I was in fourth grade when I stopped being a little child and started thinking more like an adult. And it is not easy to find my way back to the child within.
It happened during the year my father was a farmer. It was a transition year for Dad as well. He had been a Wesleyan minister until my grandfather’s tragic death in a farming accident. So Dad stepped away from pastoral ministry for a season (later to become a Presbyterian minister) and tried farming for awhile.
We attended Sunday worship at my grandmother’s church. It was United Methodist, and they had a moment for children during the service. One Sunday, the pastor asked all of the children to write a poem and bring it along the following week. I don’t remember anything else about the assignment. I simply remember being excited to share my poem as the following Sunday rolled around.
And then I overheard Mom talking to Grandma. She told Grandma that I didn’t seem self-conscious at all. No fear in me. I overheard her say that I had that poem ready, and Sunday couldn’t come fast enough for me to read it – in front of all those people.
Immediately, self-doubt replaced my childlike oblivion. I went from being unaware of self to being completely aware of self.
When Sunday morning came, I looked at my poem. I still liked it, but I felt terrible dread at the thought of the attention it would cause me. Everyone would be looking at me. Everyone would be listening to me. It felt like I would never be blissfully unaware again.
I picked up that poem and considered my next move carefully. Then, I set the poem back down and walked out the door of my bedroom.
After church that Sunday, my mother asked me why I hadn’t shared the poem that I had so proudly shown her a few days earlier. “I forgot it at home,” I lied. And that was that.
While the incident faded into the fabric of my memory, the fear remained. And I struggle with it even today.
But I know that perfect love casts out fear. The love of God is that perfect love. And I know that He can take fear – even the fear of attention and the fear of rejection – and completely snuff it out . . . when He so wills.
And so, I keep the part I enjoy . . . the writing part . . . even as I open myself up to the difficult part . . . the public witness. In those moments, I still stand vulnerable and afraid, and I trust that God’s perfect love will come, and cast out fear, and use my weakness to advance the Kingdom.
I would prefer to hide behind the pen. Let me tell you why I’m Catholic, by writing it down and then hiding behind closed doors . . . but there are times when I must speak one-on-one . . . there are times when I must speak to the crowds. In those moments, I remember what it was like to be a little child. One unashamed of shining brightly. Where joy eclipses fear. And God walks freely.
And I say, even so, Lord send me.