I have always been very conscious about doing what is right.
Dubbed a “goody-two-shoes” by my stepsister growing up, I often found my standards of integrity and morality to be outside the norm, even among Christians or other “good students”.
I like this about myself. I continue to uphold high standards of integrity and morality. But when I was young, this pursuit of right living was accompanied by a deadly trap. Whenever I was rebuked for doing something wrong, an intense feeling would take hold of me: Shame.
Even if the wrongdoing was unintentional, I would feel sick to my stomach.
God has freed me from most of the shame I used to feel. Though certainly a part of Korean culture, shame is not a part of the culture of the Kingdom. God wants repentance, not shame. He doesn’t condemn, but rather saves.
But this past week, I felt that old feeling grip my gut once again.
At first, these feelings felt like a step backwards, but I soon realized that they were actually a set-up for a powerful revelation.
Yesterday at church, I ran the powerpoint slides during worship for the second time ever. That might not seem like a big deal, but other than the fact that any mistakes are obvious to everyone in the room, I know that running the slides well has the potential to either enhance worship or detract from it, so I take the job seriously.
But as much as I wanted to do a perfect job yesterday, I didn’t. I made several obvious mistakes (like when I got so into singing the chorus of the second song that I completely forgot to click the next slide).
Mistakes aren’t sins, I didn’t do anything wrong, but I often feel discouraged not only when I don’t do something right, but when I don’t do something well.
Since coming to Korea, I have realized time and again that I am afraid of making mistakes.
That fear keeps me from talking in Korean, from singing with soul, from playing piano with freedom and expression, from trying new things. It limits me. It’s a vestige of my struggle with shame that I still need to let go of.
Yesterday after running slides, the revelation hit me: I am free to make mistakes here. This is a safe place.
I had already known that everyone in the room was on my side. I was surrounded by encouragement in the sound booth: People telling me I would be great, giving me thumbs ups during praise, and gently tapping me on the shoulder when I got distracted by my own worshiping. Whenever I made the slightest mistake, the media team leader would check on my well-being rather than criticize me (because he knows I get nervous about these things).
But in light of the old feelings shame I had recently experienced, this realization hit me on a deeper level.
I realized that these mistakes were not merely something to overcome, but were actually critical for my growth.
Because even more than learning how to do things well or put in my best effort, what I really need to learn is how to show myself grace. I need to learn that my acceptance as a person isn’t based on my performance. Even if that is how some things in the world work, that’s not how it works in the Kingdom.
And once I understand that, I’ll be free to be so much more than I could be with my super careful approach to life.
I couldn’t ask for a better environment in which to learn this than at my church.
The first week I did slides, the computer froze, making the first half of the first song completely slide-less. (I kind of freaked out, but then all I could do was laugh about my lack of control of the situation.) After service, the media team leader told me the worship leader asked him what happened and then immediately said, “How was Elizabeth? Was she okay? And did you encourage her?”‘
I am constantly reminded here that my value is not based on my function. I am simply loved for who I am. And for that, I am deeply grateful.