So, sometimes you have to fly far out of your safe zone to discover who you really are … and to realize you don’t have to apologize anymore.
I was half a country away from home, at a bloggers’ conference called Allume in South Carolina. About 450 souls gathered there to link hearts, instead of blog posts. To share life, instead of Facebook statuses.
Pixels became people. We looked into eyes instead of screens.
On our last morning, a corner booth hemmed a few of us into one another. We shared secret soul-places where the wild revelation of God exhales like fresh wind. Holley looked into my eyes and asked me what I would take home from the conference. I put down the fork on my plate, next to two eggs over-easy, and I leaned in close to tell her:
“I want to be bold. I want to lose my timidity. I want to stop diminishing the gifts God has given me. I want to stop apologizing for who I am.”
I knew it felt safe to tell Holley. Because Holley Gerth’s ministry is grounded in encouraging women to embrace who God has created them to be.
She reached over the table and squeezed my hand, then waved her pinky in the air. “Let’s pinky promise.”
She wanted me to make an oath, a pledge with her and with God, that we don’t have to apologize anymore for using our gifts for His glory.
About a week ago, Holley had written these words on the incourage website:
Stop trying to downplay your gifts.
Stop trying to minimize your successes.
Stop trying to skim over your strengths with, “Oh, that was nothing.”
It was not nothing.
It was the spark of God within you.
It was who He created you to be shining bright.
It was what He called you to do coming forth into the world.
Don’t listen to the whiners, the discouragers, the critics, the-good-in-your-life-makes-me-feel-bad-crowd.
You have nothing to be sorry for, sister.
~ Holley Gerth (read more from Holley’s post by clicking here)
Sister, let me tell you something. You have the God-given right to boldness. And these are the moments when, awakened, we can be dangerous to the enemy of our heart. So many Christian women I know have a skewed view of humility, like we have to brush off what we do, shake off a kind word, apologize for doing something well, or deflect any “thank yous” we might receive because are worried we’ll look arrogant.
Sometimes, we turn in on ourselves, shaking our heads vigorously to deflect the words of others who tell us we made a delicious cake, wrote a touching blog post, hosted a fabulous dinner party, snapped a beautiful photograph. We have no trouble claiming our weaknesses, but shudder at the thought of claiming our strengths.
But what if we’re robbing the praise of God by deflecting the kindness of those who were touched by His work in us? What if, in diminishing our gifts, we’re diminishing the Creator who prepared good works for us, in advance of our earthly existence?
We can be dangerous to the enemy of our hearts when we:
1 – Release our gifts boldly into the world, knowing that whether praise or criticism comes, both ultimately belong to the Father, if we’re offering our work in obedience.
2 – Never discount our gifts by saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, really.” It IS something! Our lives exists inside Christ, and Christ exists inside us. What comes out in His name is a product of what He designed us to do. We will come more alive to ourselves, our Creator and our callings when we recognize that we bring value to our world.
3 – Remember that our spiritual gifts are given “so we can help each other” (1 Cor 12:7). And our gifts are actually designed to be shared courageously to make the world a better place. “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well” (Romans 12:6)
4 – Model courage by using your gifts to their fullest. Our boldness gives others permission to be fully themselves.
4 – If someone praises our work, let’s stop deflecting. Let us offer thanks to the person, and to God. It’s this easy: “Thank you, friend. And thank you, Jesus.”
We finished breakfast, and Holley and I walked toward door, into our world and into our callings. But before we stepped into the light, onto that stone-paved sidewalk, Holley turned around and held out her pinky once more.
And I wound my pinky around hers, tight.
And friend, I’m turning around, holding up a pinky. Are you with us?
“Don’t ever diminish who you are to make someone else feel better.”
~ Lisa Whittle (from a breakout session at Allume)
“I can’t imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are.”
~ Emily P. Freeman, from her book “A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You were Made to Live.”
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
~ 2 Timothy 1:7
Photos 1 and 2 by Laura Boggess. Used with permission.
Photo 3 by kubacheck. Sourced via Flickr, Creative Commons.