The air left my lungs as I tried to calm my beating heart.
“One step in front of another,” I told myself, as I inched forward.
Facing me were the backs of 30 high schoolers, all laughing carelessly and engaged in riveting conversations.
I alone didn’t belong.
Week after week, this scenario played out as my family visited the churches that supported our ministry in Romania. While my parents would speak in the adult Sunday School, my brother and I were escorted to the youth group class, coaxed forward by well-meaning leaders who assured us the kids were all “friendly” and “excited to meet us.”
Except they weren’t. They were too wrapped up in their own worlds to care about the new kids.
I struggled with mild anxiety every Sunday as I walked those hallways toward the inevitable cliques and awkward silences. It was like being the new kid in the class, except the people and places changed each week, so I never really got to fit in.
In those moments, I clung to the reality of God’s presence:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
What a beautiful promise, that God Himself would hold our hands as we walk into the terrifying moments of our lives! He’s right there with us in the new classrooms, the large conference rooms, and the surgery waiting rooms. He’s got our hand folded in His.
Although I haven’t grown out of that initial discomfort, I’m now propelled forward by the promise of meeting meeting kindred spirits and engaging in interesting conversations.
And you want to know what the wild thing is? God is continually pushing me outside my comfort zone, leading me into a season of retreats and conferences and speaking engagements that I wouldn’t have chosen myself but I’m glad He’s picked out for me.
In those terrifying moments when we face a room full of people having a great time, we have a choice: we can let fear grip our throats and make us hide in a corner, or we can grasp the hand of God by our side and walk boldly into that room.
That’s what I’ll be practicing this fall. Bold obedience as I walk into rooms of strangers and spark conversations. Not because I’m courageous. I assure you my heart will be thundering. But because He leads me.
And where He leads us, He is sure to walk with us. And hold our hands along the way.