Have you ever felt alone in the middle of a crowded room surrounded by others and you’re not speaking? (And no this isn’t to reference a Taylor Swift song, although it is a bop.) But seriously, your brain is thinking 50 million thoughts per minute and you can’t even find the will to say “hello” to the person next to you because of all the thoughts you’re thinking, you focus on the few that isolate you and say “no one’s going to like you.” I’ve been in that situation multiple times in my life: first day of school, communicating with people at my job, going up to pray for people at the altar, even Sunday mornings can be difficult sometimes. The joke that was supposed to be funny was only left with an uncomfortable silence between me and the poor person who had to listen to my corny sentence and now as much as I’m trying to receive from the Voice AM, I’m also praying that they will forget the encounter by the time we walk out the door.
These feelings are not foreign to me.
While on the missions trip to Ireland, although we were in a foreign country halfway across the world, these feelings didn’t just evaporate by snapping my fingers or tapping my shoes together and whispering, “there’s no place like home” they were just as loud and just as silencing as they always tend to be.
But there’s something about asking the Holy Spirit to use you in a whole new way, millions of miles away from your comfort zone that not only quiets those thoughts racing through your head, but reminds you of your worth found in Christ (I’ll come back to this.)
Now hear me out, the first two days I was cranky and a little annoyed that the only person I felt comfortable talking to was a close friend (singular, 1 out of 30,) and it didn’t help that we got split up sometimes. I was roomed with two girls that were inseparable and if I’m being honest, I was kind of jealous that they got to be in the same room. I just had to watch their fun and be a loner in the corner and wonder why I wasn’t included in on the inside jokes.
I was venting to my friend the next day about how I felt like there were cliques and I didn’t know how to get along with anyone when she asked me, “Is it them you can’t get along with or is it you already saying you can’t get along with them- even though you haven’t tried?” Now, mind you, I had one friend going for me so I couldn’t shut her down or else I’d have no one. But she had a point. All the while I was getting upset about not connecting with others, I realized it wasn’t because they said they didn’t like me, it was because I had already assumed for them that they wouldn’t. How unfair is that? How selfish is that? I didn’t even comprehend how much like Cher I really was: Clueless.
My projection of their rejection towards me is what kept me from these fulfilling relationships.
That night when I was back in my hotel room with the besties, I opened my heart to them and how I felt. One responded with similar feelings of wanting to reach out to the group and one fell asleep (I get it, it was around midnight.) By 2 am, we had a plan for how we’d get out of our comfort zones to try and talk to new people and not assume the worst. I mean really, what’s the worst that could happen?
Here’s where I bring up the Holy Spirit again:
The morning after during prayer when I could barely keep my eyes open, I sought the Holy Spirit and asked to be used in a new way- I asked for divine appointments, new connections, to break down the walls I had built up blocking others from getting to know me- I asked for a lot. And while it wasn’t like we had a huge group hug afterwards- I noticed throughout the day (and the rest of the week) how my mindset had shifted. I became aware of my team members, seeing the possibility of relationships instead of my own fears. The thoughts in my head saying “no one will like you” never left rather I just chose to stop listening. My focus was no longer on “Will they like me?” but instead became, “How can I love them?”
And that changed the whole week.
That changed how I did ministry.
I left Orlando with a group of strangers and I came back with a family.
I got to talk to people I would normally never talk to, I got to answer questions about faith I’m normally never asked, I got to witness and be a part of other people’s breakthroughs even when I had only met them a few days before- I got to serve and love others on a whole new level- not expecting anything back.
And with that, new friendships were formed in a time and place I wasn’t expecting.
Was it easy? Absolutely not.
But, when you let the Holy Spirit lead you and mold you into more of the person you’re meant to be, it is always worth it.
On a missions trip or even on a Sunday night at the Voice, you’d be surprised how much your life can change by letting the Holy Spirit lead you and just choosing to say “hello.”
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”