As she sorted laundry beside me, she asked in an offhand way, “Hey. You seem a bit quiet. Everything ok?”
All of a sudden, the floodgates opened. I couldn’t stop the torrent of tears down my face and I tried to stuff down the ‘ugly cry’ that I knew was wanting to burst forth. I managed to choke out that it was “about work” before I couldn’t stop the tears again.
“Awwww…. what’s goin’ on honey?” The empathy on her face made me want to share more and so I opened up to an almost-complete-stranger about my situation: the gossip train constantly going on, the whispered conversations about ‘mistakes’ that people make, the way that some people ignore me, even when I am addressing them directly, the shrewd and passive aggressive comments that are made in the name of ‘communication’.
Could it be that I am in a culture of ‘mean girls’?
I got this ‘dream job’ a few months back. It was in my area of passion and I was so excited to be paid for working in that area. Very soon though, I began to ‘sense’ the culture … and it didn’t seem like a very kind one. I began to have interactions with coworkers that seemed, well… not very gracious. I hear conversations about each other. Lots of sarcasm and back talk. So you know if it’s happening to others, it is happening to you too, right?
At first I blamed my feelings on being in the Christian ‘bubble’ for too long. I thought that maybe I just wasn’t used to this type of ungracious, gossip-ridden, clique-y stuff that is part of the world. As I believed that God had given me this job, I felt that it was likely going to involve being a ‘light’ in a dim place. However, I felt like such a sore thumb, frankly. I didn’t want to be involved in sarcastic, gossip-y conversations. That’s not who I am, or how I like to connect with people. My light has grown dim some days at work. I fight feelings of inadequacy, of incompetence, of insecurity.
And then I get home and beat myself up for feeling that way. What about walking victorious in Jesus!? What about being the light?
How can I be the light when I feel so small and scared inside?
This situation is taking up way too much space in my mind and my heart. I know that fear is not God’s plan for me. I think, in essence, that is what it is: fear of how others perceive me, fear of not doing a good enough job, fear of making a mistake and having it dissected publicly behind my back, fear of being talked about in a sarcastic, caustic fashion, fear of not ‘being enough’, fear of not being liked for who I am.
I thought that being a woman in my mid-40’s, that this ‘insecurity’ stuff within was supposed to be in the past. I thought that at this point in life, I was supposed to be so self-assured and so comfortable in my own skin that I wouldn’t care so much about what others think of me. I thought that this immature drama was so far in my past that it could never get a hold of me again.
So why am I struggling with this so much?
It could be that I am in a mean-spirited, work environment where sarcasm, back talk and gossip are the norm and my sensitive heart is not used to it.
But could it be more than that? Could it be that I am struggling to walk in my true identity? Perhaps the question is, do I truly believe what Jesus says about who I am? Why can this not be the dominant theme of my heart? Despite being in a tough place, why can I not hang on for dear life to the truths that Jesus whispers and walk with my head held high as a beloved daughter of the King?
Perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)
Perfect love. What is perfect love? Not what, but who! My Father – He casts out all fear.
To bring the story back to where I began, in a laundry room in a dingy basement, surrounded by mess, chaos and disorder, this precious woman, a stranger, who knows Jesus, prayed for me out loud. God knew what I needed that day … a sister in Christ to lift me up before the Father and silence the lies of the enemy that were overwhelming my heart.