Holley Gerth recently wrote about how she sent these words in an email to the first (in)courage contributors: “Be courageous and write in a way that scares you a little.” As one of the early contributors, I remember when the email containing those words dropped into my inbox and how it affected me.
I was equal parts frightened and invigorated.
You see, in my early blogging days, I ran every post through a four-part internal filter before I hit publish: What would my dad/pastor/neighbors/family think of this? Would they think less of me? Would I be embarrassed? Would they be embarrassed?
I allowed this internal filter to prevent me from sending words into the world that might have helped other women, women who needed to know they weren’t alone or that someone else felt or thought the same as they did. Insecurity blinded me. It kept me from seeing that I had something to offer if I could get out of my own way and let God use me for His purposes instead of worrying about my own.
Holley’s prompt to write courageously prodded me to lean into my fears. When I did, I discovered something fascinating: the people whose reactions I feared most were the ones who reacted the most positively, as if they knew I had more to give and were pleased when I did. If I was afraid of what my dad might think, invariably he’d liked my Facebook status linking to the post. If I was afraid of what my children would think, I would find they’d left a positive comment.
I let fear quiet my voice. The desire to be a people-pleaser still silences me sometimes, but I rest in the knowledge that the people in my corner support me are are not looking for opportunities to tear me down. The world needs my voice, and it needs yours too.
We find our voice in various ways, but one way to pinpoint it is to identity our most difficult life experiences. The strength we can gain from enduring hardships can become our superpower to help others. When we can harness what we’ve learned from the pain, we can turn it around and use it to help others in similar pain.
Years ago, we visited our family out of state. My husband’s aunt had recently miscarried a baby, and I didn’t know what to say to her. I felt guilty holding my healthy baby boy, and because I didn’t know how to comfort her, I didn’t say anything.
A few months later, I ended up miscarrying our third child, and though I couldn’t relate to my husband’s aunt at that time, I now could understand what it felt like to experience that kind of loss. From that painful experience, I’ve been able to walk with other women who have miscarried, and I advise them not to bottle up their tears and how normal it is to feel sudden anger over advertisements for diapers and baby lotion.
So often we believe we have to have it all together in order to help someone, but it simply isn’t true. Perfection isn’t relatable. We relate to Jesus — and He to us — because He endured betrayal, temptation, and not only the pain but also the shame of the cross.
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 2:18 (NKJV)
Think about the experiences of pain you had, and take a moment to write them down. For example, have you suffered a job loss or a financial crisis? Are you a victim of abuse? Have you experienced the loss of a spouse, a child, or a parent? Has your heart been broken by the dissolution of a marriage or a friendship? Have you miscarried a baby? Do you live with physical pain or health issues that impact your daily life?
As you reflect on those experiences, what truths have you learned as a result of your afflictions? Write down what you learned about God and about yourself, and as you hold these testimonies in your heart, know that your pain isn’t wasted. One day, it may bring comfort to someone.
So often we believe we have to have it all together in order to help someone, but it simply isn't true. Perfection isn't relatable. -@DawnMHSH: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Like you, I used to run my writing through several filters. One was what would my mom and dad think or say. After all, I was taught not to “air your dirty laundry in public.” Risking and daring to be vulnerable takes courage – lots of it. That’s why I write about the pain and suffering I’ve endured (living with mental illness, divorce, chronic physical pain, prodigal children) because I know that there will be someone else coming along behind me that needs the hope that if they lean into God and persevere, He will bring them through the valley. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be easy. But, God is good and He is faithful and we all need someone speaking that truth into our lives at some point. If God tells you to write it, it’s because someone else needs to read it. Awesome post!
Dawn Camp says
Bev, I love this: “If God tells you to write it, it’s because someone else needs to read it.” Amen, sister!
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Dawn, thank you for these words. I so needed to read them today. I am a people please,normal and raised. Its something I cannot seem to shake loose from. But your words released something in me that will help me especially this week. Thank you so much! God Bless ❤
Dawn Camp says
Kathleen, I am SO thankful my words were what you needed today. I hope your week is wonderful!
Andree Hidalgo says
“Perfection isn’t relatable”! I’m stealing that message from you—thinking I will even post it in my classroom (as I’m preparing my classroom for a VERY different looking and acting classroom in south Louisiana).
What a beautiful reminder to be vulnerable…. for a VERY type-A perfectionist! 🙂
Blessings and thank you for your writing today, Dawn,
Dawn Camp says
Andree, I’m so tickled you can use this for your classroom. I’ve got that perfectionist personality too and it’s hard to shake, isn’t it? Blessings to you this school year!
Dawn, thank you for your honesty. At age 72, I was asking God how He could use me. With mental illness caused by abuse that has led to physical illnesses I realized that I was looking at people who were healthy where I am not. I was then deciding that God couldn’t use me. So I haven’t been available to God for His ministry. It is interesting how the word “use” was negative in my past but with God it has a beautiful meaning. God Bless, Laurel
Dawn Camp says
Laurel, I pray you find opportunities to minister to others from your unique experiences. Yes, it’s a blessing to be used by God for His glory. It’s never too late!
This really helped me today! It’s been painful these past few years watching all of my friends get married and start to have kids, and sometimes leave my life because they become so busy with theirs. More recently, the news that I am going to be an aunt but can’t see my niece because of COVID restrictions has been heart breaking. I know that sometimes I respond with bitterness and envy, and I’ve always given it to God.
This week as there have been talks about schools reopening, an idea came to mind. I am single and childless, and because of these two factors plus the fact that I’ve lost 3 jobs and my industry to the pandemic, I can be a part of the solution by offering to “homeschool” other people’s children. I have all the experience and education for it, and it’s something I think would be a blessing to me and to the families! And only possible because I recognised my own pain and allowed God to hold it and turn it into something beautiful.
Dawn Camp says
What a blessing, Adora! It sounds like you are perfectly suited to be a solution and a blessing to others. What a wonderful opportunity!
Adora, What a beautiful epiphany. I’m so glad you heard God’s whisper/felt his prodding to step out and work for Him. Holding you up in my prayers to find the right situation. Patty
Beth Williams says
That is certainly a God-inspired plan. You would absolutely be a blessing to many working families. I pray God guides you in this direction. Asking God to help you realize that dream to be around children & help others at the same time. May God bless you as you are trying to bless others.
Beth Williams says
God said we would have trials down here. Part of going through tough tribulations is so we can help others. People want to know they are not the only ones dealing with this problem. By writing/talking about the situation we are blessing others. The Bible has much to say about enduring sufferings. Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. We can share that hope with others. Telling & showing them how God brought us through the valley. I’ve learned that people want to see the real you. The one who endured that big trial & made to the other side. They need to hear our stories. Please share your stories God’s greatness & hope. This world needs that. We don’t want or need perfection.
Dawn Camp says
This is exactly right, Beth–people want to see the real you. 🙂