Nothing else to be but You

Quietness has always been ‘me’. Always contemplative, I was never the person who owned the room and most of the time I hated being in new environments where  I would be forced to make friends, or where I was expected to be bubbly just for the sake of it. I’m not a showgirl by any means, but it was never something that really bothered me.

In year Eight I got into trouble with some of the girls at my school and fell into months of bullying, teasing and basically just a period of people taking advantage of my quietness. Because obviously, “quiet” means “pushover”; it also means “innocent”, “kind” and “peaceful”. It’s strange how often people make such bold statements about a person who hardly speaks and hasn’t had a chance to tell others who they are for themselves (how many times have I subsequently been accused of hiding my true self, when in fact I never told anyone that I was innocent and angelic–people chose to see me as such because I only talk when I have to). During that time I withdrew into myself a lot, and the one person I truly called a friend spent her time drilling into me, moaning every lunch time that I just kept quiet all the time. “Haven’t you got anything to say?” she would say, “why aren’t you talking?” It was months of variants of this dialogue that has today made me so paranoid whenever I’m with someone else and no one has spoken for a while. For some reason, regardless of whether we’re both silent, I’ll be singled out as the one that didn’t speak, making me a bore to be around.

I remember last year when I went to ARME camp. The friend who I went along with is very outgoing and makes friends very easily. I’ve always been comfortable being by myself; to think with myself and just observe others, but several times during our weekend together I felt as though I was dragging her back–and felt increasingly uncomfortable. To be honest, a lot of the time when I’m with a louder, more extrovert friend, I feel this way. I just assume that they feel they have to look after me…

So this year, I prayed for confidence and to be more outspoken. Basically, I asked God to turn me into someone else.

We quiet, shy people at church are always told that God will give us more boldness in the future; that we obviously don’t believe in the Word, or in God’s power, even, because we’re nervous to speak in front of others, or sing solos, or perform in any way–they tell us that they used to be like us before they let God lead in their lives—all of that nonsense. So they’re kind of saying that being quiet is sinful. It’s one thing to be scared to proclaim the gospel and to be ashamed of God, and it’s a completely different thing to just enjoy being quiet and meditative. Why would God want us all to be the same? One size cannot fit all.

It was only this week that I realised the only reason why I had prayed for boldness was because of other people’s problems. Other people favour loud extroverts, other people made assumptions about me; other people like to talk first and think later. The reason for my lack of confidence and low self-esteem was because I didn’t fit into a mould favoured by the mainstream, not because I had done something to bring myself down.

So, yesterday I prayed for self confidence. To be sure of my self. So that I would love myself, be happy with the person I’m becoming. I prayed that I wouldn’t let the negativity of others drive me to become someone else ever again. Sometimes we get too excited over the Elijah figures and the ferocious Peters, and brush over the thoughtfulness of our Moses’; people with the calmness of Daniel and our humble Esthers.  This is probably the reason why some preachers who say nothing of any weight and mar certain Biblical truths get the ‘Amens’ and appreciation they crave–because they shout and jump up and down. The ones who speak conversationally, presenting their message with calm rationality, are met with weariness.

I think it took me far too long to notice my qualities. I hope ignorance like that never drives me to pray in such a dangerous way again.

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Elisha

I ate no breakfast on the day he left.
Spent the day in prayer
meditation;
I spoke to friends and fellow disciples
I busied about the house
—just thinking,
that today would be our last.

He glanced at me several times
by the table
eating his usual:
locust berries and bread, made by me.
As I fidgeted with my fingers,
tracing circles over the grooves of my bones
and counted the stitching of my cloak,
he smirked and made an absent comment about the weather.

Finally we got up to leave
I said no words, trailing behind him
like a forlorn, homeless dog
and thought about
how it would end
what I would say
what he would do
how things were going to turn out afterwards.

His last miracle, the Jordan.
The parting of the waters
mirrored the pair of streams that framed my face—
he pretended not to see.
But he smirked again,
poised his head and sighed
bracingly. Bracingly.

Did he have to go? I asked
In answer, he leaned forward,
pressed his lips against my forehead
and drew back to look at me.
“My friend,” he said,
“I’m moving on. My work is over; yours has begun.”

He was gone
in a tornado of molten spirit
the flames that he had once called to do his bidding
were now taking him home.
There were so many things we didn’t do,
questions I hadn’t asked
unsaid thank-yous,
forgotten laughs
jokes and tears and memories.

He was gone.
And I was left
with the task
of continuing his work.

Elijah

You cut yourself again
and I saw lines of scarlet
digging trenches along your arms
so that they spilled over.
The ground was decorated in your
essence. It rained into the dust
and formed pools at your feet
but you didn’t care
because your eyes were cast upwards
upwards
at a God that wasn’t there.
How did the clouds look to you that day?
And I,
I sat and watched
as the choir chanted to him
but he didn’t come for you
and your altar remained dry.

I sat and watched.
Because Mine was coming.
And I wanted you all to see.