I know it could sound either big headed or like a pipe dream, I mean who really believes they can change the world?
A few years ago I began working with a wonderful mentor. They had permission to ask anything and not take any of my safe answers, they had permission to probe. With such permission I knew there was no hiding. No hiding behind my reasoned academic answers. No hiding behind my humour. No hiding behind my mental health. No hiding behind my emotions (or failure to recognise or express any).
Two questions stand out:
1. What kind of Pastor are you called to be? (I’ll come to that one day)
2. What are you afraid of?
I don’t know if these are questions she always asks of each person she mentors or specific questions she had for me, but they have stuck and festered away in my mind.
My answer to the question of fear sounds funny to some people but I remember the first time I heard it said and it resonated powerfully within my soul. Like someone had given the words to something hidden deep within my being:
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” (1992)
My greatest fear has been that I may actually succeed.
For plenty of people I know this sounds ridiculous, there is a constant striving to succeed or a sense of not being good enough or worthy enough. I can identify that even within the places I demonstrate certain kinds of success (for example, I have a growing list if university degrees, but do not consider myself academic – in school I was placed in a ‘booster group’ and some part of me is still trying to make up for that) and part of me is still looking for some level of praise and approval from parents, family and friends (even though I know I already have it) – I want to be liked.
However, despite my apparent successes and striving for more in certain aspects of life I also use these to hide from my deepest dreams and ideas. Educational achievements busy me, there are deadlines and clear goals but they also distract me from going after what I really desire. I am afraid of failing but more so I am afraid that if I aim for and achieve even a small part of my dreams then I don’t know where it could lead and will take me out of my control.
I say I believe in the all creating, powerful, mysterious God and that I love adventure but then I play it safe. I am afraid and yet becoming more afraid that I will sink into a dark depression because I only play it safe. Let me be clear, my safe is not your safe. I will do things that others will consider brave but I consider normal; you will do things that I consider brave but you consider ordinary! I want to change the world. I am sick of unadventurous, non-commital, monocultural communities (especially churches) that sap hope, resources and life. I want to be part of a community that breeds life, creativity, and hope. I want to see a church community that lives out honestly the doubts and questions, challenges injustices, gives up on false truths (such as those ones we tell ourselves about being deserving), struggles with life together, and is more concerned with being together and supporting oneanother (in times of agreement disagreement) rather than counting in those who say a specific prayer or act a particular way having listened to the right sermons. When I say I want this for the church, I really mean I want to learn how to do it for me. I want to learn how to be part of it, how to take the real steps of faith, how to live out my faith in such a way that my world is changed and therefore the world for others is somehow better.