26 June 2012

Confessions: Fragility

Photo by AL Photography

Growing up, my mom had a large cabinet filled with two sets of fine china. As a little girl, I would peer into the glass windows, tracing the soft blue and pink floral patterns with my finger. I begged my mom to let me take them out so I could play tea party with them. My mom insisted that the plates and teacups were very valuable. Someone very special had given them to her as a wedding present, and she didn't want to risk breaking them. They were only to be used for very special occasions. But I never remember using them to dine on. It made me a little sad thinking about how they were never really enjoyed. Did they feel like Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast, longing for someone to come waltzing into the house to dust them off and put them to use?

Lately, I have felt just as fragile as those pieces of china. This summer has left me feeling insecure to the point of paralysis. I doubt myself, I doubt my abilities, and I'd rather stay locked up in the china cabinet where no one has the opportunity to harm me.

I'm supposed to be writing a thesis about the Old Testament prophetic features of Revelation. But I feel like it won't be "new" and "cutting-edge" enough and I keep procrastinating, dreading the thought of having to defend it in front of my committee of world-renowned Biblical scholars. I might be chipped.

I just accepted a teaching position at a small Christian university, where I will begin teaching Bible courses full time this upcoming fall. I try to appear calm and confident about this new job, but inwardly I'm not sure I have what it takes to do well. What if the students ask something I don't know? What if I say something inaccurate? What if I'm boring? I might get chipped. 

To make matters worse, I have received so many kind words of congratulations. My friends have started calling me "professor." It all makes me cringe. I don't feel like I deserve any of this. I know I don't deserve any of this.
It amazes me sometimes how highly some people think of me. More often, it sends me into fits of despair. So often, people have only seen the best side of me and assume that that's the "normal" me. In reality, it's the side I want everyone to see as my "norm" as I hide the ugly counterpart. It's easy to do in this day and age by carefully controlling the content on my Facebook profile. This blog. I can easily present the illusion that I'm a perfect person who is completely confident and in control.

But I'm not. I'm flawed. I'm fragile.

I know how cynical, vain, and lazy I can be. I fear that these flaws will overpower the best parts of me. I also fear that the very best parts of me aren't enough and that if I do offer them, they'll be criticized, chipped. Then they'll be far less valuable than I initially thought they were worth.

But maybe, my gifts, no matter how little value I seem to give them, are too valuable to God not to be used. Maybe leaving the china in the cabinet thwarts the intentions of the Giver.

Maybe, like me, you feel like what you have to offer isn't good enough. You fear being vulnerable and "throwing yourself out there" will ultimately break you. But God, the Great Giver, only gives good gifts. Even if they may seem imperfect and insufficient, criticizing the gift is criticizing the Giver.

So take the risk. Open the china cabinet. Use the dining pieces indulgently. Enjoy the carefully-crafted teacups and saucers. 

The tragedy is not chipping and breaking the plates. The tragedy is never appreciating the gift that the Giver gave you.