Friday, July 18, 2008

What Will People Think?

My church is having a camp-out this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to it as a chance to get to know people better than I can on Sunday mornings or even at prayer meetings but, as the weekend has approached, fears have arisen from the unknown: What time are people arriving? I don’t want get there before others but I don’t want to be late either. How will I know where to pitch the tent? How many people will be there? How are the meals being handled? The announcement says we’ll be pooling our food but what does that mean? Does it mean that I prepare meals for my husband and me and then we join the others to eat it? Does it mean I prepare meals for my husband and me and then put the two-person portions on a common table for all to try? Does it mean I prepare only one large dish to contribute to the common table? If I don’t get it right, I’ll be embarrassed. I’ll look like a fool and that scares me because then, what will people think?

That’s the basic problem, isn’t it? I’m worried about what people will think of me if I make a mistake or move out of sync with those more familiar with each other and the routine. Is that pride? Is shyness or fear of others’ opinions the result of wanting to look “perfect” or “all together”? Why do people’s opinions of me matter so much? What catastrophe would occur if I allowed others to see my social ineptness or my ignorance? Why must I always look confident and sure of what I’m doing when often I’m not? My brain tells me these things shouldn’t matter to me. I’m a normal human being and all humans make mistakes, move out of sync with others and have times of ineptness.

Yet my emotions don’t listen. Two days ago, I was in such a place of fear that I told Tom I’d changed my mind. We wouldn’t go. My excuse? Tenting requires a lot of work. Equipment needs to be gathered, things need to be gathered and packed, it all must be taken out to the car and packed in there, then removed from the car to set up camp. At the end of the weekend it must all be done in reverse. I’m still in post-operative recovery and I don’t have as much energy as I did before the surgery (which wasn’t enough even then).

That night I was in such dis-ease about the whole thing that despite my sleeping pills I could not sleep. My emotions were stirring my mind and not letting me rest. Then I remembered two things: What my doctor and I had discussed earlier that day about my social phobia and God. Where was he in my distress? What does he want me to do? What would be the consequences of not going? What would be the benefits of going? I want to become more connected with my new church and the people in it so I should go. Perhaps I could call the church or a friend and find the answers to my questions.

And so I decided to swallow my fears and go. Interestingly, when I made that decision, the fear left. The next morning I sent an e-mail to the church asking my questions and I corralled Tom so I could admit my fears to him and ask for his encouragement and support—which he willingly agreed to give.

I decided that preparing one large “dish” to share for each meal was the easiest and, realizing that both time and energy were short, chose very simple things to contribute: a salad, raw veggies, canned chilli heated up, pasta with sauce and cheese and a larger portion of my currently favourite breakfast, Red River Cereal (a kind of porridge with cracked wheat, rye and flax) with raisins and milk plus eggs. Shopping for what we needed didn’t take long and the biggest stressor is taken away.

So now I’ve been up for more than two hours this morning, spent a good chunk of time with God and with you all (writing the post for the coming Sunday in addition to this one) and am ready to begin the gathering and packing of all that is needed—once I’ve fixed and eaten breakfast. God is good.

Thank you, God, for your presence in my life. Thank you for the courage you give me to rise above my fears and to do what I know I want to do despite the tricks my emotions like to play on me. I ask that you bless the camp-out and my time there. Please come with me and guide me on what to do and say. May the weekend truly be a time of developing close relationships with people from church and a time for all of us to grow not only in relationship with each other but also with you. Let my fears not control me this weekend, Lord, but you. Thank you so much for who you are and your care and concern for each one of us. You are awesome!

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