It’s Friday night and there my phone sits. Motionless. Black screen. No texts or calls. No invitations or offers for an evening of fun, food and laughter.
This happened last week on Monday, and Wednesday, and again on Thursday. Surely…surely there are loads of fun things happening and my number fell off the list of those having all the fun. Surely friends need my advice, or someone who I don’t know very well is secretly thinking of me and wants to have coffee. Maybe in another hour she will work up the courage.
Just give it time.
Maybe they think I’m busy. I am a newlywed so they’re giving me my space, right? Yes, that’s it. Space. Respectful space while they’re really thinking about when the next time we can hang out is.
I originally titled this post “confessions of inadequacy” as I assumed these thoughts and feelings swirling about my head and my heart were only mine.
But I’m just guessing that they belong to a lot of other people as well.
Loneliness and feelings of inadequacy creep into the heart of every woman I’ve ever known, ever met, or ever had the pleasure of spending any amount of time with. Not that men don’t feel these things. I’m absolutely certain they do. But I might be so bold as to say their need for validation, companionship or even love is on a far smaller scale than ours. Their “tanks,” so to speak, are much smaller and take less to fill them. Give them a purpose or a job, a friend, a dog or a wife….good to go. Simple, they are.
Women, however, have tanks much larger than our male companions. These tanks need filled daily, and sometimes hourly, or we start feeling…unnoticed. Give us a best friend, a second tier of good friends, a third tier of coffee friends, and a couple more levels of acquaintances, distant family and past friends we catch up with on Facebook every 6 months or so…and we’ could still use a little more.
Of course, this isn’t all women. I realize my capacity and desire for social interaction is probably on the high end of the scale (just ask my husband…he will tell you I have a problem. or “room for improvement”). Some prefer a smaller circle, less social obligations, and a more intimate gathering. But that doesn’t relieve them of the pains of loneliness and the sometimes feelings of forgotten.
Everybody wants to be thought of.
My feelings of inadequacy flared up once I took the position of “Women’s Ministry Leader” at my church and proceeded to do….nothing. Or at least what felt like nothing. I have wrestled for the past year and a half with wondering why in the world someone as seemingly voiceless and uninfluential as I felt would be put in a position of leadership?
I’m not sure what I expected. I’m not sure if I thought I would do something of importance 6 out of 7 days of the week, every week, all year long and if I didn’t… well, just go ahead and bring in the next leader because surely she will be doing something.
The first year I organized a few events. Some smaller, some larger, some with an agenda and some just to fellowship. I didn’t put a lot of man power behind bible studies because it seemed they had lost their luster. I did, however, put a lot of time, energy and planning into our big, yearly retreat. It took a lot out of me and I felt like I was not operating out of my wheelhouse for the majority of the planning process. But still, I gave it what I had.
I probably received compliments and criticisms, one for one, that first year. For everything someone liked, someone else didn’t. For everything that went well, something else went wrong. Pretty normal, right? I mean, who has ever put 50 women together in one room and made everyone happy? #isthatevenscientificallypossible
Throughout it all, the feelings of ups and the feelings of downs, I still had this lingering question deep inside of me, like a subtle hum….
Do I have what it takes?
Am I doing anything that matters?
What am I supposed to be doing? Am I hitting the mark, missing the mark, or have I ever even seen what the mark is??
The business of ministering to people is a tricky one. There is not a manual or guide as to each person’s needs and how to meet them. There wasn’t a job description written for me as to the most effective way to reach every woman in our church and in our community. Each women didn’t come color coded, separated by major areas of struggles. Pink for addictions, Blue for loneliness, Purple for over-worked and over-stressed…. that would make it 1000 times easier, but no such luck.
Then the fall came. Year two of ministry for me was starting. Women were hungry. Craving relationships, connections, to be involved and included and a part of whatever was going on. And whispering spread that a lot was going on, but only for a select few. The feelings of exclusion began to creep into the heads and hearts of so many women… myself included.
And I was smack dab in the middle of planning my wedding. The perfect excuse.
The chatter started. The ever-so-subtle divisions started to creep in. A quiet buzz about who was doing what, who was included and who was excluded came like a quiet in the night. I felt like I needed to do something. But I didn’t know what. Pair that with my feelings of inadequacy as a leader. Top it off with my schedule being packed full with wedding hoopla.
My perfect excuse.
I sat…in silence.
Just like my phone.
