In 2016, I spoke at all four of the Propel Women conferences. It was a pretty big honor for me, something Lane and I both agreed was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Confession: we actually postponed our wedding by a week to make room for this opportunity.
I just remember calling my mom up when it became official and I signed the contract. I remember rambling on with fear and excitement and I just remember her saying into the phone, “Imagine the things you’re going to learn. Just sitting beneath these women at all these events, imagine what you are going to learn.” That’s my mom- she pushes Fear’s scrawny butt out-of-the-way to make room for Wisdom. And, let’s be real, Wisdom always has more junk in the trunk than Fear.
My mom was so right though. For years, I’ve looked up to people like Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore as epic communicators. It was a humbling honor to share the stage with them. That year, Propel wanted some millennials to take the stage. Yes, I am a millennial but I never anticipated God would use someone like me for that job.
When I say “someone like me,” I mean the young woman who never thought she’d be a communicator. I thought I could and would gladly write all the words from behind a desk. I thought I would be a writer, not a speaker. Someone like me being up on a stage is a true testimony to God using the most unexpected souls to complete his missions. It’s comical really to use the girl known to dry-heave in the toilet before giving a speech and put her on a stage in front of 7,000 people to communicate a message.
Before the first conference, I was asked to write my talk and mail it over to the team at Propel for review. I remember how nervous I was to put that talk together, continually thinking to myself, “God, I just want to get this right. Please give me the right words.”
The feedback from the talk was limited. Actually, only one big suggestion was made: change the beginning of the talk. Introduce yourself differently.
Here’s what I originally intended to do with the beginning of my talk: I wanted to walk out there, introduce myself, and then also tell people about the anxiety I was feeling. Without a doubt, I knew Anxiety was going to be up there on stage with me. I figured if I give this thing some breath and acknowledge its existence then I will be able to move forward. I will be able to really nail the talk knowing I called out the biggest elephant in the room.
They were asking me to eliminate the part of the talk where I introduced myself by saying, “Hi, I’m anxious.” They wanted me to be bolder, to step forward, introduce myself, and really walk in confidence that I was supposed to be up on that stage. This, for me, is a pretty tall order.
I wanted that crutch. I wanted to make excuses. I wanted to give my platform away to fear.
I’ve always given Anxiety room and breath. I’ve often introduced us at the same time because it has been my way of apologizing in advance, like, “If I mess this up then you will know why.”
I’m learning it is one thing to know your weakness and another thing to project your weakness out of fear that you don’t add up. At the end of each day, I am not my anxiety. I am not my depression. I don’t need to walk out onto a stage and let everyone know I am nervous. Anxiety is something I face but it’s on me if I use it as a crutch or I choose to limit what God is already doing by giving it undue credit.
I’m trying to think differently now, say more things like, “If I am out here on this stage then that means God is with me. I am qualified to do this. I am equipped and ready to do this. So just do the dang thing and don’t make excuses where they’re not necessary.”
I think we waste so much time wondering why we are where we are. I want to look through a different lens. I want my life to be efficient yet purposeful. I want to be able to say I am qualified for this day and I refuse to let anxiety be the thing that holds me back from it. That begins with what I say and how I speak about myself. The words coming out of my mouth at any given moment play a huge role: they will determine whether I am grateful for the opportunity I’m standing in or not.
I am not just processing this when it comes to stages and arenas. I think it’s better that I become grateful in the smaller stuff: the grocery store, the weekly trip to Target (oh, how I wish it wasn’t a weekly trip), dinner dates, and parties we attend. Am I grateful to be here? Am I acting like it? Am I speaking like I am grateful?
You’re going to face crazy, hard things. This is a reality. And I know I am not the only one who has battled something significant like anxiety, depression, or another kind of mental illness. But, in the moment where you’re called forward to shine, are you going to give the credit to God or your weakness?
It is possible to let your weakness shine brighter than your character.
It is possible to be stepping up onto a platform and kicking yourself down from it at the same time. I don’t think God calls us to these moments so we can boast about how weak we are, I think there’s a real opportunity to exclaim how far we’ve come and how many victories we’ve experienced with him.
I want to speak the right words into the microphone. I want to give breath to the good and lovely things of this lifetime. I appreciate my anxiety because it has taught me to fight like hell to get past the hurdles but no, my weakness does not need its own microphone.