I Fear That If People Really Knew Me…

Who was that?

We’ve been here for 10 years now, and for some reason I’ve felt the need to look back over the things that I wrote when we first arrived here. Throughout all of the my writings, I am finding a common theme.

Who was that?

I don’t think I know that person. She was hyperactive. The exclamation marks were a bit much.  She was all OVER the place. I exhausted myself just reading about all of the things that I was trying to throw myself into. Most of which had nothing to do with my gifts and talents. I am not a women’s ministry person. I don’t like to participate in women’s ministry activities, and I sure as glory don’t like to lead them. So what in heaven’s name made me think I could lead a Bible study? Granted, the Lord shut things down pretty quickly, but I could have saved us all some grief if I hadn’t been so ridiculous.

I was definitely wearing my rose-colored glasses. Now, I am the first person to admit that I can be sarcastic, crabby and cynical–usually all before 9:00 in the morning on a good day. But that person 10 years ago? Her “Oh, everything is WONDERFUL and FUNNY and AMAZING and CUTE and FABULOUS and”…for heaven’s sake. She was just over the top annoying. If I could go back in time I would smack myself. And I’m not sure why some of my friends didn’t smack me.

I now know that we all go through a “honeymoon” phase where nothing bothers us and everything is wonderful…then we hit a wall and everything drives us bonkers and we can’t figure out why in the world we’re here.  We blame our husbands for getting us into this mess although we were all gung-ho and ready-to-go, and he certainly didn’t drag us here kicking and screaming. Poor guy.

I can remember hitting the wall, and it shows in my writing–or lack of it. Things started to slow down, and as I look back, my writing seems much more “forced”. I remember being so afraid that if I wrote what I was really thinking and feeling, people would think I was a horrible person and wonder why in the world I became a cross cultural worker in the first place. And since I was already thinking both of those things about myself, the last thing I needed to do was give my feelings validity by admitting them to my friends back home. So I effused all over the paper (computer) and tried to convince myself and everyone else that I had this.

Somewhere, and I’m not exactly sure where in this journey it happened, I started to settle down. Oh, I still get frustrated and blow my testimony sometimes, but then I do that in the US too. I’ve learned that there are things that I simply cannot do. I haven’t tried to lead any more Bible studies, and we’re all very grateful for that, now aren’t we? I am not good at leading or teaching adults. Actually, I’m just not good at being up front. I am very good at the “behind the scenes” stuff. You want to lead a Bible study or a women’s event? I will show up, set up, cook up, clean up and pack up for you. You do all the talking and I’ll do all the rest. Then I will go home and write something up about what you talked about and how the women loved you and what an amazing event it was. I decided a long time ago that my spiritual gift is invisibility.

I love working with children. Little tiny ones, all the way up through high school. Where I worked before, I loved having all of the little ones come to the library and find their books, and listen to stories…and I loved the middle school and high school students with their sassy personalities and the fun and life that they brought with them. Their parents make me crazy nervous, but I do love the kids. And I love the ones at the daycare and at the After-school program…

I am learning, 10 years in, that it’s OK to have my own strengths, and that they don’t have to be someone else’s strengths. I don’t have to lead women’s events, because there are people here that do that, and are very good at it. I am trying to learn that it’s OK to say what I think, and let people know how I’m really feeling instead of glossing over things and pretending like everything is just rosy. I’m still not very good at it. My need for approval, and my overwhelming fear that if people knew the real me they would run screaming in the other direction, keeps me in a constant state of anxiety.

That me from 10 years ago has grown up a little bit. I think that’s a good thing. And although I probably wouldn’t want to hang out with my 10-years-ago-self, I do appreciate the stories she told and the lessons that she learned. I wonder what my 10-years-from-now-self will think when she looks back at herself?

“I do understand! I understand what they do not, and that is you can only do with what you have. What God has given you. If you try to be anyone else, it is the worst thing that can happen because you cannot ever be them – and then you give up being you”
― Siri Mitchell, A Constant Heart

Do you share that same fear, that if people really knew you…? When you look back on yourself (even if it’s been a few months), what changes do you see?

Photo credit melibeo via flickr

10 Comments

  1. amanda March 2, 2014

    Cyndi, I can totally relate to reading things I’ve written in the past and not being able to stand myself. But, the way you wrote toward the beginning of this piece broke my heart a little because I feel like you have no grace for your younger self. She is the woman who persevered in the early years, past the honeymoon stage, grew and matured and became you. And no doubt in 10 years you’ll look back on your now-self and maybe cringe at the things you don’t know now that you’ll know then. But I’m guessing you would never criticize a friend the way you spoke against your younger you. Let’s live in a culture of gentleness toward others and toward self also.

    grace to you.

  2. Morielle March 2, 2014

    Cyndi, it has been so inspiring for me to read this, and to start reading through your blog. One of the deep fears I’m wrestling with right now is the fear that I’m letting God down. He’s brought me out to this remote place desperate for the Gospel, but I cannot see that I am making much of a difference. I encourage fellow believers, I share the story of Christ’s salvation and call — but those I encourage are so few, and those I share with are so skeptical. The mentions of scripture that a tree is known by its fruit terrify me: I can’t see any fruit. Oddly enough, I have taken some comfort in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-40). I do not have much faith (it is so easy, sometimes, for someone to bring me to the point of wondering if God exists at all), but how much the faith the Master gives me is not important: it is only important that I use what I have.

    I also take a lot of comfort from the main theme of the books of Samuel: it is not through human strength that God’s great work is done. Reading about David clunking about awkwardly in Saul’s armor makes me laugh, and relax a bit. And David’s attitude of trust as he flees from Absalom that the Lord will bring about what is best hits me straight in the heart. It never has and never will be about MY might, it is always about HIS.

