There is a thief and he comes to steal our becoming, kill our dreams, and destroy our very lives. He comes to make you an unwoman with an un-life. He wants to make you harmless and obscure. Through the years it seems like I became afraid of all the things I thought I really wanted. Afraid of adventure. Afraid of love. Afraid of change.
A few months ago I asked 150 women to fill out a survey. These women had come to a conference I was teaching and this particular group of women was a great representation of our diversity.
There were women of every age and from every walk of life. Young moms. Single women. Teenage girls. Professional teachers, attorneys, and physicians. Women from the fashion and music industries.
Several women retired with grandchildren. Some of them were very wealthy. Most were in between. And about a dozen women came that weekend from the rescue mission.
I had created the questionnaire specifically for this group of women. I wanted to take their pulse, look for the differences, and focus on our similarities. One of the questions asked was: Why aren’t we becoming the women we’ve always wanted to be? The women were allowed to give as many answers as they could think of. Almost every woman listed fear in some way.
I began to ask myself, What if we could diminish fear in the hearts of women? What if we began to live and respond from courage? What if fear lost its grip and the wallflowers began to step out of the shadows? What if women could begin to live in a righteous confidence?
I get so excited about the ideas of passion and women living amazing lives. I can almost taste my desire to help women grow in their giftings and my desire to see them face their everyday lives with courage. But almost every time I begin to sound big and bold, my rah-rah words are met with a reluctant, you-can’t-moveme smile from the person I’m talking to. I spent more than an hour yesterday talking to a woman who is a casual acquaintance at the gym. She’ll be fifty-two on Saturday. The conversation began innocently enough.
“What are you doing for your birthday?” I asked in between crunches.
“Oh, probably nothing. Maybe we’ll go out to dinner the night before. I really need to work in the yard that day. Anyway, I’m over having birthdays, what’s the big deal? It almost seems like they come twice a year now. We don’t like to spend money and I don’t like the idea of being fifty-two. Besides, I partied plenty when I was younger.”
“I’m not talking about partying. I’m talking about a celebration. Look at your life. You are healthy. You have a job you like. Your husband loves you. Another year has gone by and you shouldn’t miss celebrating all you’ve been given. Get the people you love together and whoop it up.
“I don’t like being with the people I love. They get on my nerves.”
“Then get some people you like together.” “I don’t want to.”
“You can afford to get on a plane and go to New York for a weekend. Have a fabulous dinner and see a show.”
“Don’t want to.”
“Why are you afraid to enjoy being alive?”
“I’m not afraid, I just don’t care anymore. I’m over it.”
My friend really is over it. She stopped taking vacations about five years ago. She and her husband don’t exchange gifts anymore. It’s a waste of money. She goes back and forth to work. Takes her husband for granted. Lives for her dogs. Watches her favorite programs on television. Takes her mom to lunch on Sundays. Counts her carbs. Surfs the Internet. Hides in the routine. The thief has numbed down her life and he has won.
She could have thirty amazing years in front of her or she could have just two. But either way she’s going to miss them. My friend is loud and dominant and very opinionated, all from the safety of her insulated, fenced-in world. She has been hurt through the years.
My friend’s business failed several years ago, so she’s mad at the federal government about taxes and the city government about zoning restrictions and anyone else she can think of to blame. She used to play lead guitar in a rock band, but she doesn’t play anymore because the band never got picked up by a recording label and she’s still huffy about it. Even though she’s been married twenty-seven years, she and her husband never had any children because it just never seemed to be the right time. Her marriage is committed, but boring by their own admission.
Life disappointments and personal, private hurts have all just piled together for her. She had some failures, but they have become her focus. You begin to believe what you focus on and now she is living like she is a failure. And from her self-imposed protection, she doesn’t do anything or interact with anyone that could possibly bring her pain again. She’s so afraid over there in her sterilized, numbed-down world. Perpetually disappointed. Not really living. She is just one of us. One who more openly displays her fear. But there are many more of us who live from the same kind of fear, except with a little more pretending. We’re over it on the inside.
Life holds no fascination. Adventure sounds exhausting.
Friendships aren’t worth it. We’re tired and we want to be left alone. Being a wallflower sounds like that long nap we’ve been needing.
- Are you tired? I imagine that you are because everyone I know is exhausted.
- Are you disappointed, depressed, or even worse, hopeless? You are not alone.
- Have your dreams all died or maybe you have failed in their pursuit?
- Have you become afraid of everything or a lot of things?
Or maybe your want-to is just plain wearing out and you feel like my forty-three-year-old girlfriend who told me she thinks she’s done enough. She’s tired and empty and she says she’ll be ready to die at fifty.
I hear you and some days I’m with you, but you cannot give up. Evidently you woke up this morning still breathing. And every day you are left on this earth is a day that God intended for your life to matter. Not only does your life matter, I do not believe that God means for any of us to live an un-person, un-life, wallflower existence. I believe He meant for us to dance.
When was the last time you danced?
Excerpt from When Wallflowers Dance: Becoming a Woman of Righteous Confidence, by Angela Thomas.
Copyright © 2005 Angela Thomas, Published by Nelson Books.