When I was in my late teens, I tried out for and was subsequently accepted to be a dancer/cheerleader for the Dakota Wizards, a local basketball team that was, at the time, part of the International Basketball Association. After about a season or two of half-time performances, sideline cheers, and weekly practices, the dance coach took me aside and told me in no uncertain terms that my presence on the team was no longer welcome. I’d been fired, let go, given a pink slip. (I use these terms loosely as this was strictly a voluntary activity.)
I have a lot of distinct memories surrounding that moment. I remember standing in the entryway of the high school gymnasium where our practices were held. I remember the firmness in the coach’s face. That although this had come without warning, there would be no discussion. I remember her words. That my movements were too small, too timid, and that she wasn’t interested in hand holding or helping me to improve said issues.
I remember feeling the shame of rejection. The hot tears that immediately stung my eyes, preventing any sort of defense for fear that unclenching my jaw would also release a humiliating torrent of uncontrollable sobs. I remember the meekness of my voice when, with my gaze dropped to the floor, I asked the coach to retrieve my best friend—also a member of the dance team—so I wouldn’t have to reveal my burning cheeks to the rest of the team, who’d already been made aware of my dismissal.
As I left the school that evening, I did what any naïve teenager who lacks self-awareness would do. I cursed the coach. I cursed the rest of the team. (Within the confines of my car, of course.) And I took it very, very personally. By the time I sped out of the parking lot, I had convinced myself that my elimination had nothing to do with my skills, or lack thereof. I was certain the other girls didn’t like me and had thus contrived this underhanded scheme in order to get rid of me.
But what hindsight and experience and a removal of about twenty years has given me is perspective. If I had had the knowledge then that I have now, rather than peeling out of that parking lot in a frenzy of spitefulness, I would have been grateful. For what I recognize now that I didn’t recognize then, was the gift that that coach had given me. If I had been paying attention, I would have used her criticism as an opportunity for growth rather than an excuse to sink into self-pity.
Because—although I hate to admit it even today—she was right. I did, and often still do, have the tendency to play small. To approach my writing and my faith and just life in general with a sort of fearful reticence that holds me back and keeps me from growing into the strong and confident woman that God made me to be. And if nothing else, I feel completely secure in the belief that He does want more for me than small, timid movements. I believe He wants more for us all.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar position. If you’ve ever retreated into a comfortable, confined, compacted box because of doubt or insecurity, I will leave you with this reminder from 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT (which also happens to be my personal theme for 2019): For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.