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.

Permission to Embarrass

Fridays with Robynn

Recently I gave God permission to embarrass me!

I know that might sound odd and even somewhat sacrilegious. But it helped me to relax. It helped me let God be God.

Let me lay it all out for you…and you can connect the dots.

*Every Tuesday evening this summer we’ve been attending the Alpha course. Alpha is an introduction to the Christian faith. It’s a safe place where conversations happen. I love it! I love the honest interaction, the laughter, the agony that’s shared in a circle with new friends.

*We’ve been taking our neighbours: confirmed atheists, Adam and Theresa. And they’ve enjoyed it. They keep coming back. The discussions we’ve had with them have been crazy intense. It’s been revealing and riveting.

*This past Tuesday the topic was two-fold: the problem of evil and healing. According to the Alpha tradition we eat dinner together, watch a video on the topic at hand and then break into small groups to discuss what we’ve heard.  But the healing night is a little different. On this particular evening we don’t break into small groups, rather, we offer an opportunity for people to ask for prayer. You can ask prayer for anything but the assumption is that you might want prayer for healing of some kind.

*It’s amazing! God loves to heal. He’s kind and compassionate…and He loves to heal.

*But sometimes he doesn’t heal.  And I find that a little embarrassing.  And when there are those on the fringes of belief, or outside belief, it feels even more embarrassing, almost a putting God on trial. If he fails, what then?

*Tuesday I was nervous to think that Adam and Theresa might come, they might experience the awkward moment when people are asking for prayer, they might even risk asking for prayer themselves and then what if God didn’t do anything.

*As it turned out after the video Adam and Theresa asked some mutual friends, the leaders of our Alpha small group, if they would go into another room with them and discuss it! They wanted to think more about the problem of evil. They wanted to hash that out some more. It was hard to put that huge problem up against God’s longing to heal souls and bodies, hearts and wounds.

I have no idea if anyone was healed last night. But somehow it helped that I had already given God permission to embarrass me. I had let him off the hook. I said it’s ok for You to do things Your way. You are God. You can be in charge. I felt more relaxed. I felt my faith increase. Prayer is a vulnerable thing. Asking for prayer is risky.

Letting God do His thing meant I could stand back. I didn’t feel the need to explain Him away, or defend Him in any way.  God is God. He can be Weird and Wild; Awesome and at times, Awkward. But when I give Him permission to embarrass me, I’m letting Him be Himself. And it was freeing and foreign.

Maybe a little of me was quietly healed in the process…!

Alpha Moments: Suffering and Firetrucks – Fridays with Robynn

Our church has offered the Alpha course for 6 years in a row but I only recently discovered how lovely it is. The Alpha course was originally developed in the UK and then revised and greatly expanded by Nicky Gumble at Holy Trinity church in London. It’s a non-threatening introduction to the Christian faith. I love it. It’s a safe place where you can come, enjoy a free meal and free child care and ask any question you want about God or Christianity and no one makes you feel stupid. Imagine being surrounded by regular people who sincerely just want to ask legitimate questions about faith, about pain, about their bad experiences, about evil, about good, about God.

This morning in the car, my ten-year old daughter, Bronwynn wanted to know more about the Alpha course,

“So can you really ask any question you want?”

“Yes,” I told her, “any question…it’s a safe place.”

“Do you get answers?” she wondered.

“Sometimes,” I replied, “but sometimes just asking the question out loud with other people who are also asking questions…sometimes that’s comforting too.”

It’s true isn’t it? Sometimes just being with other people and being allowed to wonder out loud is reassuring. We are all human. We all have deep questions. We all have pain we don’t understand. We all wonder why and for how long. But we never have the luxury of forming the question, let alone, asking it outside of our heads and hearts. Sometimes just the space and the freedom to shape the question, to articulate it, to let it live, sometimes that’s almost enough.

“I want to go to Alpha. I have questions,” Bronwynn continued.

She was quiet for a few minutes. She was thinking hard. These were big issues. Tough to articulate. The car was her safe space. Her Alpha moment.

“I have two questions. The first one is, ‘Why does God allow suffering? The second one is,” She hesitated,  “Can fire trucks and police cars go through red lights?”

These are the big questions of 10 year olds. They were weighing her down. I didn’t laugh. Alpha is a safe place. No one makes you feel stupid.

I don’t know the answer to the first question. I wish I did. But just asking it out loud in the car relieved some of Bronwynn’s angst.

And yes, firetrucks and police cars can go through red lights with their sirens and lights on!