When the world stops to listen to you, who do you become?
What do you say?
I see a counselor pretty regularly. She’s based in the town where I went to high school, but while I’m in Lubbock, she and I Skype once a week. She’s the calm voice that invites me to step back, connect the dots, and search for what’s really affecting my life.
What exhausts me.
What triggers my shame.
It always does my soul such good to talk to her. Sometimes I leave our time together feeling strong and able. Other days, like today, I closed my computer screen, feeling emotionally exhausted: pain and shame take the life out of you like you’ve just been sucker punched. But every time she and I meet, I leave refreshed. I know myself a little better. I am a little better equipped to engage the world around me.
A couple of weeks ago, when we met, I had just struggled through a weekend that traumatized me. I didn’t know that it had, but she did. I was shaken. I was uncertain, like the solid earth I’ve been standing on for months suddenly dissolved into quicksand underneath my toes. There was a tightness in my sternum, and I wanted to curl in on myself and sleep.
She invited me (through the computer screen) to stand. I had my shoes off (I don’t wear shoes at home), and she walked me through a grounding exercise. Press through your heels, then the outside of your feet, then finally your toes — so that it feels that your entire foot is touching the carpet. Press your energy through your feet, she said, into the floor.
Then she invited me to speak. She opened a space for me to declare the things I thought objectively about myself, but didn’t believe. I did, but silently, in a peacemaking version of my conversational voice. Quietly, she invited me to declare these things to the world.
I took a deep breath.
I am really, really talented.
Oh, God, is this me speaking?
I work super hard.
Ugh, I sound so arrogant.
I know I have what it takes to get into graduate school.
This is so uncomfortable.
I cocked my hip, returning to my usual posture. She asked me then to repeat how I had told her a moment ago that I felt, with a collapsed posture.
I am afraid.
I am nervous.
The tightness in my chest had returned.
She invited me to press into the carpet with my feet again — “grounding” myself. She asked me to repeat the affirming, positive things, in a declarative voice.
I breathed deep, into my well-trained diaphragm.
All I remember myself saying is I am really talented, several times. Loud.
And I know I have what it takes.
Gradually, the hint of doubt crept out of my voice.
The fear crept out of my sternum.
My breathing felt clear, loose.
“How did that feel?” she asked me.
“Like the world paid attention when I said it,” I replied.
It also felt arrogant to me. We’ve been well-trained not to be boastful. Be confident, but not loud. Have self-esteem, but don’t brag too much. We live in such fear of getting people to like us that we are afraid to live out what we actually think about ourselves and what we can do.
And more — I fear that if I speak my abilities out loud, they will be taken away from me.
My Father says to me, Darling. I am not cruel. I do not give good gifts simply to snatch them back.
Since that session with my counselor, I’ve looked back on the notes I scribbled in my journal, and I’ve reminded myself that the world pays attention when I speak.
I’m not really sure yet how this is so.
But I do know that I am formed and fashioned and made by the hands of a mighty God.
He has made me a little lower than the angels.
And they pay attention.
I am a part of the crowning glory of the Creation.
Could it be that the trees and flowers and rivers and the very caprock — could it be that Creation pays attention to those anointed of God as we move through the wind, short-lived as the dust?
Could it be that what I have to say is important? That it has value?
Can it be that what I believe about myself has impact in eternity?
I think it can.
I think it is so, whether I know how or not.
Somehow, some way, the world pays attention to me when I speak.
I will not hide.
I will not cower.
I will not believe the lies I have been told about myself and what I have been given —
Or worse, about the Creator and the way that He gives.
May we speak in such a way that we command the world’s attention.
It is our birthright.
Let’s claim it.