The Fear of Success

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It was about this time last year that I found myself sitting in a room full of strangers (and my husband) holding my breath. Waiting. I’d been waiting for a couple months since they first announced on the conference website that my book proposal was among 9 others that were being considered for a book contract.

The moment of truth finally arrived; the announcement was seconds away…and the honor went to someone else.

I exhaled. And as I applauded the winner taking the stage, you know what I felt? Sadness, disappointment? Nope–relief.

I’d felt it simmering in me for a while, almost since I had submitted the proposal (and probably long before). A familiar emotion. Fear. But it wasn’t the kind of fear I was expecting. I expected the fear of failure–what I discovered was a fear of success. I passed it off as complete trust in the plans of God (which was partially true), but deep down I was afraid to succeed. Afraid of the unknown ways in which success would change my life. The ways in which it would expose me, and my weaknesses, to the world. Knowing it would demand a new, truer vulnerability, something I wasn’t sure I was capable of or even wanted to give.

I was afraid to succeed, knowing that in my success I would be opening up another avenue to fail.   

One of the best-est movies of all time is It’s Christmastime, Charlie Brown. In it Charlie Brown sidles up to Lucy’s psychiatric help booth, drops in his nickel, and gets her “professional help.” She then rattles off a list of “phobias” asking if any of them match his vague feelings of unhappiness.

Finally she says, “There’s pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”

“What’s that?” he asks.

And she says, matter-of-factly, “the fear of everything.”

Bowling her over, in true Peanuts fashion, he shouts, “That’s it!”

I laugh every time. But sometimes I can relate a little too well to that scene. I fear failure, I fear success (and spiders, and rats, and something happening to my family, you get the idea). Sometimes the list can get really long. So today I’m reminding myself that God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear of success or failure. So I’m moving forward out of fear into pure trust in the plans of God.

Have you ever found yourself fearing success? Did you recognize it for what it was? How did you handle it? Drop me a comment; I want to hear from you.

The Long Pause

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Photo Credit: JobotDaRobot via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been absent from the blog for a bit–taking a long pause. Rebooting. Catching my breath. I’ve been reading and thinking, wondering and questioning. Mostly about the journey of life and how we can’t control or predict any of it. And how much, sometimes, I wish that weren’t true.

In the vein of adhering to the new tagline of my site, finding beauty in the brokenness of life, I have to be honest. I don’t have it all figured out (insert gasp of surprise here). Lately I’ve been searching for some beauty in my own situation, and realizing that sometimes honesty is the most beautiful thing I can give to you and to myself. When I entered my book into the Re:write writing contest I prayed that God’s ultimate purpose and plan would be done in the process. And I meant it. So I didn’t feel immediately disappointed when I didn’t win, because I trusted that it was God’s plan and he had other things in mind. But as I was coming down from the high of the writer’s conference, some questions and doubts began to nudge their way into the back of my mind, just like a rude line crasher that pushes her way into the line that you’ve been waiting in for 20 minutes while your kids beg you for every piece of candy in the bins by the checkout. Questions like What if I’m just not good enough? or Maybe I’m not ready, or What the heck do I do now? Seriously, what do I do now?

As I pondered these questions one thing became abundantly clear: this writing path is not going to be an easy one. And if I’m being completely transparent I want the easy path, the road with the least amount of roadblocks and hurdles. The one that gets me to my destination without my ever having to break a sweat. Where every door I come upon is swung wide in promise of grander things. The road where I don’t have to pick myself up from the floor most mornings and talk myself off the ledge of despair. What I’m learning is it’s always easier to trust God when it seems like everything is going my way. But this road, the difficult one, where I’m sweating it out like a P90X devotee, is the one where I’m learning even more about trust and I still believe that God has a plan, even if he hasn’t shared it with me yet.

Maybe you can relate.  Maybe you feel stuck and don’t know how to move forward, and if you’re honest, a little (or a lot) disappointed that you have to take the difficult path. How is God building trust in your relationship with him through this? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Confessions of an Imperfect Christian–#4

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Photo Credit: mikebaird via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mikebaird via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Confession #4: I Don’t Trust God

T-r-u-s-t. Five simple letters spelling out a very risky and complicated idea. Some synonyms for trust are: certainty, assurance, and confidence. Right there, with those words, is where things started getting a little muddled for me. Did I feel confident, assured, and certain when it came to God? Not so much. I mean, he’s God, he doesn’t have to operate the way we do. He’s unpredictable. A mystery. And I didn’t understand the way he worked. When everything that I cared about was on the line, and the stakes were high, (for more about this read Holy Doubt) I realized that I didn’t trust him. I thought I did. But I didn’t.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the root of my distrust could be traced to my understanding (or lack of understanding) of God’s character. The problem wasn’t with God, it was with my view of him. I didn’t believe that he had my best interest at heart or that he truly cared about what was going on in my life, and sometimes I thought he sent trouble and suffering my way just to “teach me a lesson,” like some sort of twisted schoolmaster. And when life was good I was always waiting, with bated breath, to get what I deserved and have it all snatched away.

