I don’t know why I don’t trust in myself more. A part of it may be my failure to trust in God, His vision and His plans implicitly - but to be honest, most of it is self-doubt. Whether this emanates from self-esteem issues, post-partum hormones, ‘evil’ itself having a pop at me every so often or a combination of these factors, I am very good at denying the positives and focusing on the negatives.
Earlier this week, I remembered something our vicar said to me when I had been out at the front twice during a Family Service, not very many weeks post-partum, first leading sung worship and then answering questions about my lay ministry course (yeah, it sounds great in writing, but I would not have given myself recognition for it!). She said to me:
Well, you need to get used to it. You’re going to spending more time up at the front in the future.I remember being wildly excited, feeling that my calling had been discerned by another, someone in authority – someone on the NATIONAL selection panel for ordinands in the Church of England none the less!!! – and then, as usual, I somehow mis-filed it in the brain folder labelled ‘irrevelant’ and chose to focus on other things instead.
These other things have been slight, but have taken on huge meaning over the past few months as I have been at home with a new baby. One of the ministers within our church mentioned I should be at home with my children rather than taking on too much volunteer stuff at Church. It made me feel chained to the kitchen sink. I was led to feel that leading the Pram Service with a baby on my knee was second-best, when I just needed to hunker down and let it be proved otherwise. I felt I was failing people by not working with the Baptism Preparation team for the time being, even though I had taken no other maternity leave from Church and my theology studies. I felt I was missing the times people needed me to be with them pastorally, as my focus was on my children. And so on.
But this was my perception of events. Our vicar feels differently, even though I went into a meeting with her convinced she was going to take everything apart and feed my negativity. I almost approached the meeting like a job interview, exposing only the polished veneer of my self and hide all the failings I have been feeling. Thank God I didn’t. Thank God I prayed for guidance beforehand and He said, Just Be Yourself.
The trouble is, my Self has been mired in self-doubt since childhood. As I over-achieved in many areas, I fell down where I could only be good enough. As much as I try to eliminate my perfectionism, it haunts me. I feel I need careful validation to drive me forward and within church ministry you rarely get managerial feedback in that sense. (Okay, I have the odd supporter from the congregation who continues to champion me, but I can tell myself during the more negative times that this is only because, I am one of the few who takes time out to genuinely listen to her and take her for who she is.)
But, I need to look at how far I have come. Having faith and trusting in God was once completely alien to me, and now look where I am. Having faith in myself – 50% faith would be good, I'm not out to achieve completely solid, unwavering faith – and trusting in both my abilities and the ability of others to recognize these, has surely got to come too. I am not competing against anyone. I am an individual gifted with a unique combination of talents. I can only do what I can do, and this is already more than enough.
So I think I need to learn to start to trust and believe in myself the way God does. He’s happy with me now – but he knows the potential of all the extra I can achieve given the possibility. Having grown up with critical parents - who, to their credit, are equally at home assuming the rest of society aren't equipped with the life skills I lack - it's taken me a long time to accept the Trinity as loving parent/guide/friend/bestower of gifts, for free! I hope it isn't that long before I see my over-critical, overbearing inner demons for what they are and just be accepting. Meet myself where I am, as Jesus does. I can accept others as broken, physically, mentally, spiritually. I can cut them some slack. It's time to do the same for me. Lent, you are weeks away and seem a world away, but I feel that this year you are going to bring it on.