Sweet Girl and I went to the park yesterday. It was a beautiful day and I'd been meaning to take her for a while. Every time we would pass the church playground by the library, full of children laughing and playing, she's point longingly, and guilt would fill me for not taking her to the park each and every day. So finally we were going. Thoughts of her running across the green grass toward the stairs she would quickly climb filled my head. They must have been based on my little sister's first visit to a park in China when she was just a little older than my daughter. I was excited for Sweet Girl; she was going to have so much fun!
But instead of running, she held my hand and we slowly walked toward the playground. Instead of getting excited about the stairs, she climbed slowly after my prompting. She warmed up after a bit, but there was still no squeal as she ran to the next exciting thing. I was puzzled. Sometimes she is so outgoing and bold. Other times she acts just like I remember being as a little girl: timid and cautious. As I watched her and pondered all of this, it brought back memories of my childhood.
I've always wished I was more of the enthusiastic type. Someone who gets others pumped up, always more than ready for the next thing. Sadly, when I think of prominent memories from my childhood, they are filled with disappointment, usually after I had been excited about something. Like the time we visited a pig farm. I was so excited and I ran toward the pigs, just to slide in a big puddle of mud. It ruined the day. Another time in school, I was excited about a worksheet we were doing - some sort of word game - and I said, "Yippee!" or some other enthusiastic phrase. The teacher turned around and sharply asked, "Who said that?!" Of course, I did not tell her it was me. Maybe she thought I was being sarcastic, but at the time I did not think of that. I did not even know what it meant to be sarcastic at that innocent age.
Are these moments in my life the reason why I'm shy and cautious to get involved... afraid to say hi to an old acquaintance or a new face? Sometimes, I feel I am afraid of life. Unwilling to try new things, to break out of my routine and comfort zone. But there have been times in my life where I have done a number of new things in a remarkably small amount of time. When I started college, I met people left and right, and was excited about it. When I started my first job out of college, I was extremely personable, meeting people both within my job and socially. When we traveled around playing baseball, I continually put myself out there to meet all the girlfriends and other wives. In all these instances, I surprised myself. It wasn't like me. And now, I am back in my hometown, yet feeling like the "new girl at school." I don't have a solid circle of friends, but I am in a comfort zone enough that I don't need to seek out adventure. However, there is a craving. Yet I walk around the community in fear of coming in contact with someone who will actually talk to me. I freeze when I see someone I know and I don't know what to say. When I'm prepared, I'm okay. But if not, I'm like a turtle who retreats into my shell each time I see someone.
I know my problem is fear. Fear of rejection or embarrassment. Yet I need to find my confidence in Christ, not what a stranger thinks of me. I need to find my joy in Him, not being approved of by others. But how do I do that? I have started praying each morning that God would prepare me for whatever encounters I may have that day with others. And He has! When I am mindful of drawing my strength in Him, I can and He does strengthen me. But I'm weak and things get busy and I forget. And I get lazy and I don't want to put in the effort. It's a continual struggle. But over time, I pray I can keep Him ever closer and closer to my heart so I can boldly share Him with others by being warm and welcoming, enthusiastic and joyful, all without fear.
"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.'" Matthew 14:27