We had a team meeting last Saturday, prompted by the visit of a colleague from Colombia. There are plans being born for a cooperative effort between our Latin American fields and he asked me what I felt I could contribute.
The question should not have been threatening to me. When I submitted my job description and goals to the mission a few years ago, I focussed on my desire to write, to develop resources for the Latin American market. Consequently, I had a clear and carefully formulated answer to give, but the words stuck in my throat. My voice cracked, and I had a hard time controlling the tears that threatened to fall. It wasn't joy or passion that overcame me, it was fear. I was disturbed by my reaction so I sat down later to try to figure out why I couldn't talk about my vision for ministry.
An anonymous piece of advice tacked to my bulletin board says: "The most unfortunate thing that happens to a person who fears failure is that he limits himself by becoming afraid to try anything new." I realized that I was among the "unfortunate."
I was afraid that the people I respect would pity me, laugh at me, or reject me for my presumption. I was afraid that I would fail, that my dreams should have been left where they started—under the bedcovers of darkness. I feared my disappointment if I spent weeks, perhaps months, working on a project only to find that it was worthless.
Was this sense of already being a failure why I used the constant spate of company coming through my home as an excuse for not being able to maintain momentum with my projects? Have I always been looking for something or someone to blame for not completing things? Has all this procrastination simply been my way of avoiding being rejected because I'm not good enough, or as good as someone else?
My complaint about the constant interruptions, about the need for blocks of time to write, didn't hold up. When I had the blocks of time, I often found other things to do that would keep me away from my desk, my laptop, my writing projects. If I didn't do them, and could blame someone else for my not completing them, I could maintain the illusion that I really was a good writer—or could be if given the chance. Finding excuses for not beginning or finishing, helped me avoid the failure that I was sure was to come, and the threat that this failure was to my sense of self, significance, and security.
It's not that I have been idle. I have piles of materials that I have written and taught over the years. However, with the vision of turning these into something that is marketable, of exposing my work to public scrutiny, I was overcome with fear. I doubted myself.
In doubting myself, I doubted God. At the beginning of this year the Lord gave me a verse that I supposedly claimed. It comes from Luke 1:45 and says: "Blessed is she who believes that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Obviously I am having trouble claiming this promise. I struggle with believing that God is bigger than my deficiencies. In spite of the encouragement that God has sent along the way, I am still wondering if there is room for this "wannabe" among so many better writers, and if I have a contribution to make.
I have crippled myself, but I am tired of making excuses, of procrastinating because I am afraid. I am tired of being a failure because I haven't given myself the change to succeed. I am tired of living by someone else's definition of success rather than being guided by God's definition of it.
I am writing this in past tense as though it were not a recent experience. Somehow identifying the enemy has loosened his grip and pushed him into the past. However, the battle is probably not over and there will arise both old and new opponents. At least I now recognize the problem. That alone has given me more freedom and courage to expose the dreams that I have had in the dark to the light of a new day.