All of my life I have been shy. I would be asked, “Would you like to do this?” My response: “Sure, I’d love to do any behind-the-scenes work you have! Cooking, cleaning, crafting – I’m on it!” I never even imagined taking the lead – leading the Bible study, being the group President, deciding the angle for a case in law school – even if I was the most qualified, the most capable, had the best vision. It actually never crossed my mind.
Until I started to grow with God and He began to challenge me. The first way was in baring my soul in a tell-all letter to the class a year junior to mine about my experience with growing with God during the period leading up to taking the bar exam. The words began spilling out of me, raw and real, revealing long-held secrets and things kept private because I felt they were either embarrassing or shameful. It felt wrong to be vocal. It felt un-classy. It felt like I had ripped my heart wide open and laid it on the table for all to see. Only my conviction that God had called me to do it forced me to hand it over. And of course, the response was overwhelming. It helped people. God had planned it. It was meant to be. And it made me wonder what else I had missed out on. What other plans God had for me because I was an under-the-radar kind of gal.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being quiet or doing behind-the-scenes work, and I’m certainly not advocating for pushiness. I’m simply saying that there are certain gifts that God has given you, and that, at least in those areas, you are supposed to spread you wings and let the fullness of what He has given you, of what he has called you to be, take root, or so I am learning.
The way this has currently manifested itself in my life is that I am on the brink of publishing my first book and I didn’t even want to advertise. I didn’t want anyone to know I write. It almost kept me from pursuing publishing at all. Bare my soul to the world, reveal my inmost thoughts- bah! I had refused for years even to have a personal Instagram page and had recently deleted my personal Facebook page. And then one night, as clear as anything, I felt that God wanted me to start an Instagram for my writing. Puke. It made me want to puke. Me, promoting my blogs, sharing travel thoughts, literary musings, and news about my books? Never, never, never. Set aside the idea that if I could imagine something I would like to do with my time, it was precisely that. It just wasn’t the way I was hard-wired. But I did it. And it has turned out really great. I’m enjoying it, growing in confidence, and revealing my soul to the world one layer at a time.
After the gut-wrenching realization that I needed to post a picture of myself (and doing it, and surviving) the next thing was the decision about whether I would publish my book under my long-used pen name, Juliet Wilkes, or whether I would use my real name.
You see, there are certain advantages to using a pen name. It’s cool, it’s secretive and…Mark Twain. Need I say more? Most writers struggle with being honest in their writing, and that’s a lot easier to do if no one’s ever going to know it’s you. You can say whatever you like, slip under the radar, lead a secret life.
Only God didn’t want my life to be led in secret. He didn’t want my talents to be hidden. They’re not really mine, you see. He gave them to me to use, for reasons, some of which I know, and some of which are still a mystery to me, but all of which are good.
One day the entire day through, that line from This Little Light of Mine kept playing in my head. Why did I keep hearing “Don’t hide your light under a bushel” over and over in my head? It was really helpful, and I found all sorts of ways it might be applicable to my life, but it never occurred to me until I was discussing the question of the day with my sister (whether to use my pen name) that it was directly applicable to that situation.
And so, as soon as realization struck, my decision was made. The pen name was going to be more of a hindrance than a help, a way to hide when God wanted the piece of him which I can display through my writing to shine.
As for my shyness? I’m just going to have to get over it. And I am, with God’s help. I grow bolder every day. If you struggle similarly, the greatest help is the conviction that this is what He wants, if you feel it. Because there’s no arguing with that feeling. It’s like the adage a child might say: “Mom says.” Once you accept that and put your trust in Him, it gets a little easier, day by day.
Here’s to letting God shine through us and never hiding who He wants us to be.