It is not an infrequent experience of mine. I am getting ready for a new Bible study or luncheon or neighborhood picnic or PTA meeting or family reunion and an unsettling apprehension begins creeping in. Who will be there? How will I be received?
It’s not that I don’t want to go. I like being invited. I want to be included. But that is the problem. I want to be included too much. I want to fit in and be well thought of, and I fear this present situation will be the one that finally proves—to me and to those attending—that all my own insecurities are true.
Can you identify?
A pastor friend gave me a helpful tool for situations like this. He said, “Take your eyes off of yourself. Shift the focus from Jani to another person in the room. Learn to be a ‘there you are’ person rather than a ‘here I am’ person.”
A “here I am” person enters a classroom or a party or prayer meeting thinking, I wonder if I will know anyone. Did I wear the right clothes? Will someone speak to me? What if no one comes up to me? How will I break into those closed circles of happy conversations that I never seem able to enter? I will feel so excluded! So embarrassed. So ME!
An invitation to any new social function, whether at church or work or school or in my neighborhood makes me think of the lamest excuses to stay home. And why is that? Because I am so consumed with myself. My inner world revolves around me. What do they think of me? Of my ideas? Of my talents and skills and abilities? My emotional stability centers on peoples’ responses to me. Did someone notice me? Like me? Appreciate me? Admire me? Me—ME—ME!
It makes me sad and kind of sick. Sick of myself. Sick of my self-focus. Sick of my weak and sinful inner life.
When my pastor friend encouraged me to be more a “there you are” person than a “here I am” person, a sweet freedom began to blossom in my heart. I started entering new situations praying and thinking about the needs of the other people in the room. I looked for people who were alone, unnoticed, quiet. I’d try to have a question ready to get past the first few awkward minutes. “Hi, my name is Jani. Have we met before?”
Who knows what circumstance they just came from? Were they dealing with the same fears? Would they be hoping someone would notice them? I could do that! By helping them not be invisible, I overcame my own fear of invisibility.
As we enter into new situations this fall at school and church and work, let’s ask God to help us grow out of being “here I am” people. Let’s ask God to show us how to take our eyes off of ourselves, off of the kind of impression we are making, off of who will notice and like and affirm us, off of us and on to others. Let’s ask Him to help us become “there you are” people. It’s biblical, you know:
"Outdo one another in showing honor." (Rom. 12:10)
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." (Col. 4:6)
"My soul finds rest in God alone." (Ps. 62:1)
Where is it hard for you to be a “there you are” person? How can we overcome our natural tendency to be “here I am—someone please notice me” kind of women? Has anyone ever been a “there you are” person to you in a new situation?