed to be at that time in my life. It was a tumultous point in my life, as I had just been fired (from a ministry, no less! Ouch!) and I was lacking confidence in myself. Truly, how would you feel after being rejected by an entire corporation full of Christians? I was in pain.

"It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." Those words by Nelson Mandela have been so inspiring for me. I have revisited them in my mind over and over. And, recently, they have been churning in my head yet again. Here's why.

I am afraid. Of being disliked. Of being unlovable. Of being alone. Mostly, I am afraid of putting myself out there (especially in this blog) and being rejected. I want to write. I feel called to write, but so afraid to put myself out there. There are things in my head and in my heart that I rarely share with others. I'm sure this is true for almost everyone. For me, I am afraid of stepping into the unknown and fully becoming the person I feel God is calling me to be. How did Paul (Jesus' disciple) do it? Or Jesus himself, for that matter? How does one decide to stand alone when the world is against him? Where do you find the strength? And I don't even face a tiny bit of the persecution that Paul or Jesus faced. What I'm talking about something is so small. My fears are mainly that my friends might not like me. Or what if I offend my family? What if they think I've become a *gasp!* Bible thumper? Yikes! I say that in jest, but also with a little bit of trepidation because I truly don't want to make enemies or alienate anyone.

And yet.

Who am I to be "brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?" And, to paraphrase, who am I to think I am not loved by God, not put in a certain position for a purpose? In my prayers lately, God is calling me to step up and own it. Step fully into the person He created me to be: faulty and loving, giving and selfish, joyful and enthusiastic, raw and full of pain. Because "as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

The burdens I have carried in my life may seem light to some. To others, they may seem overwhelming. I have lost a brother, mother and father at early ages. What some may call "the worst thing that can ever happen" (death) has already happened to me. Three times. But I've walked through that fear and I've found that I'm still me, still whole, still loved and loving on the other side. My responsibility now is to own that so I can help others walk through their fears. And not just the fears that grief brings with it, but the fears I faced in other times in my life: postpartum depression, anxiety attacks, diagnosis of a chronic disease, job loss, etc. I have taken Galatians 6:2 to heart: "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I might not be the best at bearing other's burdens, but I at least try to help others know they are not alone.

So, this is where the rubber meets the road. Am I ready to walk through the fear and to unapologetically become God's child? Jesus' friend? Am I ready to live it? Even though it means I'll probably mess up a few times? Or that I might look hypocritical? Or that I might need to ask forgiveness? The one thing I know for sure is that I am not alone. Just like I try to show others they are not alone, I need to turn this truth back onto myself. I am not alone.

  • "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
  • "'Come, follow me,' Jesus said." (Matthew 4:19)
  • "Over time you've healed so much in me/And I am living proof/That although my darkest hour had come/Your light could still shine through/And though at times it's just enough to cast/A shadow on the wall./Well, I am grateful that you shine your light on me at all." (Who Am I by Watermark)

I am Yours. Let Your light shine through me, Lord.

EDIT: My friend Mary found out a little bit of news that is mildly alarming to me. It turns out the words that I quoted above were not written by Nelson Mandela. Humph! They have been often incorrectly attributed to him, but were actually written by Marianne Williamson. Here's a link to the explanation. I apologize for the misinformation and for not crediting the correct person. But no matter who spoke them, the words are still beautiful and God-inspired. Thanks for the info, Mary!


Lynnie said...

Very brave post! I appreciate your honesty and I'm sure you'll find some deeper understanding by thinking about these issues so directly.

I'm sorry to hear about your losses. I lost my best friend and father unexpectedly in the same year and I know that death changes you forever. It does make you stronger, but it hurts like nothing else does.

Oh, and thanks for wishing me well on my surgery! I appreciate it!

Jennifer said...

I'm glad to see you finally stepping up for this. You will be rewarded in more ways than you could possibly know!

With you on your journey,

sheryl boerding said...

I am proud of you! You inspire me! I am always happy to hear all of your stories... your fears and your joys! You will shine through this, I can just feel it!


Robin said...

I love that poem too. It seems to be timely for me today.

Keep "putting it out there", it really does help the rest of us to be brave.

Charity said...

Thank you for being a special friend to me, encouraging me to walk through my fears. It means a lot.

scrappysue said...

it's your little tap on the shoulder elizabeth. at least you are listening :)

Sharon Herzog said...

Thanks for giving me the scoop on this quote when I sent it to you. I'm normally more careful about quotations that come through e-mails. Thanks for posting the link so I could check it out.

I'm amazed by its message too. How comforting, inspiring, and coaxing all at once.



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