    Love love love the quote you end with. It is really comforting to me because I often ask God: Why didn’t you bring someone out here who is more gifted in evangelism? Or fluent in the local minority language?Why not someone persuasive? Why not a leader? Truth is, He brought me: a girl roughly the same age as her students who is good at cooking, singing, speaking Chinese, storytelling, and making people feel comfortable. I’m praying that he show me the places He wants to stretch me, to use my weaknesses somehow — but also to use my gifts.

    Yeah, wow. Long comment. As you can see…. I’ve got a lot of fears just like the ones you expressed.

  3. Danielle Wheeler March 3, 2014

    The freedom in finding what your strengths are and what they are NOT, this is so powerful.  So glad you are finding your way in that freedom, Cyndi.  I think we all feel the need for approval, and we all harbor fear of what people would think if they really knew us.  I pray that God’s daily showers of grace would wash away that fear and anxiety for you and for all of us.  Thanks for sharing bravely with us.  And thanks for not giving up being you!

  4. Laura March 3, 2014

    Cyndi, thank you for the beautiful reminder that my strengths don’t have to be the same as someone else’s. I have struggled with this in my newest ministry, feeling as though I have to be building relationships the same way and at the same pace as others. When, in reality, my strengths aren’t necessarily in meeting new people constantly but in working behind the scenes doing administrative tasks. I’m learning to remind myself that my role is important, even when it doesn’t feel like it is.

  5. Jana March 3, 2014

    Cyndi, thank you. Thank you for your transparency. I think one of the hardest things for any believer is to be transparent. I think back to my first four or five years on the field as a new bride and young woman…wow! I cringe at the level of “m-perfectionisim” I tried to achieve. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t burnout completely. But HIS grace sustained me and He gently taught me and molded me, and continues to do so. I’m so thankful for that, aren’t you? 🙂 Bediciones de gracia!

  6. Brittany March 4, 2014

    I love this post, and I love the comments shared.  What a beautiful place to be, in the Body of Christ!  I’m just starting my journey.  I’ve never been much of a writer, but I am trying to keep a journal so I can see how the Lord moves and grows my heart on this journey.  It’s been a struggle.  Unlike you, I haven’t had a honeymoon period.  Is that weird??  Everything I’ve learned about moving cultures says that there is usually a honeymoon period even if it’s short…well, mine was so short I didn’t have one.  Or maybe the honeymoon period was the two years we spent dreaming about going.  I know without a doubt that this is where I am supposed to be, but from the get go it’s been a struggle.  I’m hard on myself.  I question the Lord all the time–Why me?  What good am I doing?  Thank you for this post because I like to see that growth will happen.  That 10 years from now, I will be able to look back and see how God shows up in my fears, fills me with His Spirit to accomplish what HE wants me to accomplish.  I know my gifts, but I don’t know how I can use them yet.  I know that He will develop them in me and lead me in ways to use them.

    Morielle, I have felt the same thing in regards to a tree being known by its fruit.  I want to encourage you because just because you don’t see “fruit” in the field, there is fruit in YOU!  The Spirit is cultivating in you His fruit.  And the more He cultivates in you, the more you will cultivate the field in which He’s placed you.  And HE will take care of the rest.  Remember, it’s up to Him!

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 4, 2014

      Oh, Brittany!  You’re not alone.  Not all of us have a honeymoon phase.  I think some places and cultures lend themselves to honeymoons, and some places and cultures…do not!  Plus, circumstances can take away those excited, lovey feelings anywhere!

      For me there was no honeymoon either.  It was SO hard to arrive and not feel “in love” with this place, when we’d spent years dreaming and planning to come.  Instead I was asking, “What have we done??”  For me it happened very slowly over time.  Then one day  I realized that this place had worked its way into my heart and affections, and that I could actually say I loved it.  I don’t say it everyday, mind you.  But I do love it.

      Hang in there.  Give yourself oodles of grace and time.  Like you said, he’s growing you, leading you.  We don’t expect a baby to walk the day she arrives.  You’ll find your way.  Hope you’ll be back with us sharing your journey.

      1. Brittany March 4, 2014

        Thank you, Danielle.  In talking with another foreigner near us last week, the fact that I don’t absolutely hate it here is progress.  It may take years for me to love it.  I guess I need that freedom.  I feel like I should be past the “this is so hard” phase…impractical as it may be.  I want people to know me, to walk with me, to see.  But I’m also afraid of not measuring up.  Making people think that I’m not where I’m supposed to be.  I don’t want our supports to think sending us is a waste!  Wow…clearly there are some things the Lord needs to work through in me, haha.  I’m really grateful to have found this blog, and I’m already reaping encouragement and challenge from it.

    2. morielle March 4, 2014

      Thank you so so much Brittany for that encouragement. You are right. The Lord is cultivating the fruits of the Spirit in me, and it is up to Him to use them in this place. What a comfort!

  7. M'Lynn March 6, 2014

    I love how honest you are about not wanting much to do with women’s ministry.  For me, that’s Sunday School or anything related to educating little kids.  I’d love to hang out with women and study and chat and sip coffee and pray.  Being shut into a small room with little ones and glue and crayons and potty emergencies while I try to keep smiling and pretend I like this situation…no, please!  What I’m wondering is what do you do when there’s no one else to do it?  Suck it up and do it anyway, hoping God will bless it?  I’ve done that.  I don’t like it.  I will do it.  I still don’t like it.  But, the theme I see running through your post and others’ comments is to give yourself grace and embrace who God made you.  I’d like to fully do that and leave behind the guilt I feel about not being this or that (especially since I’m a mom to little ones and I can be hard on myself by telling myself that I should be all over Sunday school because I’m a mom to little ones!)

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