This was when the lies began. Quiet, hushed tones about my inabilities, what I had to offer, and what kind of a difference I could possibly make begin to fill my subconscious.
It’s true that I was busy. Getting married in 5 months does not exactly scream free time. But I am a firm believer of the quote that “if you want to get something done, give it to a busy woman.” Amen and amen! I am a busy woman, but always a woman who can get things done.
But not this time. This time… I was frozen.
Stuck in my own feelings of self-doubt and numbed to any purpose or plan that I once let fill me with passion, I did the worst thing….which in this case was nothing.
I was sure I was the only one who felt left out, lonely, inadequate or like I just didn’t have what it takes.
So I’m going to walk out on a limb here…..do you feel it, too?
I can find myself being a victim of paralysis by analysis, as they say. When you think about something so much, from every angle possible, that you essentially think it to death. You haven’t figured out the best way, a flawless way, a way not to risk or get hurt, so you do…nothing. Frozen, with your mind running 100 miles a minute, yet with no resolve.
This happens when I don’t know how to approach someone I’ve hurt.
Or when I want to make a new friend, but I don’t know how to start.
And when I feel like I don’t fit in.
The truth is, in the realm of relationships, there is absolutely no way to guarantee you won’t get hurt.
That you won’t be embarrassed or rejected or excluded. Because loving people is risky. Putting yourself out there is exactly that. And it doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. And sometimes our hearts are twisted and tangled, chipped off at the edges and bruised in ways we aren’t sure will heal.
We have emotional needs the size of Texas, love is risky, and even if we invest in people we’re not sure it will produce any sort of return…
So now what?
Well, I believe it’s what we do with those each of those three things that makes all the difference in the world: our emotional needs, our love and our investment in others.
We rule our emotions or our emotions rule us. Plain and simple. I believe emotions at their core are meant for good. We were created to experience a spectrum of feelings and that makes us human. Whether or not we chose to let our emotions reign king in our lives is up to us.
We can make it our friends job to meet our emotional needs, or we can do some self evaluations, some ownership, and some filtering of what is fair to expect and what is not. We can make it our husbands or wives job to meet our emotional needs, or we can take control of them in a healthy way that creates freedom, space and gives authenticity a chance to bloom. Loving out of obligation is stifling. So is love that is forced.
And Love IS risky. When we love someone, we expose ourselves. Love can be a gamble. It can leave us feeling exposed, vulnerable, and with deep, unsettling feelings of uncertainty. Will our love be returned? Will it be cared for? Are we safe? It puts a small piece of us in the hands of someone else.
If we love wisely, prudently and intentionally, we don’t necessarily eliminate the risk, but we manage the risk. I believe we were given intuitions for a reason. We are given experiences to learn from. We cannot always guarantee what risk will return, but we can risk judiciously.
But sometimes, we risk with no inhibitions because we know it is the right thing. It can’t always be calculated or certain, but sometimes we know we need to. Because Jesus loves us like that. And His love is wild, defying reason, logic and risky in every sense of the word.
Investing in people is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. People are, as we’ve already decided, are an unpredictable and an uncertain investment–we’re not always sure what we will get in return, if anything.
And that is why investment becomes an expectation for someone else. It is far easier to let people come to you. To risk less and ask more. To assume the underdog position and wait for someone else to take the risk. Most times we don’t realize that we’re even doing that. We feel at a disadvantage because we’re new, unfamiliar, or we’ve been hurt before so we play it safe. We want to make sure we’re worth it before we determine if they are.
We are unsure of ourselves.
We are certain that we are unwelcome, unwanted, and that all of those lies that have crept in our head about our inadequacies are actually true.
And the only way to fight those lies is to disprove them. To put ourselves out there. To find our identity in something other than Friday night invitations and Facebook traffic. To risk well and to manage our emotions. To invest in people when all we want is someone to show us that they care. Because when we give ourselves away, we’re in the perfect position to gain.
All easier said than done, but it’s a place to start.
And the place where I will start. Because I don’t want to be someone who lives out of fear or believes the lies. So I’m sorry for the ways my fears and silence have failed to serve you, love you or come alongside you. I won’t always know the right thing to do, but I promise to do something.
And in the trying, let’s try to give each other soft places to land and grace as we enter the clunky business of vulnerability.
Because we all want to be noticed. And loved. And found worthy and adequate.
And I find comfort in my confidence that I’m not alone….that you feel it, too.