A very personal battle ....
I want to share something that is very personal. My hope is that by baring my soul in this manner, someone else might read this and recognize the feelings I'm attempting to convey. More than anything, I want you to know that God cares about you in a deeply personal way.
I've struggled with a fear of rejection for most of my life. It's rooted in me deeply and I've learned to work around it, but have not (yet) fully overcome this issue. It rears its ugly head when I least expect it. An off-handed comment from someone can set me spiraling into that dark place where I begin to doubt everything about myself. My mind will fight off questions: Am I broken beyond hope? Are my social skills too fractured for anyone to really like me? Can I ever learn to be secure in a friendship?
As a Christian, I've read many books about understanding who I am, in Christ. My self-esteem is in a better place overall but, when I least expect it, a wave of that old fear hits me again. However, God is so faithful that He knows exactly where I am and He knows how to minister to this frail part of myself.
My husband and I have been in search of a new home church. We love our old church but agreed it was time to make a change. Sometimes, God needs to get you out of your comfort zone and shake things up.
We each had our own thoughts on what we'd like to find in a new church. For me, I'd like to be in a church where I can be a part of the activity. I like to work, serve, and use the gifts God has given me. I feel a sense of frustration and exclusion when I can't be in the thick of the activity.
After attending a few services at other churches, my husband suggested that we try a new church he passes every day on his way home from work. A quick internet search and some time on their website aroused my excitement. I had met the pastor and his wife years before and I liked them. We arrived the following Sunday and immediately felt as though we were home. After the service, we both agreed that this might be our new church. The pastor invited us to have dinner with him and his wife the following week.
I was excited for the meeting. In preparation, I created a list of my skills that I thought might benefit the church. I wanted the the pastor to know that I was ready and willing to help. My husband looked at the list and laughed because he thought I was trying too hard. Embarrassed, I crumbled it up and threw it away.
We went to the meeting and I was self-conscious because I tend to talk a lot and I didn't want to accidentally monopolize the conversation. I intently listened and tried to keep my enthusiasm in check. Eventually, I let my guard down and shared my heart. I thought it went OK and there seemed to be a positive reaction.
Later, I asked my husband what he thought of the meeting and he said it was fine but I came on a little strong. I was crushed and felt shame come over me. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. All the old questions started to swirl through my mind. Within a few days, I was certain I had made a fool of myself and winced whenever I thought of the meeting. I felt sure that the pastor regretted us joining the church and his wife probably thought I was one of those loud mouth, pushy women that she'd have to contain.
I couldn't express my feelings to my husband. He's a good man and would feel terrible if he realized that his little comment had caused me so much distress. I casually made a few comments about the meeting, alluding to the negative feelings I was experiencing. I was hopeful that my husband might reassure me or say something positive enough to alleviate my troubled emotions. That didn't happen.
A few days later, I formulated an email to the pastor's wife to tell her I had some free time I was available to help her in any manner she needed. A gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit hit me: Don't send this. I sighed and deleted it, certain I was being obedient but questioning the reason. I was anxious to smooth things over with this woman and I wanted her to like me...was I just too late?
The next day, I had some errands to run and by late morning, I was finished and near the church. I considered stopping in to see if the pastor or his wife needed anything. Again, the Holy Spirit told me not to do that. I was frustrated and told God that I didn't understand.
You see, a common part of this search for approval is the desire to perform tasks so that you might be accepted. I wanted to do enough for this couple so that they might like me. I wanted to prove my worth. If God wasn't going to let me move forward on that plan, how could I possible earn their acceptance?
An hour later, my cell phone rang and I saw a number I didn't recognize. I was surprised when the pastor's wife greeted me. She talked freely and shared some things about her part-time job. She sounded as if...dare I say...she liked me. She had a few tasks that she wondered if I could do for her. I readily agreed and took some notes. Hanging up, I felt relief come over me. I sat with my phone in my hand and realized that I received so much from that phone call, especially since it was initiated by her. God, in His infinite wisdom, had kept me from making the contact because He knew exactly what I needed. One phone call set me free from days of torment from my old enemy.
I easily performed the tasks she'd requested but my motivation was in the proper place. My heart was full of peace for the entire afternoon. God showed His love in such a special, personal way. I have not yet conquered this old issue, but I'm on my way. God will continue to use situations to teach and convince me that my worth is in HIM.