In a recent post I made a subtle connection between self-consciousness and self-centeredness. I’d like to expound on what that has looked like in my own life – or where I really began to see it clearly.
If I’m not mistaken it was May, 2010. I had jumped in last minute to go on a beach trip with 9 other women, because one of them had to back out. I took her spot.
I knew half of them from church and the others I either knew in passing or not at all. I had been leading LIFE small groups with a couple of them (Lori and Summer) and was also deep in the throes of a battle against insecurity.
I kind of had a come-closer-go-away approach to people. I wanted friendship but it was so awkward and difficult for me that I would always back off. I never knew how to engage or initiate things, so I didn’t. Because of that I think people assumed I was disinterested; therefore, I might not be called or invited to do things. Then I’d be upset. It was a terrible cycle of awkward dysfunction.
In addition I’d had relationships in my growing up years that left me believing people didn’t actually like me. I usually assumed people talked to me, or hung out with me, out of a sense of obligation or some ulterior motive.
This made me a delight to try to get to know.
I was actively growing in this area, though, and really wanted to live in an open-hearted way.
Now, back to the beach trip: we piled in our cars and headed down to Destin. The very first night I was involved in an interaction which led to some stress and irritation between me and another person. There were a few sarcastic exchanges which kicked my insecurity into high gear.
What happened next was like nothing I had experienced before and has happened only one other time since. I had what I can only describe as an anxiety attack from hell.
For a solid 24 hours I couldn’t control my thoughts. Every thought was,
I don’t belong here.
I don’t fit in.
They don’t really like me.
I am such a loser.
Why am I here?
I’m in the way.
I wish I could go home.
They hate me.
I’m just a tag along.
I’m so high maintenance.
I couldn’t go to sleep, I couldn’t eat and I absolutely couldn’t reroute my thoughts or distract myself. I wanted to talk about it, but couldn’t bring myself to expose how pathetic I was. I felt like I was a lot of work to be around, already.
Even writing about it now, I feel completely ridiculous. But it is what it is.
We were on the beach the afternoon of the second day and I was listening to worship music, trying to get some peace.
As I sat there, talking to God silently, I kept saying, “I can’t live like this. I can’t be open-hearted if it’s like this. I won’t survive.”
Finally, I asked, “How can I survive this? How can I do it?”
Clear as day I heard the following (in my mind, of course):
Become a servant.
I thought, “What?! What the heck is that? What does that have to do with anything?”
I was looking for a pat on the head not a revolution in perspective.
As I sat there and thought about it, clarity came. (It seems obvious now, but at the time it wasn’t.)
Essentially, it was a call to stop focusing on me and start focusing on others. It was a call to stop looking inward and turn my eyes outward to the people around me.
It was a call to live like Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve.
It was a call to true humility, which puts others first.
It was a call not to be concerned with my own position or reputation.
It was a call to meet other people’s needs instead of wanting mine met.
It was a call to begin reaching out rather than waiting for someone to reach out to me – to notice instead of wishing to be noticed.
I didn’t immediately snap out of my funk – that happened later, at dinner. It was weird, too. I was just sitting there looking at the menu and all of a sudden I felt it lift. It was like night and day. I said, out loud, to Summer, “Whatever was on me just left!” and she just said, “Well, thank God.” Apparently, insecure people having anxiety attacks aren’t fun to be around, or something (haha). From that point on the vacation was beautiful.
I go back to that moment on the beach often. I haven’t fully mastered the art of servanthood, but it was a pivotal moment, because of the clarity it brought. It’s been a process and I still have a long way to go, but that’s where I chose to yield to the Spirit’s work in my heart.
To be self-conscious is to be SELF conscious – primarily thinking about oneself. And that’s in opposition to the life of Christ in me.
It was a hard pill to swallow, initially, but it has brought, and continues to bring, freedom.
“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10