A Dream Becomes a Reality and I Become Afraid

I like to communicate. A lot.

I love speaking and leading workshops – in fact, it’s my favorite part of my job as a public health nurse. Hand me a topic and a microphone and I’ll have at it with pleasure. (In a way this blog feels a bit like a microphone but I digress)

I do all my speaking in a non-religious context. While I’ve gone across the country to speak on culturally responsive health care or patient navigation and community health workers, I am never asked to speak about faith. Ever.

Truth be told – this is hard for me. I long to communicate my faith across boundaries and barriers and I’ve long prayed for opportunities. But they have not come and I have slowly realized that it’s okay. Very few people who are regularly asked to speak in faith circles have the speaking opportunities that I have in my professional role, the opportunities to connect with people from a broad spectrum of beliefs and world views, and I need to continue to embrace these opportunities doing them as well as I know how.

But in the spring, the seed of an opportunity came and, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to move out in faith and see what happened.

Let me explain. For about four years now I’ve been involved in the Alpha program at a church in a nearby town. Robynn has written before about Alpha, but to recap – Alpha is a program to introduce people to Christianity. It is based on a lot of listening and an environment that values questions, even and especially the hard ones. A church in Goa, India asked the church here to send a team to teach them how to do the Alpha program. A ‘train the trainer’ if you will. The trip would involve going to India and introducing the Alpha program through live demonstration talks and discussion.

20130829-074331.jpgSo I applied and was accepted to be a part of this team. The visa is stamped into my passport, tickets are purchased and I’m going. Tomorrow.

I didn’t know when I applied what I would end up doing, I didn’t know if I would end up working on the sidelines or speaking. It turns out that I will be speaking along with a few others. The leader has asked me to do two talks – One is “How can we be sure of our faith?” and the other is a practical talk on presenting the Alpha program.

But here’s the deal: Now that this dream of communicating faith,communicating what I believe to be the most important thing in the world, is a reality – I have lost my words. I sit down to prepare my talks and fear creeps up like a figurative hives rash and suddenly I’m itching and red and so uncomfortable. My breath starts coming faster and I realize I am panicking. What is this about?! I can do an interesting talk about a vacuum cleaner if you ask me, make people want to buy that sleek, expensive Dyson. In fact, they’ll be lining up for back orders.

But this, this most precious, beautiful story of a faith and how to be sure of it and how it matters….tongue tied, fingers paralyzed, mind spinning.

I always thought I’d be ready for a dream becoming a reality. But here I am, confessing before all that along with the dream becoming a reality is a fear. A fear of inadequacy, a fear that I will not communicate clearly, a fear that I will not do this amazing topic justice. A fear that deep down I am an impostor, uniquely unqualified.

In the middle of this I looked back on a blog post I wrote a year ago. It’s called “And Failure Comes on Like a Virus” and I said this:

…truth is that I join the “march of the unqualified”, that group of people I read about who were inadequate, who failed. The King who stayed home from battle and slept with another man’s wife; the prophet who ran from the call of God and ended up in the belly of a whale; the man raised in the Pharaoh’s household who said ‘I can’t do it! I can’t speak! Let my brother speak for me’; the woman who said ‘Let’s trick your dad into thinking you are your brother so that you can get the birthright’.*

All these, uniquely unqualified, somehow survived the virus of failure, and were met by God, were used by God.”

The panic slowly dissolves in what is overwhelming Grace. This fear? It’s grace in disguise – the best thing that could have happened to me. It places me solidly at the mercy of God. It brings me to my knees (literally) and I beg God to give me words, words that bring glory to God.

I have no idea how this will go, but I know a couple of things:

  1. God is so much bigger than my words
  2. I am so much smaller than his Work.
  3. Over all of this – the visas, the plane ride, the funding, the preparation – is a blanket of Grace that reminds me God is in the business of using the unqualified.

And there you have it.

Readers – I’m not sure how much I’ll be writing from Goa – I hope to do a few updates so stay tuned and thank you for tuning in to my fears and his Grace.

28 thoughts on “A Dream Becomes a Reality and I Become Afraid

  1. such a lovely opportunity for you Marilyn. I think that when we feel the least qualified, that’s when God deems us the most ready because we are most dependent on him and that’s how he likes it. I look forward to hearing your amazing stories on your return. xx

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  2. I was away, enjoying the last weekend with our girl, and actually read Robynn’s post before this one. I know you know to say a prayer before you speak and let the words be His. Your begging will be answered. Then there is no stepping wrong. What needs to be conveyed will be conveyed. Wishing you blessings on this journey. I know your listeners will be blessed, as we are all with your every post.

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  3. I think that it is really exciting that you are off to India – we work in central India and have fallen in love with both the place and the people- praying that amazing things happen while you are there and that your voice Is not your on but that of the holy spirits.

