I have always envied those people who are naturally outgoing, the ones who never hesitate to strike up a conversation with any new person they meet, the people who feel comfortable walking into a social situation and do so with a confident smile.
That’s never been me.
In the past, I was known for being quiet. I wrapped myself in the quiet, it was a cocoon around me that encased me in silence and protected my timidity. I lacked the confidence to speak, the courage to hear my own voice. I felt, to the core of me, that nobody really wanted to hear what I had to say…and being around people made me anxious, uncomfortable.
From that shy child, I struggled into a timid adult. I was able to handle social situations, but they took so much out of me. It was exhausting.
And then Jesus got a hold on me.
There are many things I’ve lived with that I’ve wished would change, things I’ve taken for granted that I will always have to endure, to bear up under, that I’ve considered a thorn in my side that must be lived with. This quiet was one of them. It never occurred to me to pray for healing from it, to ask for release. This anxiety, this quiet, this feeling of never fitting in, this awkward silence…this was just the way I was, my nature.
But then, there is this verse: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.“1Timothy 1:7
If God hadn’t intended for me to be this hampered by social fear, if He hadn’t created me that way, then what caused this in me? Why was I like this? Was I somehow missing the mark, failing to become the person God meant me to be?
So I prayed about it.
And in the course of several months, I saw a difference. A real, deep, amazing difference. A healing that I never considered possible. From the folds of that quiet cocoon I begin to venture forth, and without effort or planning on my part something in me changed. Instead of avoiding eye contact at the supermarket, in fear that the checker might start a conversation with me…I sought it out. I looked right at her, smiled, and asked how her day was going…and I was eager to hear what she had to say! It was as natural as it could be, as easy as it looked when other people boldly entered into conversation. I started to really get to know people, to seek their company, to talk and listen and laugh with an ease I never thought possible.
It’s been a few years now, and although I certainly can’t claim to be what most people would consider an terribly outgoing person, the difference is profound. I love meeting people, getting to know them. I look forward to social situations, and I really do enjoy them now. I have been blessed with so many good friends, it makes me dizzy…my life is so full of joy and laughter and love that I can almost not remember the time when all this would have exhausted me, left me weak and empty. Life is so full now, full of joy and love.
I still have my difficult days, don’t get me wrong. I’m still quieter than most and large groups still overwhelm me. But I know that God has more for me, that He can use me better if I’m open to what He wants for me and obedient to His will. His will for me is not that I close in, that I continue to be shy and timid and to let my fears cripple me. His is a spirit of boldness, you see. A spirit of love. And it’s that Spirit in me that speaks where the old me would have been silent, that Spirit that makes eye contact and smiles where the old me would have prayed to avoid conversation.
Because the real difference, the one thing I can pinpoint that makes me able now to speak and laugh and smile and connect where I wasn’t before…the one difference is love! Where I once felt fear, I now feel an overwhelming sense of love. Even for the person behind the cash register that I’ve never seen before and may never see again…the love that is the Spirit in me floods through the fear, and its power is so much greater that I have to speak, to let it out.
And there’s the miracle of it, the miracle that can heal and change and transform whatever burden you might be carrying….God’s Love covers it all.
Thank you, Lord, for that!