Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shy or Bold?

Shyness is often thought of as "cute" when you see a small child burying themselves in the shoulder of their daddy, or hiding behind the skirt of their mommy.  They pull away, thinking hiding their faces will keep them from having to interact with the stranger making a big fuss over them at the moment.  In reality, they are quite visible!  They may have "postured away" from the "thing" they see as a threat, but they are really still present!  There are times I imagine we take this same "stance" with God - such as when he asks us to do something we may not feel entirely comfortable doing.  

God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. (2 Timothy 1:7 The Message)  

Shyness is really us being timid, or easily frightened away by whatever it is we are being asked to do.  If we were the small child in the arms of our parent, we may be frightened by having to interact with someone we do not know.  In the case of being asked to do something by God, we often turn away because it frightens us - we just get petrified in taking the first step!  

Shyness also carries the idea of being a little suspicious and distrustful.  For example, if the last "stranger" the child interacted with took their pudgy little cheeks in hand and gave them a good squeeze, causing a little discomfort, they may distrust all "strangers" as being of the same motivation!  The next time God asks us to do something, we may pull away in a little bit of distrust - because things did not go as well as we hoped the last time.  

These are two very real circumstances of faith - being frightened by what comes next and being repelled because the last experience did not work out as well as we'd imagined.  God's instructions through Paul to Timothy are quite clear - don't be shy with the gifts God gives us!  Instead, be bold, loving and sensible.  Now, how do we move from being leery of the "strangeness" of the circumstance we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of, or overly cautious because of the "uncertainty" of the success of our next steps?

What is boldness?  When we think of coffee, we proclaim the coffee has a rich and bold flavor when it is strong enough to stimulate us.  Now, think about God's movement in your life.  When he is strong enough to stimulate us, he is also strong enough to overcome our fears of the unknown!  The Bible is riddled with all kinds of stories ranging from one individual up against insurmountable odds (David and Goliath) to an army realizing the insufficiency of their resources considered against the resources of their attackers (Israel and any nation they faced).  Why do you think we have all these stories recorded for us?  I believe it is so we see the struggle of others as they take huge steps of faith.  God wants us to know this is "natural" - there is nothing wrong with admitting we struggle with the unknown.  When the "unknown" causes us to "bury ourselves", we need to listen to the "coaxing" of our heavenly Father as he gently "turns us" to face the thing we fear so much!

Why does Paul remind Timothy of being loving in his gifts?  This one is easy.  We often "bumble" the first time we leave the gate!  We step out in faith, encounter a hurdle we did not imagine, and then we recoil in the face of resistance.  As I used to run track, my coach used to remind me the hurdles were only "big" in my mind.  When I became "one with the track", I fell in love with the hurdles, sailing over them with ease.  As long as I feared them, I drug my feet, catching the hurdle each time.  When I learned to see them as one with the track, they were less in my focus as something I feared.  I learned to love the "leap" it took to scale their height.  He started me at hurdles all the same height, but in time, they took on differing heights.  In learning to love the "rush" of sailing high over the short ones, I faced less of a challenge in facing the higher ones!  I already knew I could scale them, too!  Love is the exact opposite of fear - overcoming fear begins in learning to love what it is we fear.

Paul adds one other piece of advice - be sensible in the use of your gifts.  I guess the most important aspect of sensibility is in learning who and what to trust.  God is reliable - people are not.  His Spirit is ever-present.  Part of being sensible is learning to "read" the situation through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  As I ran the track, I learned to "read" the track.  I knew the pace I'd have to set in order to run well against my opponent.  I had to "pace well" if I was ever to "out-pace" them in the end.  It was in listening to the advice from my coach on the sidelines where I learned the "skill" of "pacing well".  

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