I spoke at the Shattering Stigma conference yesterday and have been battling deep depression since stepping off stage. I felt like my presentation was disjointed, unorganized, emotional, and inarticulate. There was a line of people who were touched by what I said and told me so afterward, but I can’t shake the shame I feel today. I am having a hard time trusting that God’s grace was sufficient and his power made perfect in my weakness.
I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t supposed to be this time. No notes. No PowerPoint. No bullet points on index cards. Preparation feeds my perfectionism and God didn’t want me to be perfect. He wanted me to be me. Experiencing me without organizing my “stuff” so it’s presentable is agonizing.
When I was 15, I had language arts class with Mr. Logan. We were to write a poem and create a visual to go with it; we would present our poems in class. I was deeply inspired by a song called “The 7 Stars of the Big Dipper” by Mannheim Steamroller. I decided to write a visual poem that went with the song. The story and cadence of the poem matches the story and cadence I hear in the song. I worked so hard on this poem and was fueled with creative fire. When the poem was finished, I was so excited to present. I eagerly brought my page with words and the cd (no iPods in 1996). I read my poem with passion as the music played the story.
When it was over, there was silence. Mr. Logan’s response: “Interesting. Did someone help you with this?” I was honest and said my mom helped me find the names of the stars, but the whole project was mine. He asked me to sit down. As sat down feeling awkward and embarrassed, ashamed that I must have messed up the assignment and stupid for following the passion I had felt in my heart.
I have many more projects-gone-bad stories from high school, including one where everyone’s project was displayed on the wall except for mine. Shame was the undercurrent of my high school career. With the baggage from these experiences I went to college. Working for a double-major in marketing and management, I was assigned countless presentations. However, rather than going from the passion of my heart as I had done in high school, I crafted my presentations from a place of manufactured perfection, because I’d be damned if I was going to feel shame again. I poured into my projects with perfect precision, research, and practice. And I nailed every. single. one. I received high praise, the highest scores, and the suggestion from one professor that I might consider public speaking as a profession.
To not be perfectly poised in preparation is to risk feeling shame.
As I tried to prepare for this conference yesterday, I heard God quite clearly in my spirit: Trust Me. You have Me and you have your story. That is all you need. I marched up on stage feeling nervous yet confident that the Holy Spirit would provide me with exactly what to say. As I spoke into that microphone, I felt like I was free falling, flailing about in choosing my words, failing in sharing my story in a way the people could truly understand. I crash landed into depression.
I woke up at 3:30 this morning in tears. I came downstairs, and, discovered a text from a dear sister-friend of mine that said, “Watch this video. It’s God’s message to you.”
I hope you will take the time to watch it; there’s a message for you too. Here are the two things He had for me:
1) God is asking me to let go of perfection. It’s a giant wall that keeps me from being fully embraced in the Spirit. Yesterday was my first step; I let go of the wall I’ve been clinging to for nearly 20 years. I am like a toddler taking her first steps on wobbly, unpracticed legs and God has his arms open wide with excitement, coaxing me forward to Him. I am going to fall. It’s the only way to learn how to walk. I fear feeling shame when I fall, so I want to do it perfectly the first time, every time. It’s not going to happen… and this is why I am depressed. Thing is, He doesn’t need me to be perfect because He’s already so. And, like any parent teaching his child how to walk, God will scoop me up and hug me when I tumble. He’ll tell me how much he loves me and put me back in place to try again.
No more manufactured perfection. I am perfect as I am, in my learning, tumbling, fumbling ways. This is hard to accept. Really really hard. Falling hurts. Shame penetrates.
2) I’ve been at the airport, giving the illusion that I am going somewhere, when really I am hanging out in baggage claim watching my bags filled with shame go round and round on the carousel.
All the while, Jesus is waiting up in ticketing with brand new luggage and ticket to somewhere new… all I have to do is leave the baggage claim and my old bags behind.