I shared last Wednesday night at my Equip class called "Where's My Place?" a story about wrestling with God over where I was to sit in the auditorium of Gateway Church. I was in the house with 4,000 other ladies, seated on the front row next to my boss and co-worker, when another special guest arrived. I saw my teammate trying to help her find a spot and I felt her anxiety. I knew it would be tough to find a seat of honor at this late arrival and I wanted to find a solution. In that moment, I began really struggling with whether or not I should get up and give her my seat. (It sounds honoring when I say it like that, but it wasn't.) I triggered into a full blown wrestling match with my insecurity.
"Who are you to be sitting here? Why do you think you deserve a seat of honor? You don't have any real responsibilities anyway. Get up. Move. Shame on you."
I turned to God in desperation and began to inquire; "Where's my place? Should I stay in my seat, or should I get up? I could move back. I could sit in the team room. My teammate is struggling and I want to rescue her. What should I do? Where's my place?"
I managed to stay in my seat and my teammate found a spot for the guest. But my heart was scarred. I would struggle with the feeling of shame for weeks. Soon, I realized I had been struggling with avoiding this sensation most of my life.
A few weeks later I was on a leadership trip to South America. On this particular trip, we were being led by some amazing volunteer leaders and I was along for problem solving and encouragement. In my current state of mind, I was struggling to keep the tormenting spirit of insecurity at bay and the trip was only giving it fuel. If I wasn't the leader, then what was I?
I had an afternoon alone in a really quiet place, and I just had to hear God. I asked again, "Where's my place?" I was still speaking to God about my natural place. I wanted to know where I was supposed to sit, and what to do. I wanted to feel secure in a particular seat, so that I would feel confident and safe. I wanted to know my role on the team, the trip and in life.
Deep seated insecurity has a way of hiding and/or presenting itself as righteous or helpful. My insecurity was based upon the lie that I have to take care of myself and everyone else as well. (False responsibility)
All my life, I've pretty much been an adult, striving to figure out ahead of time what is needed or required to please others, so that I will not experience the horrible sensation of shame. Failing to control my environment in a way that prevented disappointment or difficulty for myself and others, was completely unacceptable. As a result, I had grown up into a very strong administrative leader. I could "to do" with the best of them. When I "do" I feel less anxiety because I don't have to deal with the more ambiguous and difficult question of "Where's my place?"
In addition, "to do" is highly favored in our culture. High capacity "doers" are usually rewarded for their efforts. They are entrusted with more responsibility and often find themselves leading or serving in a multitude of places. If you have natural gifts that enhance this tendency then you will be honored, promoted, invited, or expected "to do" to your limits. And if you are like me you will come to believe that you are only "loved" if you "do."
But somewhere along the way, all of us encounter seasons, circumstances or difficulties that make our ability "to do" diminish. Sometimes they are natural like aging or illness and sometimes they come in a swift blow like a lay off, a divorce, a financial crisis, or even death of a loved one. Even transition is a form of being uprooted from one seat to another. In those moments, we often experience an identity crisis and we have to go back to God for clarity.
So in that room in Guatemala I finally felt God speak to me. He began not with my natural seat in an auditorium or on a team, but rather with a position. Here's what He said to me.
You are my daughter, my child. Your first place is with me. I seat you in heavenly places among my people and in my house. You are welcomed here. Received. A seat is reserved for you. A dwelling place established. Your place is always in my presence.
I was so fixated on asking about that physical seat that I immediately applied this word to my natural situation - and the application was true.
God was confirming that there was a seat for me in His house. I don't have to be in one particular seat. When I come into the physical church gathering, I can choose any seat I like. All of them belong to me (and my brothers and sisters), because I belong to Him. I am always at home in the house of God and there is a place for me.
I was frustrated with this answer because I felt he wasn't addressing the real question. Of course, God in his love and wisdom was addressing the real problem.
He was speaking to the root of insecurity in my life and dealing with the identity crisis I was stuck in. He was speaking to me about my position, not so much my place.
As truth moved from my mind to my heart, I began to understand He was revealing to me a spiritual seat, one in the presence of God that had been especially reserved for me. Because I belong to Him, I never have to work or scramble or wonder where I should sit. Rather, I should always pull up a chair in my Father's presence and rest in the knowledge that there is no shame in my dependence upon Him for my place.
Over the following months I was able to process several times with a friend who helped me uproot that core lie. I began to see myself with greater kindness and to grasp the power of a heavenly position over a temporary earthly assignment. Shame still threatens me and occasionally I feel its familiar tug to perform in order to protect myself. Now I can recognize the cycle that is tempting me. But I also have the truth about my identity and my position. As a result, I am learning to be secure. I can just pull up a seat in my Father's presence.
God showed me six more seats that day in Guatemala. I'll be sharing next week about those additional positions and praying that my vulnerability and testimony will provide a safe environment and enough truth for others to also be set free.
You can join me on Wednesday night at 7:00 pm CST at the Southlake Campus if you need to ask God about your own place. You can watch last week's class by visiting Equip Resources. Here's a direct link to make it easy.
How about you? Do you struggle with insecurity?
You are not alone.
I can testify that you can be set free and that in being set free, there is a good life after "to do" is put to bed. I am still administratively strong, but I am learning to walk without the tormenting fear and shame that has ridden on my shoulder my whole life. If I "can't," then it is still okay. I am okay. And so are you.
Father, I ask you to do for others what you have done for me. As you touch the tap root of their life and confirm that who they are is so much more important than what they do, deliver them from shame and fear. I pray they pull up a chair in your presence. In Jesus' name, Amen.