14 April 2014

courage to speak

Mrs Cecil Wade, JS Sargent
I don't think many people would describe me as reserved. On most topics, I am happy to express myself at great length to anyone in the vicinity. Yet one subject always silences me. Not because I fear offending someone or because I have some scandalous opinion that would rock my companion's boat  . . .  I'm just afraid that I will say it wrong.

It's when I want to express my affection for or encourage someone. I clam right up.

I can't manage to articulate my love, and this frustrates me, because of all the things I could say why must it be these words, the words that could really strengthen another person's heart, that stubbornly remain inside?

A few months ago I mentioned this problem to a friend, and she encouraged me to dig a bit deeper. Could I find out why I struggle this way? I thought that perhaps I could. I mulled over it, and mulled again, and here's what I came up with.

I am not a particularly mushy person. I feel things deeply, but I tend to spoil tender moments by laughing. Since my typical demeanor is more Marilla Cuthbert than Anne Shirley, I fear that if I do try to articulate softer feelings, I won't be taken seriously. How can I persuade the other person that I mean what I say?

Also, I gravitate to sarcasm and understatement, which distance me from what I'm saying. Compliments make me squirm-- I tend to ward them off with a light-hearted remark. When it comes time to compliment someone else, I have to leave my verbal safety zone and say something straightforward, not wrapped in layers of irony. Since I derive comfort from sarcasm, sincerity is decidedly uncomfortable. It's risky.

Another risk I take, of course, is of being misunderstood. As I mentioned above, I feel deeply but hesitate to reveal my feelings, because what if they don't come out exactly right? Will the other person get what I'm trying to tell them? I understand poor J. Alfred Prufrock's dilemma:
It is impossible to say just what I mean! . . .
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
Whenever you talk about relationships and emotions you have the potential for injury.

So maybe that helps to explain why I avoid expressing affection: I am scared. Of not being taken seriously, or of not having sarcasm and silliness as a backup, or of saying things awkwardly and either hurting myself or others.

I've thought about this and in the past months I've heard God speak through his Word and through other people. I have been thoroughly challenged to step forward in faith. He calls me to use my gifts to build up His people and to communicate love in this world. I can speak and let his grace work through me, and not be afraid that I'll mess it up, because it's God who ultimately encourages us, loves us, and establishes us in his peace.


  1. Wow you really can’t swim out of the gene pool….

    But God can redeem that same gene-pool.

    I am amazed at how most of our reservations in these areas can be traced back to the garden… not the one in which Elli picks up an amazing stick or a fascinating clump of dirt but the garden named Eden.

    Like Eve the possibility of being like God is a big part of our temptation. When we are afraid of making a mistake, or being misunderstood we are really saying, “Hey if I can’t be perceived as flawless (i.e. like God) I won’t say or do anything at all.” And of course if that is our attitude we will never do anything worth doing or say anything worth saying.

    This is where redemption of the “gene pool” comes in, not just the one inherited from me but the one that goes all the way back to “the garden". In the fullness of the Gospel we know ourselves as imperfect humans (sinners) and God as amazingly wonderful (perfect in every way). Thanks be to God, we can see ourselves as not only as flawed but also as children of that self-same wonderfulness of a Father (perfect in his love toward us). As such we should, as believers not expect perfection from the others (believers and non-believers) or ourselves… this is a tough nut to crack that goes back to the gene pool.

    J.I. Packer said something to the effect of "Tell me what you know of God as a loving Father and I will have a pretty good gauge of your understanding of Christianity."

    Fact: I should expected that I will be misunderstood and there will be issues. And because of who I am in Christ this is all redeemable!

    This understanding of God’s redemption and who Jesus is and where he is today and what it means to me in the life I live today has revolutionized my relationship between myself and my wife, my children, fellow believers and the non-believers. It is good to be redeemed.


  2. You are nothing like Marilla Cuthbert! (Although that was a funny image...nothing like the early Marilla, anyway.)