I’m sitting in the airport, waiting to board a plane. I’ve been awake since 4:00AM – well, really, every hour since 10:00PM. What is it about knowing I’ve got to get up early that makes sleep so elusive?! I look at others around me and guess that I’m not the only one who lost sleep over this early flight. I’m thankful for the Dunkin’ Donut coffee shop in the airport, just down from my gate. I’m thankful for the large cup of caffeine that is helping me focus. Of course, I’ve already blown my firm resolve to eat healthy on this trip. But, what good is Duncan Donut coffee without a Duncan donut?
I’m on my way to a writers’ conference at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. Hoping I’ll take myself more seriously as a writer if I listen to some folks who – actually write consistently. I haven’t done a very good job of that lately. I keep getting too distracted by life. The life which I have committed to write.
I always get a little (no, a lot) nervous flying. Maybe, it is not so unreasonable in this day and age but I’m aware that this fear, if not purposely given perspective, can be a hindrance to fully participating in what life has to offer. I write this from painful and shameful experience. Seven years ago I had a gift of an opportunity to travel to Egypt and Israel with a group from the seminary I was attending. It was to be led by my Hebrew professor and advisor, a gifted and kind individual who had been traveling extensively in the Middle East for thirty years. From what I knew of him as a professor I knew that this trip would enrich not only my ministry path but my path as a human being as well. I found it hard to believe that I was really getting to go!
As the departure date neared a small creeping fear began to grow inside of me. At first it was just a tiny twinge of concern but, it grew until it became a raging and fear filled pain. I had let some news accounts of unrest in the Middle East unnerve me. Seriously, when is there not unrest in the Middle East. Sadly, as my gnawing fear grew my level of trust waned. I didn’t trust that the seminary, including this experienced professor, would have the good sense to cancel the trip if necessary. I didn’t trust that my husband, who loves me and wants me safe at all times, would not hesitate to tell me if he thought I shouldn’t go. Oh, I didn’t consciously doubt them. I just let my emotions get in the way of my trust in general.
So…three days before we were to depart I backed out. Called my professor and told him I was too afraid to go. Even as I write these words I am filled with the echoes of regret and shame. It is the big coulda, shoulda, woulda moment of my life. The other thirty folks in the group, the ones who actually went on the trip, had life changing, life enriching experiences that they joyfully shared upon return. The next time I saw my professor I cried my apology. It was an ugly cry. He, on the other hand, was full of grace.
This professor was so completely full of grace that he accepted the invitation to speak at my ordination into ministry two years later. He spoke what is known as the “charge” to me – words of encouragement and exhortation meant to fortify the new pastor for the rigorous journey ahead. His words were full of kindness and affirmation. And then, he said he thought my greatest challenge going forward was going to be my struggle with my own credibility. With one word he woke me up to a new discovery about myself that was totally unexpected. It has taken me a while to fully process the impact of his words.
I have realized the times in life when I have held back from going forth, moving forward, diving in, participating, putting myself out there, writing it down, contributing confidently, living in fullness, getting on the damn plane – it has been largely because I don’t accept that I belong, or am qualified, or have been invited to be. I’m waiting for permission instead of giving it to myself. I remember thinking that since i was going on the trip to Israel for my own education and perhaps edification, instead of on a mission to serve others, that I was being selfish and should not expect safety. I had some twisted notion that I hadn’t earned the right to go on the trip. I’m confessing my craziness now not because I think my life and my quirks are the least bit extraordinary or interesting but, rather because I’m realizing, as humans, we all have our quirky fears and perceptions that speak to our own sense of, or lack of, credibility which can determine how fully we embrace our calling to live life to the fullest.
Best of all, I have, or am in the process of realizing that ultimately credibility is not something bestowed on us by an ordination, diploma, job title, financial rating, or by any other person, but is rather an innate gift from God, given to us in the very breath of our lives, given in order to equip and encourage us to live our purpose and to live it fully. What is this credibility? The online definition I read….the quality of being trusted and believed in. Hmmm. Being comfortable in your own skin. And sometimes it takes some perspective adjusting in order to recognize how important this healthy sense of self allowed credibility can be in conquering the fears that crop up from time to time. Is there something that holds you back from fully recognizing and allowing your own sense of credibility. Are you waiting for some kind of outside permission before you’ll fully immerse yourself into this amazing ocean of life into which we have all been invited, commissioned, and called to swim?!
We’ve taken off now. I’m on my way to learn more about this persistent itch I have to write. I still have some fears – not crazy about flying, especially the turbulence we just hit. And, I have to say – it feels so much better going forward rather than retreating. I’m glad I got on the plane this morning. Now, I realize New Jersey is not Israel. And yet, it just may be as important of an experience in my particular life. At the very least it will be one that, this time, I won’t miss.
Something to chew on…