I want to thank those of you who prayed for me regarding the convention. I had the most wonderful time, and came home a changed person. I never expected to enjoy it so much, and I never expected to grow so much in just a few short days. There are so many things I can’t wait to share regarding the convention and so many things that I learned there. It seems that every aspect of my life was affected – even my blog is going to be experiencing some changes! But by far the most important and amazing thing that happened to me at the convention was that I experienced a spiritual breakthrough I never saw coming. This week, I learned firsthand the power behind the verse: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
For the past few years, I have lived my life paralyzed by the fear of other people and what they might think of me. I honestly don’t know when it happened… I think it was a gradual process that started when I was in middle school and continued (and worsened) into my adult years. I don’t think I even realized how bad it had gotten until this weekend. When I said that I’ve never done anything like this before, I really meant it. I never liked to go anywhere by myself, especially to places I’d never been before. I would usually wait until someone went with me before I would venture into something new. To give you an example, I’d never been to our local library until my Mother in Law went with me the first time. I’d never been to our local post office until I was forced to go when my husband couldn’t get there. I’m ashamed to write these things, and I realize that to many of you I will seem immature and ridiculous. But this has been the reality of my life for the past few years and I want to share it because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever gone through this. My hope is that my confession will lead to someone else’s growth. This kind of fear is a form of spiritual bondage – and I didn’t even recognize it.
God taught me something this weekend. He taught me that when we give Satan a foothold in our lives – in any area -he will continue to expand his holding over us until we do something to stop him. When we open the door just a crack, he’ll do everything in his power to swing it wide open. And he does it so slowly and so quietly that we can go years before we even recognize what he’s doing to us.
I believe that my own insecurities and fears first started when I switched schools my eighth grade year and attempted to fit in with the “popular” crowd and failed miserably. After this experience, I became very guarded with friends I made later in High School, and although I believe I was well liked during that time, I continued to be extremely self-conscious and very aware of how others might perceive me. These were the footholds that I allowed Satan to gain in my life and because they were never dealt with, it only grew worse as I got older. I eventually came to this place where I have lived in such fear of others not “liking me,” or thinking badly of me, or judging me that I have disliked trying new things, meeting new people and going anywhere or doing anything by myself.
My first breakthrough happened through blogging.
My first blog (Loads of Laundry and Laughter) started as a way to update family and friends on the things that were going on in our lives, and in the lives of our children. Eventually, I wanted a place to write about more spiritual things, which is when I started blogging here at Into Still Waters. To some extent, I was always conscious of who might be reading, but it wasn’t until I joined Facebook that I became worried about the things I wrote. I was already established in my blog, and I loved writing about spiritual issues. But when I started importing my blog to Facebook, a new dilemma arose. I was submitting my writings to a place where people I knew would be reading them. This wasn’t a problem with my current friends, but a lot of the people I know on Facebook are people I went to high school with. I was immediately concerned with what they might think about me and I struggled as I tried to determine what I should write about now that these people had access to my blog. After worrying about this for a while, I finally decided not to change anything. I realized that if people didn’t like what I wrote, they didn’t have to read it. If they didn’t like me or, God forbid, talked badly about me, it really didn’t matter. I thought about Mrs. Parunak, who has become such a friend to me through blogging. I thought about my friend Angela (the one who invited me to the convention), whose life and convictions are so similar to mine. I thought about others with whom I share so many things, and realized that even if some people did think badly of me, there were plenty of others who didn’t. I decided not worry about what others thought, and as time went by and more people came to read and support me through comments, I became more encouraged to continue being myself. It was the first time that I consciously denied Satan access to this area of my life, and as I wrote before, the confidence I began to experience in blogging started to leak into the “real world.”
Then I was invited to attend the convention.
I don’t even know why I told Angela I would consider going. Normally, the fact that she called me the day before the conference would have been just the excuse for me to have bowed out gracefully. But, as I expressed in my previous post, the lessons I’ve learned through blogging and the spiritual breakthrough I’d had when I overcame the Facebook issue prepared me to face the risks (both real and imagined!) involved. This was the second time I denied Satan access to my life, and although I didn’t know it, or feel it at the time, his hold over me was weakening.
I was so terrified when it was time for me to leave my house. I seriously felt like I was going to throw up. I was so tense on my ride to the conference that my neck is still hurting. I made plans to meet Angela on my way so that I didn’t have to drive there alone, or walk into the building alone, or meet the people I’d be staying with alone. I planned to be her barnacle during the conference, attending whatever workshop she attended, and visiting any booths she visited. I was not going anywhere by myself. Angela, of course, had other plans. The day I got there, she kept trying to give me a schedule of all the workshops. I told her I’d just follow her, but she continued to encourage me to look at the schedule. So as not to seem a coward, I took the schedule she offered and glanced through it… and decided that I would stick with my plan of following her!
I think that you all were praying way too hard that I would overcome my fears and have a good time for that to happen, though. The next day everyone was again looking at the schedule, so I pulled out mine. To be perfectly honest, I only looked at it because I wanted it to at least seem as if I were considering doing something other than following Angela around all day. But as I looked – really looked – over the schedule that morning, I saw that there were a lot of workshops that looked really interesting, ones that I really wanted to go to. I also saw that there were a lot that didn’t interest me at all, and as I considered the thought of going through with my plan and following Angela around to conferences all day, it occurred to me that Angela might not share my interests. I realized that I didn’t want to spend an entire day attending workshops that weren’t interesting to me. And so I faced one of my absolute biggest fears and decided to go to the workshops I was interested in… Alone.
I am so thankful for your prayers, because something truly miraculous happened when I made the decision to go alone. Suddenly, everything “shifted” (that’s the only way I can describe it) and I found that I wasn’t fearful in the least! It was like someone pushed some magical button and everything around me fell into perspective. After that moment, I never – not even once – felt nervous about attending workshops by myself. How is it that only a few hours before I had been determined never to leave Angela’s side and by that afternoon I was sitting in a room full of people I didn’t know? I am convinced that in the moment I decided to face my fears, Satan lost his stronghold over me. Only God could have changed my heart so completely and so quickly.
That’s not to say that I didn’t ever struggle. I was uncomfortable with the masses of people at the vendor’s booths and didn’t go to very many of them alone. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t sometimes feel awkward to be to be around a group of friends who had all known each other for years. Only a few times did I talk to others who were there, besides those with whom I was staying. But there were so many times when I was suddenly surprised to find myself in the middle of a situation I’d never have been willing to be in before, or doing something I’d never have been comfortable doing before. I’ll never forget the fact that I pulled over to ask a stranger for directions on the street without giving it a second thought. I’ll never forget the fact that I drove all the way home without being the slightest bit nervous. I’ll never forget the fact that I introduced myself to a complete stranger because I wanted to get to know her better (we exchanged blogs, you can visit her at Buttons ‘N Woodenspoons. She’s sixteen years old and has some wonderful things to share.)
I learned this weekend that the simple acts of facing my fears and refusing to give the devil a foothold in certain areas of my life has led to major breakthroughs in other areas. Refusing to allow him to keep me from blogging broke his hold on me enough to enable me to attend the convention. Refusing to allow him to keep me from the convention enabled me to attend workshops alone, and attending those workshops led to breakthroughs in areas in which I didn’t even recognize his influence. I know I still have a lot of growing to do, but I’m convinced that I’ve come home a changed person. I will never again be afraid of the things I used to be afraid of, and it’s only going to get better from here. If you come to the homeschool convention next year, I won’t be hard to miss. I’ll be the one talking to everyone! :)