Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Longer Alone in a Crowd

Social situations have always been my nemesis. When I was a young girl and my family and I visited my cousins, I would sit on the couch next to my mom and be perfectly content to not play with the other children. One day my cousin asked me why I always just sat on the couch when I visited. I shrugged my shoulders and said nothing, but inwardly I answered, “Because I find it terrifying and exceedingly awkward to be here, and I’d rather be anywhere else than here.” The “anywhere else” usually meant at home in my bedroom with a book, or riding my bike alone along the country roads or playing in the stream near my house. Alone, I never felt alone. I was completely comfortable in my own skin. With other people, it was as if I didn’t know how to act or to speak or to be. I felt very alone

Which is what I attribute my alcohol addiction to, which began with my very first drink at 17 and ended, at age 38, by the Grace and Mercy of the Lord Jesus.

Alcohol made me comfortable in my own skin around others. I suddenly did not have to worry about how to act or to speak or to be. The alcohol did all of that for me. So I never learned how to do those things on my own. When the Lord took drinking away at 38, technically I was still at the level of a 17- year-old emotionally. I had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin in any situation, without alcohol.

By growing up in Christ since age 38, I have come a long way. God first blessed me with a newspaper job shortly after becoming a Christian. That forced me to go out into the world--be it crowds or stranger's homes--and talk with people. My pen, paper and tape recorder were my safety net, allowing me to have a hook on which to practice my social skills. At first the awkwardness was incredible. But with each journalistic assignment, the angst eased, and I began to relax. God was with me, and I was reliant on Him, and together we began the journey out of debilitating shyness and social anxiety into the beginning of confidence.

Social situations still unnerve me at times. I‘ve gotten comfortable finding a quiet spot on the fringe, or pinpointing other souls who look terrified and awkward that I can strike up a conversation with to help put them at ease. Funny, I actually find it easier to talk to total strangers than many of the folks I already know. There’s a certain freedom in anonymity.

The best thing, though, that God has done regarding social situations, even those with extended family, is to just be with me. I no longer feel alone in a crowd. Wherever I go God is at my side. I can talk to Him, and often do, throughout a family reunion, picnic, small-group, get-together, reception; anywhere. I draw the confidence to make it through the event from Jesus, and the ability to speak or not to speak from His Holy Spirit. But the minute I take my focus off Him, I usually say something stupid or get pulled into a worldly conversation and then the awkwardness and anxiety return. That's when I need to heed the Holy Spirit’s nudge to step back and recede into silent prayer so God can realign my heart and mind with Him. Only then can I be at peace in the world, and in my self, once again.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

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