I am keeping my promise with today’s Wednesday’s What Not. If you read Monday’s post, “Safe & Secure, Beloved”, I said we would explore a real life example of insecurity in action and how God showed up in the midst of my mess.
Before I begin sharing my recent insecure moment, there’s a verse I want to be grounded in. It’s one of the very first verses I ever memorized. Teaching in the kid’s ministry is a great place to also learn Bible verses. Oh, if only you could see the cute hand motions that go along with this verse. Joshua 1:9 says,
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
Wherever you go. WHEREVER you go, including Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit.
For those of you who do not know what Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit is, it’s a small gathering of you and your closest 9,999 friends all on site to learn about leadership from prestigious leaders in their field of expertise. You might see CEO’s, famous generals, pastors you respect, Hollywood executive producers, and famous authors.
If you were me, you might wonder to yourself: how on earth did I get here? The fact-based answer is I was blessed by some friends who gave me a free ticket the evening before the Leadership Summit.
At approximately 9 o’clock the night before the Summit, I ecstatically said, “Yes, I would love to have the ticket!”
I had wanted to attend the Summit for a number of years, but had never been able to work that out. I was Zip-A-Dee-D00-Dah-ing all throughout the house.
“Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Zip-A-Dee-Eh. My oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine, heading my way. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Zip-A-Dee-Eh. Mr. Blue Bird’s On My Shoulder. It’s the truth. It’s actual. Everything is satisfactual. Wonderful feeling. Feeling this way.”
The next morning, I woke up early to have my quiet time and thanked God profusely for the blessing He had bestowed upon me. I prayed in the car on the drive to Willow Creek. I was excited and expectant. Because of the way I “happened” to come into possession of the ticket, I knew God was going to show up over the course of the next few days. I knew He was going to “speak” and I couldn’t wait to hear what He had to say.
This is where I start to get a little vulnerable. Entering into situations like this scare me to death. I was going all by myself. (Of course, God was with me. That’s not what I mean.) Because I had gotten the ticket at 9 o’clock the previous night, I wasn’t able to arrange for a friend to come along with me. There’s safety in numbers. I don’t feel nearly as intimidated walking into a situation like this when I have a compatriot by my side.
Need I remind you there were 10,000 people attending (not including the remote locations)? I was walking into a sea of people. At times like this, I can feel like I am getting swallowed up alive. Overwhelmed. Intimidated.
I know this tendency about me, so I prayed myself up. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I don’t trust that people will like me or will want to be around me, but I do trust people will be drawn to Jesus. Often my prayers when entering large crowds, especially when I know I will encounter unstructured time, go something like this:
“Lord, please help me to be courageous. Draw people near to me. Help them to see the beauty you have placed within me. Help me to be engaging and a good listener. Help your light to radiate outward from me toward others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
Hopefully, you don’t take the part about seeing the beauty within me as arrogance. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about my own insecurity and a way, through prayer, I have found to combat that feeling. The anecdote to the feelings of “not good enough”, “not worthy”, “unlikeable”, or some other awful sentiment.
Most people would probably never even know that inner battle that wages within me. I present myself differently than what sometimes roars inside. I believe I present myself more often than not as confident, when many times if truth be told, nothing could be further from the truth. If I were to tell you I’m a bit shy, you might think that’s impossible. You’re always talking to other people, even new people you don’t know. I’m here to tell you, I can be very shy – even as I appear outgoing. Again, what you see are the coping mechanisms developed over a lifetime.
Some of you know I was in sales for a number of years. Hello? Don’t you deal with people you don’t know all of the time in sales? I know! It makes no sense. Here I am terrified of dealing with people, often thinking they wouldn’t like me, but I created a career around building relationships with other people and now I’m doing the same thing in my volunteer capacity at church. Am I crazy or just stupid? (Kidding – I know I’m not either one. Even I am not that hard on myself.)
Right about now you may be wondering, why on earth did you say yes to attend this conference if you have that much fear?
Number 1, BECAUSE I have this much fear. Scripture says all over the place, “Fear not.” Stepping into my fear is actually an act of courage.
Number 2, I knew there was going to be much I could garner from this leadership seminar. If God was giving me the ticket, I wasn’t going to say “no”.
What I hadn’t anticipated, though, was the way in which the enemy (Satan) was going to come against me. He methodically built a pack of lies over the two day Summit. The enemy is not in a hurry. He’ll take his time to make things feel more believable. Like a good attorney, Satan will collect “evidence” against us. The only thing is the “evidence” Satan is collecting is a bunch of bogus. But he’s not a gentleman, and he will come against us when we are tired and vulnerable. That’s what happened to me.
By the way, I should probably mention a verse about Satan in case you haven’t been taught about how real he actually is. We don’t need to fear Satan, but we do need to be aware that he is real. One of the best lies he could have us fall for is that he isn’t real or he’s some silly little character in a red devil suit. Not true. He’s real. There’s good (God) and there is also evil (Satan/Devil). 1 Peter 5:8 says,
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Let me assure you, the enemy was trying to “devour” me by throwing all kinds of nasty, mean thoughts my way over the two day Summit. Not every thought is just in your head. Oh no, the enemy loves to plunk thoughts of unworthiness in our heads all the time. That is why Scripture also tells us to take every thought captive. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says,
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I can guarantee you the devil is the only source of those nasty little thoughts that he loves to plague us with.