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  4. I believe I would always worry about and doubt a message delivered about faith from the supremely confident. . . The Great Mystery inspires the questions that build faith. You have always asked meaning-full questions and shared your own faith challenges and all of that infuses my own journey of faith with new life! So go with God as your wings and your comfort and know you are exactly where you should be. Your fear from my perspective uniquely qualifies you for this mission of grace. You are in my prayers!

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  5. Blessings to you. I’m sure it will go well, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

    I’m not so sure I agree with the comment just before mine. An article I read by Mark Heard some 30 years ago made me realize that God revels in our uniqueness and that our own personalities are part of his message. We go to hear a singer because he or she is that singer and has that voice. We enjoy the Psalms because of the creative voice and character of David and Asaph, not just because of the content. If you are the one God has put on the platform, you yourself are part of his message to your listeners. He is very proud of you.

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    1. I meant I disagree with the comment at the bottom from my namesake Tim quoting the hymn that says “forget the channel, seeing only hymn”.

      The message just below mine actually echoes my sentiments entirely.

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    2. This is good – something I need to think about. I was thinking about this one day when I was praying before posting and I remember thinking – I would be dishonest if i said this is about an audience of one. Anyone who writes, performs, draws does so out of love for the craft and wants others to love it as well – but they also want others to hear their message….it gets all bogged up in all kinds of false modesty which is pride in disguise. I appreciate very much you bringing this up. It’s easy to get lost in what I call the ‘such a worm as I’ theology – your words ‘He is very proud of you’ are incredibly affirming. So thanks for this at many levels! And I got the hymn him bit :)

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  6. My dear friend! I am so glad the Lord called you on this trip and as I read your thoughts and feelings, I am sensing Gods smile and pleasure over you… You remind me of a great host of others… Moses, Gideon, Paul and countless others. It’s so biblical and normal and I am so encouraged that you feel the same way I do … I know that I am totally unqualified and I shake my head and wonder what was God thinking… But our God does not make mistakes and through everything He is working on building our character and our faith in Him. I know without a shadow of a doubt that He has chosen you to be His representative in Goa. Fear not when He puts you before rules and kings, He will give you His words to say. I am griping these words tightly as I sit here on the day before we leave trying to work (for the first time in months) on the four talks I will give :0) Weakness, fear and trembling are all great things if they cause us to lean our whole weight on God… Lots of love and hugs for you my friend!!!

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  7. Marilyn, what a wonderful opportunity! As communicators I think all or most of us have experienced the feelings you have just expressed. Preparedness and total dependency on the One who sends us takes over the minute we stand behind the podium and face our audience. All fear is gone. You are prepared, you are dependent on Him. Go in peace. Go with our prayers. GO. His GRACE is sufficient.

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  8. Marilyn – my dear sister in Christ and fellow traveller to India, you have voiced so beautifully how I am sure we are all feeling. I stand on the scripture verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” and the fact that He does not call the equipped, he equips the called. Thank you so much for sharing from the heart my friend. See you tomorrow ready to begin our God given adventure to India.

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  9. It’s just so completely perfect that you are feeling your weakness in all of this! You cannot rely on you…you must push into Jesus. Your expertise, your wit, your charm, your confidence…all of it gets laid down, and you stand raw, vulnerable, weak, a willing vessel for the Holy One to use. It is a little scary….but it’s also amazingly humbling and joyful to see what God might do in you as He speaks through you. You won’t be able to claim any credit…. All glory will go to God…! It’s a wonderful, wild ride!
    You are not an imposter. Somehow there is an enemy who wants you to believe you are a fraud, an imposter, a fake. You were really created to be really you. You’ve come to Goa “for such a time as this”! Step out in faith, in weakness, in joy.
    I’m SO jealous…on SO many levels! Enjoy every minute!

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    1. Oh the impostor theme has run through my life….it’s another conversation over tea. That’s why I need words of truth. Thank you for giving them. I love you Robynn.

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  10. One of my favorite hymns ends like this:
    “May His beauty rest upon me,
    As I seek the lost to win,
    And may they forget the channel,
    Seeing only Him”

    You said it well…this story is much bigger than us, and we are directed by one who knows no fear! Enjoy being part of it. You will do amazing things. Can’t wait to read about Goa and see pictures!

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    1. Tim – I love, love that hymn and had forgotten it. What a perfect comment and thought for me to go with. A while back (I think around the start of the year) I blogged about how my favorite speaking is in the deaf community because it’s all about the interpreter – not about me at all. The words you quote from the hymn are all about that. It’s all about the interpreter. Thanks more than you know for reading and encouraging. And yes….pictures and stories :)

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