I make the decision.
I AM going to go.
I start getting ready forty minutes before I have to be there and I leave twelve minutes before 7:00. I sing along to my most recent favorite worship songs on repeat as I drive and follow directions on my iphone.
I pull into the church parking lot and follow the signs set up for parking.
And, right before I open my car door to leave my little, safe, personal world, it starts to happen.
Anxiety - but not too severe. Not what it used to be like in new situations. But still, I couldn't help but be nervous.
I have learned how to control my anxiety in I'm-new-to-this-group situations by pretending on the outside with my actions that everything is fine. I am careful with the expression that my face is showing so that I don't look scared. I try to move in a comfortable manner so I don't look awkward. All the while, my inside is tightening and my hands and face are starting to become warm.
I am greeted by the girl at the front. The first of many ladies I would be meeting.
I follow her directions and walk up the stairs. Everyone in the room is talking in groups or in pairs.
There are three rows of chairs. I quietly sit in the middle row (not too forward to sit in the front on my first time but not too cowardly to sit in the back, either).
When it comes time for everyone to be seated, I am the ONLY one in the middle row. Apparently, everyone else likes to sit in the backrow.
As the worship starts, I try to remind myself that everyone else is here to worship - NOT here to watch the girl in the second row and criticize how she looks when she is worshipping.
The teaching starts. It's a small group that night so the teacher moves us all over to one side for a more intimate setting. I pull out my journal. I NEED to remember all that he is saying...it is so good. However, I am the only one taking notes.
Teaching is over. A girl comes and talks to me before we break off into small group. I really like her and I am thankful we are getting to know each other, but my nervous habits are popping out. Not knowing how much eye contact to give, worrying about the position of my hands, wondering if I am blushing, worrying if I will say something stupid.
Time to go to break off into groups. I follow this girl (who happens to be the girl who greeted me at the door) and she explains how the sessions usually work. The rest of the ladies join us for the open-share group.
Sweet and genuine ladies. Very welcoming.
We head into our share time. I try to give eye contact and use my body language to encourage each speaker. Then it is my turn and I get nervous again. I am much more comfortable encouraging others as they share than sharing what is going on inside me.
I share. The ladies give nods of understanding. The ladies seem to totally understand. But still, when I am done, I can't help but feel that many of the things I said, or how I said them, sounded a little silly.
We pray. That's when I finally feel comfortable. Praying for the lady on my right and I am finally able to speak genuinely from my heart because I am right at the feet of Jesus speaking to Him on this lady's behalf.
We finish prayer. I become self-conscious again.
I walk out and the girl I prayed for walks with me. She shares a bit of her story with me and I learn how much we are able to relate. We get to the door where I choose to head to my car and she chooses to stay and fellowship. I give an awkward "I'll-see-you-soon" and she gives a non-awkward smile and goodbye.
I walk down the stairs, back to my car, and as soon as I get in and close my car door, I feel safe again. Back inside my safe, little, secure world. My own little environment.
I drive home and sing the same worship songs that I sang on the way there and I reflect on my night.
It was a GOOD night. It was where I needed to be. And I am pretty sure it is where I need to continue to be.
I don't want to let my fear of entering into new groups and new environments stop me from fellowship and growth and blessing.
The group was filled with sincere, loving people. The worship leader was genuine. The teacher was loving and an excellent communicator. The share-group was authentic and safe and filled with lovely ladies.
The only problem was that my heart was filled with fear. A fear grown from the seed of self-focus.
My prayer is that as I choose to "do it afraid," as one of my favorite bloggers would say, that I will give the enemy less power in my life so that the Lord will be able to work in my heart and heal me and bless me.
I am thankful for last night.
I am thankful for the fellowship and for what I learned.
I am thankful for how God is healing me and teaching me.
And I am looking forward to the day when I am able to walk into new situations without anxiety. Until that day though, I will do it afraid.
What about YOU? What are some situations that bring out your fears or anxieties? Do you get nervous in new environments?