Before we move on to what happened (and because I don’t know who will read this), I need to make it very clear that the enemy has already been defeated. Through the death of Jesus on the cross, Satan was defeated. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58a says,
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
I know these verses. I know how to apply the concept of taking my thoughts captive, not allowing them to have a free-for-all in my brain, understanding that the enemy loves to put all kinds of horrible thoughts in our heads. These days, I generally understand how to more effectively battle through issues of spiritual warfare. God has taught me much in this arena – out of necessity. Yet still, in a moment of pure exhaustion, I got pummeled.
At the very end of the Summit, I found myself needing to say quietly in my head “You are God’s masterpiece.” “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” “You are God’s beloved.” “You are his treasured princess.” “You are an heiress to His throne.” And who knows what other references from Scripture I could pull out of my emotional purse.
Whew! I made it out of Willow without crying. Almost to my car, and a few tears slid down my face in the parking lot. I quickly got into my car. I knew the flood was about to unleash. As I tried to get my car out of the lot without being seen sobbing, the full torrent of tears let loose. I put my sunglasses on so other drivers wouldn’t see me leaving the church crying my eyes out. These were full-on sobs and I didn’t have anything left in the tank emotionally to fend them off. I just let the tears drop.
What got me here? A pack of lies, worse than the lie I bought into when I was a kid that a pack of cigarettes made me cool. None of these little lies in and of themselves would have made me cry. It was the enemy’s relentless plotting that snuck up on me. I realized this in my post-cry evaluation, where I did the play review to see how the enemy had SEEMINGLY been victorious at smacking me down.
Learning on an intense level, like I had been engaged in over the last few days, had made me very tired. It was a good kind of tired, but tired none-the-less. Satan took that moment to seize his opportunity. My pure exhaustion was Satan’s entry way. He tried to kick the door down on me that his foot had propped open with all the seeds of his lies he had cast over the last two days.
Some of the highlights of what happened:
The first day I saw someone I knew, an acquaintance. I walked up to that person and said, “Hi, Frank.” (The name is made up.) I got nothing. Crickets. It was toward the beginning of the day. I hadn’t even found my seat yet. I was already feeling intimidated by the sheer volume of people and then someone I kind of knew didn’t even acknowledge my hello. That messed with me a little bit. Even if he hadn’t remembered who I was (I pretty much look the same, though), it should be obvious I somehow knew him since I said his name. At least he could have said, “Hi” without any kind of a name attached in return. Although, I know he knows my name because he bumped into me at a different venue where he knew my name perfectly well. I know this is more about him and less about me, but still this was how we were getting started. I dealt with this one little incident and just thought to myself, consider the source. Whatever.
These next few things didn’t bother me much – at first. It was during the play by play review that I realized this next incident even played a role.
When I’m by myself in a setting like this, I have coping skills. You sit down next to someone and you introduce yourself right away, maybe ask some sort of a question to engage the person next to you. Initially, a couple of ladies sat down next to me, and then shortly got up and moved to different seats. I put on deodorant, I swear. I even wore perfume, but not too much because some people don’t like that either.
A couple of new-to-me ladies sat down in place of the previous women. I did the same thing, introduced myself and asked a question. These ladies responded with their names, quickly answered my question, and then proceeded to ignore my existence for the entire day. (We sat in the same seats all day long the first day.)
None of that really bothered me a whole heap because during the structured, learning time we’re sitting in our seats and listening to the presenters.
Breaks weren’t really a problem either. They were short, especially when you factor in the wait time to use the ladies’ room. Heck, you can burn a good 15 – 20 minutes just standing in line.
I used that time to thank the volunteers for helping out and to authentically compliment, as encouragement, women along the way. I even had an opportunity to silently pray for a woman behind me who had a “friend” come up and rip her apart while she was standing in line for the bathroom. It was awful! I didn’t know what to do. After I prayed, I asked the Holy Spirit to give me some words to help this poor young woman behind me. You could see the tears pooling in her eyes. I gave her a hug and I don’t even remember what I said (thank you, Holy Spirit!).
I have found that when I go out of my way to be kind to others, kindness can be used as a weapon against the enemy. When the enemy tries to mess with me, I’ll pray fervently for someone or do something to be overly nice to someone. Prayer and acts of kindness are weapons in the spiritual battle against the enemy. I’m not sure if you ever thought of them that way, but they definitely are excellent weapons.
Lunch. Quite possibly the worst time ever, if you have a tendency to be insecure in these types of settings. We had well over an hour for lunch. This lunch scenario was a high school cafeteria on steroids. Yet still, I was trying not to rely on some good old stand by’s: a book to hide my nose in or clicking through my emails and Facebook statuses on my phone.