I’ve been reading the Gospels over and over in an attempt to “see” Jesus as the Bible says he really is, as opposed to how I’ve been taught or what I’ve always believed. What I’ve found has been eye-opening. While Jesus usually didn’t do the easy thing, or sometimes even the most likable thing, he truly cared! About us. He healed, forgave, and wept over us! This Jesus that I’m finally “seeing” is worth putting my trust in. I now see that even though God makes beauty from the ash in our lives, it doesn’t mean he sent the fire.  And that makes all the difference.

 

 

Ruffled and Shuffled

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We wrapped up our time and counseling in Thailand and proceeded straight to limbo.  Over the past seven months we had gone from living with family (before we went to India), to my own piece of purgatory on the mountainside, and then various guest houses, hotels, and friends’ houses.  I was starting to feel more shuffled than a deck of cards at a Vegas casino.

Ultimately, our hope was to land in the Delhi area, but some things needed to take place before that could happen.  So, we went to Bangalore.  Temporarily.  I questioned that move over and over in my mind; why we had to live in a continuous state of rootlessness.  No matter which angle I viewed it from I couldn’t see the point.  My kids were two and four and, like most children, they craved stability and routine–I couldn’t give them either of those.  Everything around us felt temporary and hard to connect with until we met Dev* (not his real name–sorry about all the “not their real names” disclaimers, some of these people still live in sensitive areas and I don’t want to cause any problems for them).

From the beginning of our marriage, Jonathan and I have always lived apart from family.  But somehow, in each place that we’ve lived God has given us people that felt like family, and who’ve adopted us in to their hearts.  Dev was one of these gifts.  Jonathan called him his “brother from another mother.”  Looking back I can see that living in Bangalore was worth it, if for no other reason than the relationship that was built with Dev.  A realization was starting to dawn on me that maybe I just needed to relax and start trusting that God was working behind the scenes on my behalf.  But this trust thing was not going to come easy…

 

4 Ways to Help a Hurting Friend (and be a better listener)

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Friends

1. Don’t Compare Your Stories.  Sure, when I’m going through something I want to know that the person in whom I’m confiding shares some similar experiences, but there’s a fine line between common ground and invalidation.  If everything they say elicits a “Oh yeah, I remember when that happened to me,” response from you–you can pretty much guarantee they’ll find someone else to talk to next time. (So if that’s not your goal 🙂 adjust accordingly!)   

2. Be Present.  I’m going to state the obvious (although maybe it’s not as obvious as it should be).  Don’t answer or make a phone call, send a text message, tweet, update your Facebook status etc…, while a friend is sharing with you.  And don’t try to formulate a witty or meaningful response to what she’s saying; it only distracts you from truly listening.  Most of the time she’s not looking for you to fix it, she just wants to talk it through.  

3. Don’t Interrupt.  I put this one towards the bottom of the list because…UGH!  I have a really hard time with this one.  My husband tells me I have a really bad habit of doing this (thank you very much, honey!), and I’m trying to do better.  When I interrupt it’s normally because I don’t want to forget what I was going to say–but when I’m supposed to be listening it doesn’t matter what I wanted to say (see #2).  Worse yet, when I interrupt I might cause my friend to forget what she was saying!

4. Maintain Confidentiality.  This one is huge!  The root word of confidentiality is confident, and it speaks to building trust.  I don’t know about you, but I want my friends to be confident that when they share something with me it won’t end up on social media or in the ear of someone else.  When a friend places her trust in you, don’t betray it!  Simple. As. That. 🙂

Get Real

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Let's leave the masks to Nacho Libre and Spiderman

Let’s leave the masks to Nacho Libre and Spiderman

On my route to Target (love that place!), there’s a giant sky blue billboard for the Better Business Bureau that declares simply, “Start with Trust.”  That’s a great slogan for the BBB, but for almost anything else in life, especially relationships, such a difficult thing to do.  Those three simple words got me thinking about all the things I place my trust in…airplanes, my deep freeze, my hair stylist, my husband, God, and a few sweet friends.  The more I thought about it I realized that I put my trust in objects much more easily than I do people, and sometimes, even God.  With people, the stakes are so much higher, and the potential for hurt so much greater.  If my hair stylist lets me down and I end up with a mullet–it grows out (I would probably cry every day until it does, but it would grow!)  So far, with each of my many trips in an airplane, I’ve arrived at my destination in one piece (although there were a few trips with Air India that I wondered).  And when my deep freeze was on the fritz and I ended up with a bunch of rotten meat, I was bummed out, but we replaced it.  However, when a friend that I’ve trusted breaks that trust–it hurts, and it’s not something that I can easily fix.  But trust is the starting point of any relationship where we can be honest, transparent, and vulnerable; and if we never get to that point in our relationships we risk never experiencing all that God has for us.

Vulnerability, or it’s cousin–authenticity, is something that everyone craves–I know I do.  But craving it and achieving it are two very different things.  In my experience, you have to first give it to receive it, and that’s hard to do.  It’s never easy to lay your heart out in front of another person.  However, nearly every time that I’ve been honest and vulnerable God has used it to help someone else–and often times that person is me.  There’s so much freedom in realizing we don’t have to be perfect, because none of us are!  I think it would be great if we started creating a culture in our circles of influence where people are free to be vulnerable and honest without fear of judgment or rejection, and instead, they would know that as they share their struggles we’ll be there to encourage them and cheer them on on their journey.  We need each other, and we need each other to be real!