by Charis Joy Jackson
Earlier this Autumn (or summer depending on which side of the world you’re in) I found myself stuck. It wasn’t exactly writers block per se but a paralyzing fear that kept me writing a sentence only to delete it and start over again.
And again, and again.
I’d been asked to write an article for a magazine read by missions leaders around the world and the topic was close and heavy, and out of reach.
One of the founders, Loren Cunningham, of Youth With A Mission, the movement I’ve worked with for over 15 years, and been around since I was six, passed away and they wanted someone, a YWAM leader specifically, to write an article about him. How I was offered this incredible honour, only God knows.
Every time I went to write though all these thoughts kept intruding and had me deleting every five seconds.
Who was I to have the authority to write about him?
What if I didn’t have all the information that would be best for this piece?
What if, what if, what if?
When these questions have come in the past, there’s always some part of me that knows I’ll get the piece written because I always find a way. But this time, one of the deepest and scariest questions was: what if I don’t this time? What if I have to pass the job to someone else?
In the end, I went back to my leader and told him I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job. The magazine was looking for someone who was a Leader, with a capital ‘L’ and right now, I have limited responsibilities as a leader. And even my past experience as a full-on leader, lower case ‘l’, I felt, was still not the right type.
What was my leader’s response?
He shrugged his shoulders, and said, “So. You’re a leader.” I tried to protest with my lower case ‘l’ and he said, “Would it make you feel better if we co-wrote it?”
The relief I felt at having his covering was palpable.
And. It helped me get the article written.
An article, I might add, I’m pretty proud and honoured to have been a part of.
I share this story for a few reasons. One, because that pesky fellow, Fear, seems to constantly gnat away at me and I want to continue to expose him for the Liar he is — capital ‘L’. Two, writing really does flourish when we’re able to do it with other people’s help/advise/feedback. And three, the only way to get the job done is to persevere.
I feel a bit like a broken record as “fighting fear” and “recognizing that we need people around us as writers” tends to be something I often write for CWD. Maybe it’s just me that needs to process it through the act of writing about it, but I don’t think I’m alone with these struggles and if my vulnerability can encourage you to keep going than it’s absolutely worth it.
When my leader offered to co-write the piece with me, it was such a blessing. Not only did I feel covered by him but his surprise that I wouldn’t think I could be that capital ‘L’ leader was a real boost too. A few years ago, I’d probably have seen this interchange as a failure on my part but I’ve been learning something lately about how God created us. And realising that Fear often doesn’t allow us to see ourselves the way God sees us.
Have you ever heard of something called the Tension Examen? It’s a spiritual practice I’ve been exploring over the last few months.
Imagine a string with a knot tied on both ends and another right in the middle. Each knot represents the tensions we hold every day between areas of giftedness, areas of brokenness and in the middle our natural limitations.
Giftedness ——————— Limitedness ——————— Brokenness
Giftedness — areas where you flourish. Ex. Writing, singing, art
Limitedness — areas where there is a natural limitation. Sometimes lasting for a lifetime, sometimes just a season in our life. Ex. sickness, finances, gravity ;)
Brokenness — areas where you need to see healing. Ex. How you view yourself because of lies said over you
You see, I’ve always felt my limitations were areas of brokenness that needed to be fixed/healed. But the truth is, limitations are a gift from God. If we didn’t have limitations we would be like God and, I’m sorry, but you and I would be horrible at that ‘job’.
But it wasn’t just limitations that I struggled to have grace for, it was also giftedness. It felt prideful to say things like: I’m a good writer or I’m a great teacher, etc.
I thought I was being humble by not saying those things. Even though I’ve often said that humility is being known for who you are, the bad AND the good. But I wasn’t living like that.
Anyway, as I practiced the Tension Examen, and learned to accept the areas I’m gifted in, and the areas of Limitedness, the less shame had room to condemn me for things like the above story. Does that make sense?
I’d like to encourage you, my fellow writers, to take a week (or more if you can) to explore the spiritual practice of the Tension Examen. Take 20 minutes every day and write down what’s causing you tension in your day and then ask Holy Spirit to show you where you’re limitations are, where your brokenness is and where your giftedness comes to play in that tension.
For me, it’s helped free me of that pesky ‘friend’ I mentioned earlier. I’m not done, by any means, but Papa God has definitely used the practice to help me peal another layer of fear away.
Let me finish with this … About a month ago, I was talking on the phone with a good friend about how much I hated thinking and mulling over past hurts and painful situations. I didn’t want those things to take any more of my time or energy but they just don’t seem to want to relent.
We talked about the analogy of the peeling onion and how these were layers that needed to be dealt with. Then my friend said she hated that analogy because once you’re done pealing away, there’s nothing left.
“Have you ever heard of the rainbow eucalyptus?” she said, and then went on to talk about the stunning process of how it grows. “It sheds sections of bark in order to grow taller, and when the new bark of trunk is exposed to oxygen it reacts by turning different shades of greens and reds. Even blues and purples!
You have to admit it’s a better analogy of a life of continual growth — we outgrow the layers and though it may require a bit of perseverance on our end, think of the vibrant life you’re growing into.
All this to say, keep going. As we get ready to celebrate Christmas and then look back at what we’ve done this year and start planning ahead for those New Years resolutions, keep making room to sit with I AM and grow in your understanding of what you’re good at, what areas you need healing, and learn to have grace for natural areas of limitations.
This doesn’t mean we use limitations as the excuse for Fear to be victor, but rather, it frees us us from Anxiety/Fear. And we won’t be kept back from the thing we were gifted and created to do — tell stories, write.
She has also begun a new initiative on Instagram called A Minute Of Stillness, where she reflects on what God’s creation can teach us about being still and slowing down. Her heart is to see it be a moment of peace for those who happen across her reels, and hopes it will help people to stop the endless hours of scrolling in the wee hours of the night. A recovering scrolling addict, she found the few accounts that had reels telling her to stop scrolling and go to bed helped give that extra nudge to turn off her phone and either get outside, back to work or, indeed, go to bed.
C h a r i s J o y J a c k s o n
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