When I try to write in English, I feel like a bird without wings still trying to fly.
― Debasish Mridha
I used to ski a lot. As a late arrival to the sport I never developed a fearlessness or confidence that comes from adopting a skill as a youngster. And one could argue that fearlessness, particularly when it comes to athletic pursuits has never been part of my genetic code. I am built to make and house new life, so any threat rings harsh and true within every cell of my being. Slow down! You could die! I jump straight to death. I sense there is little room for improvement when one is preoccupied with actual death. So, I shame myself for not overcoming and I keep trying while also being absolutely miserable.
Now that I’m a presumed grown up, I try to choose and embrace sports that require my feet on the ground, in actual shoes. I prefer to travel in straight lines, connected to the earth.
But it was always my dream to ski. I grew up with visions of me coasting down mountains making the swishes of soft, smooth “S” turns. The skiers I knew were cool, athletic, and lovely. But when I started learning to ski at twenty-one under the tutelage of my dear fiance who had me on black diamonds my first day (not happily, I might add), it was nothing near soft and smooth. My snowplow was an act of desperation, a wedge of terror. I, more than once, threw my poles, exited the boots, and sobbed in the snow. How could this be, this is what I always dreamed of? This is everything I thought I wanted! And now I’m a disaster with an exhausted body and a tested future marriage.
Once I got the hang of skiing I had some good days where everything clicked and I felt like the skier I thought I was always supposed to be. And other days were miserable and wretched. But I noticed something. The miserable and wretched days were the days I learned a new technique or cemented a new skill. While I wasn’t always conscious of this, I did begin to discover a pattern. The subsequent ski day was easier, more fun. The difficult days were work days, cementing days, cycled with carefree, lighthearted days.
Last week, after a wonderful first service of our new Left Hand Church community I jumped right into intensive meetings, culminating with the Q Christian Fellowship conference (formerly GCN) in Denver.
I’m not always crazy about meetings. I feel the need to prove myself somehow, like I have to measure up to everyone else around the table. And while some aspects were amazing, enjoyable, and rewarding, other parts were difficult, a test of my mettle and worth. It felt a lot like skiing.
This new world I’ve entered is filled with tenacious, generous, talented people. But if I’m not careful, I can feel like an impostor, like if they could see me, if they pulled back the curtain of my soul there would be nothing but a bunch of disparate parts and pieces that don’t make much sense when pooled together.
And yet, I know, this is not true. This is what happens when we expand and grow and become, when we gain skills and knowledge and influence. Sometimes we hurt. We worry we are somehow too much and not enough at the same time. We feel like we have to craft our thoughts into a concise, bullet-pointed list, when all we need to do is process out loud in our – what feels like too much – messy vulnerability.
Part of me wonders if much of this is a result of my conditioning as a woman. For years I subjected myself to the belief that as a good Christian it was my duty to keep quiet and let the men lead. That didn’t work out too well, resulting in a hefty dose of shame. I know better now.
I’m still on the learning curve. I’m still figuring out who I am and how I operate in this new world. After years of being home raising kids I am now amongst remarkable faith leaders who are leading churches and initiatives that are changing the world. We are on the same trajectory, aiming for what is right and true and best, in this essential work of reconciling creation to the Creator. This is my calling and my greatest dream and I’m thrilled, but still terrified. Somehow I think it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be – doing what I do, being who I am, humbled, grateful, awed.
May all of us speak as we are led, celebrating the diversity of our voices.
May all of us join where we are called, even when quaking in our boots.
May all of us remember we are loved, as we are, as we become.
While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.
― Brennan Manning,