• Dana L. Butler

One Thing that Makes My Knees Knock {On Vulnerability, Scrutiny, and Letting Go of Control}


Emily said there’d be days like this.

Days my gut grinds and my face flushes hot.  Days my words are released into the atmosphere or the blogosphere or the Facebookosphere and I tremble in fear of the critics — both imaginary and real life.

I fear scrutiny.

I fear being misunderstood.

So I walk around the house preaching the Gospel to my own heart.  Reminding myself of what I know, down deep — that Jesus is my covering, that my value has already been established by the price He paid to ransom me, that I live before Him alone, that He’s my Rock and my firm foundation.

All of that really is my reality.  Even though I continually expose my raw guts for the world to read.  And even when my emotions don’t line up with the truth.

I’m invited and called to be vulnerable.  But I’m not uncovered, even when I feel like I am.

So with the blessing of Stan-my-incredible-man who covers me in prayer, I head to Panera, sit with my Bible and my pumpkin/caramel latte.

I read about Gideon, and I ponder God’s gracious revealing of His goodness and power through one so small, weak, and afraid.

I read and re-read the section about critics in Emily’s book.  It’s balm for my heart and at the same time more than a little uncanny, the way her words wrap gently, pointedly, precisely around my exact interior experience.  She couldn’t be more right on.

Releasing Control

Still, the thought of critique makes my stomach do flips.

While the critics in my head are much louder most of the time than the real life ones, the real life ones are out there.  And their misunderstanding of my heart is, some days, enough to make me consider throwing in the towel and throwing up walls of self-protection.

I want to hide.  Don’t look at me.  Don’t scrutinize.  And don’t draw conclusions about me, my heart, my beliefs without asking openhearted questions first.  Please.

I had no idea how learning to write with deeper authenticity would bring my heart to life.  I also had no idea how it would make me feel so incredibly exposed.

At its root, all this fear of man’s opinions?  It simply means I’m human.  But it highlights places in my heart where I’m valuing man’s affirmation over God’s, and the fear of man will prove to be a snare every single time (Proverbs 29:25).

Fear of man’s opinions is what makes me freeze up.  It drives me to hold onto my words too long.  It’s the cause of my struggling to call a piece of writing complete and release it into the world.

Because when I release my words, I’m also releasing control.  Control of how people will receive my heart. Control of the filters through which they might interpret my words.

I’ve frozen up a little lately.  But the Lord whispers this reminder to my heart — that it’s impossible for me to foresee every possible angle on my subject, or every possible way my words could be misinterpreted.  And I can’t keep people from reading my spilled guts and then coming up with things I should’ve said, or things I shouldn’t have said, or things I should have worded differently, or “but this phrase could be taken to mean this.”

Many years ago I had the privilege of hearing Matt Redman teach about songwriting at a conference.  The one thing he said that has stuck with me for over a decade went something like this: “A worship song can never contain all the truth about God.  But it must never contain an untruth.”

My Responsibility to God and My Commitment to You

It’s impossible to paint a complete picture in one song.

Or in one blog post.

My responsibility and my commitment, before God, and before you — my friends and readers — is to write my heart with integrity and authenticity.  To make sure, to the best of my ability, that what I proclaim here in my online space is in line with scripture.  I will write to you out of my life experience, out of my experience of God’s heart in the midst of my life.

Will I always do it perfectly?  No.  Will I fail to present every possible angle on my subject?  Yes, every time.  [And, side note — your kindly presented differing perspective is always, always welcome here.]

But praise God — He’s a Father who takes our imperfect and our incomplete and inhabits it, fills in our gaps.  Surrendering our imperfect and incomplete to Him is, in fact, what allows Him to come and breathe life into our small words, our small service, our small daily tasks.  Our small whatever He gives us to do.

So on the days I think I might need to sit down and shut up because I can’t present a complete picture and cover all the angles?  I’m learning to stand up instead.  To bravely face my smallness, my limited perspective, my inability to say all the truth, and surrender my fear to Him.

And keep honestly sharing my authentic heart.  Keep learning to be who I most deeply am.  Keep resting in Christ’s covering over my vulnerability, believing He’ll use my incomplete words and limited perspective to play a small role as He is piecing together a more complete picture of His heart for another.

It’s a humble sacrifice, and I make it sometimes with knees knocking.  But I do make it, leaning into Him.

And I think I can see a new level of confidence in Him peeking over my horizon.

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Hola, my friends!  Thank you so much for reading my heart here.  You all are so dear.  Your feedback is, as always, welcome and invited.  You can click here to hop over to the blog, if ya like.

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving week.  May Jesus overwhelm your heart anew with gratitude for His extravagant goodness that’s so personal to you.

I so appreciate you all.

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