My hands shook as I walked to the front of the chapel.
My throat is closing up, I overreacted inwardly. Just watch. I’ll burst into tears as soon as I start talking. My voice is going to shake and I’ll do that funny nervous twitch thing with my face. It’s going to be terrible.
Despite my inner freak out, I made it to the stage and turned to face the group of people in front of me.
Why did I have to be sick last week?
I missed my turn to share my devotion to the sixty-some college age camp counselors due to an early summer cold, or maybe it was allergies. In any case, now I’d be providing the devotion not only to the counselors, but to a group of theologians who had come on retreat.
They stuck out in this group- dressed business casual among a sea of Chacos and camp t-shirts. I glanced anxiously at the few rows of heads with graying hair in the middle of the man-buns, ponytails and French braids.
Public speaking was bad enough just in front of the counselors… but this? This was just impossible. I was unqualified and silly and had no formal theological training, and here I was. Front and center.
I heard my first shaky breath, picked up by the microphone. It was surprising that my pounding heartbeat wasn’t audible through the chapel speakers.
We all have it. Whether we’re uneasy and afraid of public speaking (*raises hand*), or have a full-blown phobia, or even just have occasional anxiety about stressful situations, we’re all afraid sometimes.
Now, I’m not talking here about anxiety that’s constant, life-altering, or paralyzing. Anxiety disorders are a real thing- a real thing that sometimes (often) needs to be taken care of by a medical doctor or trained therapist.
But common, run-of-the mill fear? We’ve all got it.
Deep down, fear comes from a place of identity.
Take, for example, my knee-shaking chapel devotion.
What’s the worst that could happen?
I could stutter my words and look unsure and insecure (which I was. But I didn’t want anyone else to know it). My devotion, actually a blog post I’d written, could fall flat. Maybe no one would like it. Maybe everyone would think I was dumb, or worse… wrong. Or maybe it wouldn’t make any sense, and people would come away confused and think poorly of me. Or maybe, just maybe, I would have a coronary and die of fear right there on the stage.
Notice the common theme there. Me, me, me, me.
The common denominator of my fear?
That this experience would say something negative about who I am.
But who am I, anyway? What is my identity?
I am in Christ. I am one in whom Christ dwells.
And where do I live?
I live in the unshakable Kingdom of God.
With my true identity in mind, look again at all my fears.
If I stuttered and looked insecure- my identity in Christ is secure.
If no one likes my blog post, it's okay-- my blog doesn’t define me, Christ does. I write because I enjoy it, and I write to bring glory to God, because I want to share His Kingdom and invite more people to come on in.
Maybe people would think I was dumb, or might think poorly of me- my identity isn’t found in what others think of me.
What if I’m wrong- in Christ, I know who I am. And He gives me grace upon grace, because I live in His Kingdom.
And even if I have a coronary and die of fright, it means I’m going to heaven to meet my Jesus.
What do I have to fear?
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39, ESV
When I start to look at my fears in this light, my perspective changes, and my actions, my words, my plans follow suit.
I’m slowly learning that when I find myself afraid of the future, or anxious in a social situation, or unsteady in following God’s calling, I have to lean in to my true identity.
I ask myself the questions. Who am I? Where do I live? And if that’s true, how do I respond, here?
The Bible tells us everything we need to know. It first tells us about Who our God is, and then it tells us who we are. Our actions and attitudes change, become more like Him when we spend time in those truths.
Transformation starts from the inside, from the One who died to give me life- not only eternal life with Him, but a full and free life here on earth, as well.
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