My friend plopped down on my couch, curling her feet underneath her. With a coffee cup in hand, she started to tell me about all the things that had unfolded in her life since we last talked. As the conversation transitioned from the events of her life to how her heart was processing everything, we wandered into family finances.
She soon confessed that she and her husband, who have been married for more than four years, were still using separate bank accounts. When I asked why, she smiled and said, “I didn’t want to give up the freedom to spend what I want when I want.”
I laughed because I understood; I have the same independent streak. As she continued she explained that having separate bank accounts hasn’t been a problem on the whole. After blowing into her still steaming cup, she shared the crux of her story: She realized that because they have separate bank accounts, both she and her husband have a tendency to foster a great deal of insecurity about their finances, simply because neither can see what the other has!
As she started to unpack her revelation, firecrackers were going off in my head. This is true about all kinds of insecurities; they are fostered when we only allow ourselves to see half of the whole.
There are many occasions in our lives when the other half of the story simply has not unfolded. This fear of the future that only God knows is certainly part of our faith walk, and perhaps it’s an ongoing journey toward trust in God. But that’s not exactly the same situation as my friend was describing. In her case, she has access to a whole pot but is fostering insecurity in her life because she won’t take advantage of knowing the whole.
Does this sound familiar to you? I do this all the time as I deal with my own insecurities about the gifts, talents, and skills I’m desperately trying to deepen in my life. Rather than fully acknowledging the gifts God has given me, I constantly undercut myself—and I’m not alone in this way of thinking. I have friends who are wonderfully talented—a singer, a writer, an artist, a teacher, a preacher, a nurse, a poet—but each one must regularly be reminded that she has more than one great song, more than one great painting, more than one great poem inside of her.
The Bible is so clear about every single believer possessing spiritual gifts: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7).
We believe this wholeheartedly when it comes to those we love. We are genuinely and completely confident in the abilities and gifts of our friends. We can so easily name how those gifts have brought joy into our lives and have benefited the church. We easily help our friends see their giftedness—yet we struggle to see our own. We often view ourselves as the exception to this passage.
Silent No More
I wonder if part of the reason women in particular struggle with insecurity is because of pressures and expectations for how women “should” embody humility. Those expectations often boil down to being quiet or shy about what we want out of life, who we want to be, and what we have already accomplished. Can we be confident and ambitious, taking in the fullness of who we are in Christ and still practice humility? I think we can.
It seems like it was pretty important to Paul that we understand everyone is empowered with spiritual gifts. Paul spoke often of the body of Christ and the importance of recognizing the beauty of our unity. Paul affirmed again and again that this unity works because of our diversity of gifts. Perhaps the first step in remaining confident while also being humble is to believe that we are all gifted—not only with spiritual gifts but also with other talents, passions, and abilities. You are not an exception. I am not an exception. There is no exception to this rule. You can and should be using your gifts, while at the same time recognizing you need the gifts of others. Our giftedness is no more or less important than anyone else’s. We are not islands. We each need one another, but that means we each must fully show up.
The Gifts in Our Own Lives
We must also keep in mind that we have done nothing to earn the gifts God has given us. We can improve them, practice them, and work on them. We can dedicate ourselves to making these gifts better without falling into the belief that we are the ones who have given ourselves these gifts. Our gifts are a blessing not just to others, but to ourselves as well. They help us make sense of and interpret the world. They help us participate in the world in ways that inspire others. They offer us purpose and meaning. All the more reason why we should stop downplaying, ignoring, or hiding ourselves.
Imagine what would have happened if Miriam thought her voice was too small to matter to the princess. Imagine if Esther let her insecurity prevent her from going before the king. What if Ruth was too insecure to step into a new country, new community, and start her life again? What if Mary was too insecure to say yes to the angel who wanted to change her life? Each of these women had to gather courage in herself and her God. Each of these women could have focused on only half of her giftedness. Instead each woman took one moment, made one decision to turn away from the insecurity and fear, and chose to be brave.
Yet even if we understand this, it doesn’t always help in those moments when our insecurities are the loudest—like when the cursor blinks on the black screen, when the paint brush is poised in the air, when your heart beats louder than your voice into the microphone. And so, like my friend and her finances, we must acknowledge the source of the insecurity: the side of our own story that we are ignoring.
Taking It All In
My friend knew that the anxiety she and her husband were indulging could be lessened if they could at least have a whole picture of their finances. Perhaps it’s time for us, too, to do an inventory of the missing information that fuels our own insecurities. What half of the picture are we not acknowledging?
Perhaps you are letting the voices in your head shroud out the voices of those who love and know you the best. Perhaps you are daydreaming about all the ways things could fall apart instead of devoting that time and energy to imagining all the possibilities of what could be. Perhaps you are rehearsing all the things you haven’t done yet instead of remembering all the steps you’ve taken to get to this moment. Perhaps you are holding so tightly to others’ perceptions of you that you aren’t being your full self. Perhaps you have slipped into believing that the applause, the money, the awards, and the sales are more indicative of your giftedness than what the Word of God says about you.
Have you forgotten that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? Have you forgotten that you are a purposeful creation of a loving and generous God? Have you forgotten that every person, including you, has been empowered by God? Seize just one moment each day to take in the whole picture. For you are a gifted woman, and the church needs you—the whole you.
Copyright © 2016 by the author and Today’s Christian Woman