Day 1 was fine. I actually met a nice woman and we were able to have a good conversation. I enjoyed chatting with her. Reward. Angels singing. Heavens open up. (That might be an exaggeration.) Day 1 gave me the courage to try again.
Day 2 I approached an older man sitting on a bench by himself. The weather was nice again, so why not sit outside and strike up a conversation. I introduced myself. He returned the favor. I asked him a few questions, and he shared some information about himself. I asked follow up questions (without being an interrogator!). He then asked me a question. After I had begun speaking, his son came over. The man I had just listened to for at least a good 15 or 20 minutes, got up mid my sentence. I hadn’t even finished my sentence. Not only that, he didn’t even say “excuse me” or acknowledge me in any way. He just walked off with his son. It was strange. It was rude. And I really wasn’t expecting the plethora of rude and strange behavior I was encountering. Crazy!
There were people attending whom I knew, but they were at the Summit as part of work teams. The enemy used even these people, whom I know are good and wonderful people, to make me feel “not good enough”. In case any of them are reading this, this is not about you. This is about my insecurity and how the enemy tried to wreak havoc and disrupt the good God was doing through this seminar.
I was sitting by myself in this sea of people, knowing I knew people attending. Then, the enemy was saying, “they don’t like you”, “you’re so stupid”, “you’re not good enough”, and on and on and on. The enemy said these mean and hateful things, because he is mean and hateful, not these people. I love many of these people.
Day two I had a rotating shift of people sitting next to me. At each break, people would get up from their seats next to me never to be seen again. The enemy would say, “They can’t even stand to sit next to you”. It’s actually a little comical when you look at it in hind sight because it was so ludicrous, especially when you consider these next major irritants and a “funny” confession I must give.
Unrelated to insecurity, but also another way the enemy would try to get to me would be via distractions. Listen to this stuff because at this point we are entering the absurd.
The person sitting behind me kept kicking the back of my seat like a little kid, only no kids were allowed. This was an adult-only venue. The kicking was irritating beyond belief. I wanted to turn around and give them the mean, menacing look … but it was a Christian venue and I didn’t have it in me. An-noy-ing! (This sooooo demonstrates I am not a perfect Christian!)
Then, the guy next to me on my left was nearly sitting in my lap. He had his legs spread so far wide to accommodate his computer he was typing on. His arms spilled over onto my side of the chair just like that guy you always sit next to on the airplane who doesn’t realize you also paid for a seat. He would turn his computer on and we’d hear the start up of it over the speaker’s voice. Grrrr. Turn your volume down, buddy.
Oh, there’s more, because the enemy was sending all the lovely irritants my way at this point. I’m not referring to the people, but I may be referring to their habits.
A few people behind me to the left were finishing the speaker’s sentences. In my head I’m thinking. Are you kidding me? Shhhhhh! I’m trying to hear the person I came to hear not your interpretation of their last book.
And the piece de resistance, this one takes the cake. There was an empty seat next to me (because clearly I smell funny). On the other side of the empty seat there’s this guy who breathes super loud. I can tune him out. Then, he starts playing with the seat. Willow Creek’s seats are like movie theater seats. You pull them down and they stay down when you sit on them. If no one sits on them, they flop up to a closed position. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down – for about 30 minutes (or it felt like that) I had to endure up, down, up, down, up, down until I realized I had a right hand that could quickly propel itself forward to stop the seat in its upright position. That’s right. This good little Christian girl reached over and made that seat cease and desist. I wanted to smirk. I reaaaalllly wanted to smirk. I couldn’t look to my right for the rest of the afternoon. Luckily it was toward the end of day 2, so I didn’t have to have eyes facing completely forward without flinching for too long. Later, I asked God to forgive my rude behavior. I know it was rude, but I was exhausted from praying everything else away.
After they released us (sounds like prison, but I can assure you the actual training was awesome and we’ll get to that another blog), I decided to grab a few books in the book store and then snuck down to the bathrooms on the basement level figuring I would have a much shorter wait. As I walked down the stairs, I saw a sign for one of the work teams that I indirectly knew. The devil used the sign as the last straw to break this camel’s back. This work team had a completely dedicated room of people to share the experience with. There was a whole group of compatriots, so many of which they had a room dedicated to their learning experience. Again, this is not about these people, this is how the enemy uses all these little things to make us think less of ourselves.
After I saw the sign posted on the door and didn’t feel included in anything because the enemy had been relentless, I thought to myself, “I just need to get out of here and get of here quickly.” That’s when I started calling on Scripture descriptions of who God thinks I am and made it to the car before the dam broke that had been holding back my river of tears.
Exhaustion + Relentless Untruths Told By The Enemy + Unbelievably Distracting Behaviors = One Washed Out Woman.
Everything felt so real and paralyzing. I tried to pray, but I couldn’t. It was too difficult. I’m on the prayer team. Yet, I couldn’t pray. I was crying and could only say “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over again through my tears. I’m here to tell you my friends; Jesus comes RUNNING at his Name.
What did Jesus do? You’ll have to come back next Wednesday to find out.