I don’t understand it.
I am an extrovert and love to process ideas, emotions, and experiences with people. I hold strong opinions about equality, justice, compassion, and ethics. I am willing to be in a crowd of people rallying for causes, to sign a petition, to write letters, to even blog a bit about things I believe.
But I am scared to death of stepping out on my own.
I want more than anything to be brave, to have the courage of my convictions, to not worry about what others think of me, to go boldly in the direction of my dreams and vision. I want to be an example. I want to be Me with a capital M. I want to affect change. I want to take risks and make a difference.
Instead, I worry about what others will think. I step out gingerly. I couch my comments in wiggle words. I make excuses to stay among the crowd, not stand out. I dress conservatively.
Some of my caution comes from knowing there are others who have to approve of me in order to reach my goals – including ordination. I surely don’t want to freak out the Ministerial Fellowship Committee any more than I have already freaked out the Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy (who thought I was too theatrical and garrulous). And I will always need the approval of someone who will hire me to be their minister/consultant/artist/director.
Some of my caution comes from living in a family with beloved members who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum, who are older and have the power to put me on the defensive with just a look, whose questions hit like accusations.
But most of my caution comes from being a middle aged woman in America.
I’ve been called pushy, overwhelming, aggressive, too much. I’ve been told I “scare the boys in engineering.” I’ve been told to not go too far, do too much. Even in my years as an LGBT activist in the 1990s, I experienced urges for temperance and caution.
I’ve been taught to not do too much, not to color outside the lines, not to breathe into the fullness of who I am.
Who I am, of course, is a beautiful, loving, passionate, creative, compassionate, brilliant, sexy, queer, full-figured femme woman with a deep and unshakeable call to ministry. I am a powerhouse who wants more than anything to unleash my femministry on the world. I am a guide and a muse who wants more than anything to help others unleash their awesomeness on the world. I am a missional mother who wants more than anything to love the hell out of this world.
It is a fact that I am surrounded by bold, creative, beautiful, brilliant people who are much less fearful – who step out, who make waves, who are not afraid to be who they are. One of them even got honored on this impressive list of incredibly bold femmes.
Now my experience, qualities, and desires are particular to me, but the truth is, most of us are scared of something. Something holds us back from living into our fullness. Something keeps us ineffective, uncreative, and fearful. It could be money, or family, or a job, or – and this is more likely – messages from someone who told us we should scale down our dreams and desires, to be realistic, to be responsible rather than radical.
So how do we stop the cycle? How do we stop letting others’ expectations keep us from our fullness? How do we – how do I – stop being afraid?
Over this past year, I’ve been observing my Year of Jubilee – it is my 50th on earth, and I have been consciously noting life lessons, the thoughts and habits I want to discard, and those I want to express. I’ve been unearthing my true self. It’s been incredible – I’ve made frequent posts on Facebook, run a Tumblr of ideas, slogans, and images that speak to my true self, and have done a fair bit of private journaling. I know that by the time I complete this year-long spiritual practice, I will be stronger, freer, more creative, bolder. I am daily rejecting messages that keep me cowed and timid.
But it’s a process.
And maybe that’s my real message today. If you’ve spent a lifetime being timid, boldness can’t necessarily come rushing in all at once.
But I am ready for more boldness. I’ve been preparing for it, and when I look back, I can see many places where I am much bolder than I have been as recently as last fall.
I am still scared. I am still hesitant. And I don’t want to be.
But step by step, I’m making progress.
And that’s something.