I strode into the hotel lobby. This was my moment. I had prepared for this for six months, and my anticipation had been a palpable force for at least the last two. I knew the people I would meet, and the connections I would make had the potential to change my world. In that first moment, stepping into the lobby, I had no doubts I was ready. I could do this.
Becoming the Next Beth Moore
I was attending a conference for Christian speakers and writers (or those who simply aspired to such lofty goals.) I was one who aspired. In fact, in my heart of hearts, I had visions of myself as the next Beth Moore. I wanted to share the gospel from a platform and there was more than a little pride in that desire. This conference would presumably teach me to do just that. More than this though, the conference would connect me with other women who had the same heart for ministry I did.
As I walked towards the registration table, I began to take in the women arriving alongside me. From their perfectly coiffed hair, to the confident click of their heels on the lobby floor, it was obvious they belonged here. Inventorying my own ensemble, and sadly non-clicking heels, a thin thread of doubt crept in, “Do I really belong here?”
Brushing the thread aside, I moved forward. After all, sharing the gospel had nothing to do with my appearance.
The morning passed quickly with new awkward moments persistently tugging on the thread, gradually giving it substance. At lunch, I entered the echoing banquet hall, searching for a place to plant myself. With most tables still empty I headed straight for a table at the foot of the stage, hoping others would join me at such a prime location. I had no such luck. Sitting utterly alone in a room of 800 women, one thread of doubt multiplied into many. How could I possibly hope to minister to others, when I couldn’t even connect with one table full of women?
Time to Run & Hide
I quickly swallowed my lunch, and weaved my way awkwardly out of the room. I desperately needed to escape. Unfortunately, nothing was on the schedule for at least another hour and a half. An hour and a half was a lot of time to kill. I searched desperately for a way to blend in, to look somewhat less awkward and alone. I did what anyone does when they feel out of place. I pulled out my cell phone and proceeded to become engrossed in the tiny screen. This strategy was perfectly successful…for about 20 minutes. Then I began to feel silly, pretending to use my phone, pretending I had something important to do. I saw each passing woman look at me, judge me, see past my pretenses. Did they know I didn’t belong? Of course they did. There was only one option left. Run and hide.
Moments later, I sat in a cramped bathroom stall, staring at the locked door. I anxiously peered through the cracks of the doors at the vibrant women filling the restroom. Were the tears I was choking down loud enough for them to notice? What in the world was I doing here? Quiet sobs kept me trapped in that stall, overwhelmed by a massive tangle of doubts.
I had started the day, full of excitement and hope, but as I sat in that stall I was trapped by the need to belong. My pride had been stripped from me and it was clear I would never be the next Beth Moore. Still, I was desperate to feel like I had a role to play in ministry but I was trapped by in my own fears and doubt. I did eventually venture out of that cramped stall, though it took a bit of coaxing. Text messages began to pop up one after the other as a group of ladies who I barely knew sent me encouragement and prayers. (This is what happens when you share your fears with your mother while locked in a bathroom stall!)
Even as I left the stall, I was still unsure about the rest of the weekend. I still didn’t feel as if I belonged and my doubts had not really subsided, but these little messages gave me just enough courage to unlock the door and face the rest of conference in spite of my doubts.
A Small & Unlikely Vessel
That evening the banquet hall shook with the voices of 800 women singing God’s praises. I became acutely aware of how small I was, how unlikely a vessel for accomplishing His will. But there were no tangled threads of doubt in the realization. Instead, as the music washed over me and my hands raised to praise my God, I knew I had a role to play. Each chorus replaced my pride with a simple desire to serve Him. Each verse echoed His promise that I would do just that. It was not a grand revelation. I did not see each step planned and revealed. In fact, I had no inkling what His purpose would look like. To be entirely honest I still don’t know. It was just a quiet assurance, an untangling of the strands of pride and doubt clouding my vision.
Luckily, knowing the details is not essential. I simply have to walk in the moments placed before me. The next year I went back to the conference. I didn’t worry about what I would say, or who I would meet. I no longer needed to learn to be Beth Moore. Instead I followed His lead, connecting personally with the women He placed in my path. I may never have a platform, or speak from a stage or even get a book deal. I am content with that. I still struggle with pride and doubt. I worry that I’ve gotten it all wrong because I can’t see the details. I spend too much time considering what others think of me instead of embracing the people and connections in my path. Sometimes I still run and hide. Frequently my vision is still clouded by those pesky strands. I think removing them will be a long path but the first step on that path was unlocking the bathroom door.