Hi. My name is Rebekah DeVall, and I’m not perfect.
*looks around classroom* *waits for the claps*
As human beings, it’s so easy to fake flawlessness. Rising in the morning, putting on that mask we call makeup, going to the same job with the same look we wear every day. Saying goodbye in the same way, driving the same route home. Going to the same church service on Sundays, smiling, always present in the ministry.
We Christians live a life that’s meant to the be the walking Bible for other people. We’re God’s messengers on Earth, per se. It feels wrong to complain. It feels wrong to admit that our walk with God isn’t a-okay. Admitting that we’re not perfect feels like we’re letting God down somehow, letting our fellow-Christians and fellow-missionaries down.
And then you come to those of us who are beginners in the ministry, at least in years. Sundays, we go to church, same as everyone else. We may teach a Sunday School class… but then on Monday we go right back to our day jobs.
I have so many identities that sometimes even I can’t keep up. I’m a Bible Institute student, preparing for a future ministry. I work in food production. I’m a hairstyling/cosmetology student. I’m an author. My classmates don’t know I write. My coworkers don’t know I study. My other bunch of classmates don’t know I work. It’s this long, endless cycle of “me” everywhere, without ever being all of me.
Every time I go to post on Facebook, I spend several minutes staring at that little blue button, wondering, “Under which personality am I posting this?” Some of the things I research as a writer will put my Christian ministry friends into an awkward position. Some of my Christian posts alienate writing friends (who need Jesus too, you know.). I’m terrified some days to post certain things, because I know both my parents and my “irl” friends will see them, and I’m afraid to be judged, to be seen as anything less than perfect.
The thing is, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He created us as we are, just like in the kids’ song, “red, brown, yellow, black and white”. Jesus, God in the flesh, was very much a human. Even though he was (is!) perfect, He also spoke to people on a personal level, speaking with authority, and not as a scribe (Matthew 7:28). He didn’t pretend to hold Himself up on a higher level than everyone else. He ate with the publicans and sinners.
And I should do the same.
Why don’t we, naturally? Why do we Christians try to hold ourselves to a higher standard? Why do we pretend to be porcelain dolls, holier-than-thou?
We share the same fears as every other person. In this moment, I’ve decided to share mine.
1. I’m afraid of being vulnerable.
I’m going to be honest here. Posts like this? They terrify the crap out of me. I’m opening up my heart and, guess what? Some people are going to spit on it. Some people are going to judge, because we humans simply feel the need to judge.
I’m afraid of the look in peoples’ eyes while they read my work. I’m afraid of that shadow of disappointment that crosses their eyes when I don’t meet up to their standard. I’m afraid that they’ll take something important and near to my heart and laugh.
Previous experience has taught me that most people aren’t like that, but I’m still afraid.
2. I’m afraid of breaking down.
I can handle a lot of pressure. I mean, a LOT, lot of pressure. I can work two peoples’ shifts under a crabby supervisor whilst on a busy day and still come home sane. I can write fourteen books at once without losing too many of my marbles. I can maintain a high grade average in a Bible Institute whilst studying in night classes, working, and spending late-night hours writing books. I can babysit siblings at the same time.
But I’m afraid that one of these days, I’m going to break down. I’m afraid that one of these days, the stress will be too much for me and I’ll crack. I’ll cry in a public place (oh, *gasp!* the horror!). I’ll snap and shout at the little siblings. I’ll hit someone in a fit of rage. (Don’t worry, that has never happened before.)
But I am afraid of these things.
3. I’m afraid of failure.
As per the last point, I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid that, in admitting my shortcomings, I will alienate others.
I’m afraid that the quiz paper will come back with a low grade. I’m afraid that I won’t finish beta-reading that book on time, or I’ll fall through my own deadlines for writing books.
There was this time, almost three years ago, when I started my first job. I was terrified of failing. The workplace is less than twenty steps away from my house. My coworkers can look out the window and see me hanging up my laundry, for Pete’s sake. My boss is a neighbor. One of the partners is our mission’s director. If I failed at this job, if I did something stupid that got me fired, the whole neighborhood was going to know about it.
The stuff I work with in one day—if I mess it up, it’s worth more than my month’s paycheck. Seriously.
I had—still have, actually—a coworker who is the epitome of perfection. When I started the job, she’d been working there for well over five years. Everything on her watch was spick and span, nothing out of place, nothing one second late or one second early. She clocked in at eight o’clock and clocked out at twelve thirty, precisely at the end of shift.
She also had a loose tongue. I could hear her, from the bathroom, criticizing every wrong move I made, groaning to the other, more veteran coworkers about being stuck with “the newbie”. No, not Rebekah. The newbie.
But I didn’t just overhear it. The comments and criticisms happened to my face, too. She would yell at me from the other side of the building, that “No, no, no, no, NO! NOT LIKE THAT!”
Not a day went by that more than one of my actions was criticized, castigated. My self-esteem plummeted. It grew to the point that I was sick, every morning, with fear of what she would do to me that day. I was miserable, my whole life, every moment of my thoughts dominated by work, by what had happened that day.
I was that terrified of failure, terrified that she would bring my newbie mistake to the boss and get me fired.
(For the record, things have much improved since. Said coworker and I still work together, daily, and it’s grown to the point that I’ve been able to witness to her several times. I’m also the best coworker she has. ;))
See. I’m human too. Just writing this blog post is terrifying, because I know the people who will read this (*waves* hi, Dad!). I’m being vulnerable. I’m sharing things I never shared before, and I’m afraid to be spit on.
God and I, we’ve been doing some talking lately. Or, rather, I’ve finally learned to listen. The verse particularly impressed on my heart is this one:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I took a long walk, just the day before yesterday. Two hours, alone, out in the field, with just a notebook and a pencil, writing down what I’m afraid of. These three were at the top of my list. And then I laid that list before God.
Because, in the end, the only One whose opinion really matters is God’s. My parents, my friends, my family—they can spit on my life, my thoughts, my writings, but as long as God’s okay with it, then so am I.
So, here we are, all you people out there to whom I’m afraid to show my true self.
My name is Rebekah DeVall. I make mistakes. I fail. But I am created in God’s image.
That’s good enough for me.
What about you? What are your biggest fears?
Post them in the comments or link me through to your blog post talking about them. Let’s be vulnerable together.