You may have heard of the story of the elephant brought up in the circus. His is kept from escaping by having a rope tied around his feet when he is young. Over time, the elephant twists and turns and tries to break free but cannot! He struggles as the rope keeps him captive. Every time the elephant tries to pull, he meets resistance, and after a while… he stops trying. As the elephant grows bigger and stronger, he could easily break free but due to what happened to him in the past where he had failed and could not escape, he doesn’t even attempt to do so anymore. Instead, he stays confined and trapped and can’t let go.
As I write this story I reflect upon my past experiences and past rejections and how they have held me back. They have made me scared of stepping out. It can feel much more comfortable to stay where I am in my comfort zone, yet I can hear a very quiet voice telling me to move forward and to step out of the shame of being tied up by anxieties and the fear of rejection. I can hear a voice which is telling me to break free! The question now is… “do I trust that voice?” “Can I let go?”
It is entirely up to me. I am not being forced to do or not do anything. I have a list of memories telling me that moving forward might not be a good idea, yet I recognise the power of the voice that is telling me different. I have started to trust that voice. You trust people the most you know love you the most! I am slowly letting that feeling of ‘how much God loves me’ sink in!
If you heard me speak over the summer, you might recall my use of a clip from the Greatest Showman at the end of some of my talks when the bearded lady sings the film’s anthem ‘This is me!’ for the first time. Keala Settle who plays the bearded lady tells the story of the first rehearsal when the film’s star Hugh Jackman became such an encouragement to her. At the beginning of the song, she stands behind the music stand so scared she can hardly move. The producer encourages her to get into ‘the middle of the arena’ so to speak and own, the song! She looks fragile and hesitant but as she reaches the second verse and sings the line “Look out because here I come! I’m marching to the beat I drum, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apology… This is me!”, she starts to walk out slowly, still looking fragile then turns to her backing singers and then… There is just an explosion of joy! It is like the freedom of embracing who she truly is and the acceptance of herself for everyone to see brings a wave of joy not only to her but everyone else in the studio! The atmosphere is electric!
Towards the end of the song she starts to feel vulnerable again and she grabs Hugh Jackman’s hand just for a moment but long enough to get the courage to go again and finish the song.
This summer, my new book ‘Honesty Over Silence’ came out. Its overall message is that “it’s ok not to be ok!” (to be fair, with a book title like that, you have to be prepared for vulnerability). That did not stop me from being nervous about what people might make of it. This is the most vulnerable book I have written about my emotional and mental health challenges and writing it was a big deal. I started to use the new material at festivals and conferences both here in the UK and overseas. I have been totally taken aback by the response I have received! From emails to Facebook messages, folks from all around are able to relate and share similar experiences. Some of the stories people have been opening up to are heart breaking but also full of Hope! What keeps on recurring in all of these is that, when we step out and show courage and vulnerability, we liberate ourselves from the fear of what others think and we realise that we are not alone. Many feel the same! Often, the most critical voice in our heads is our own inner critical voice which constantly points to our past failures and how we have not lived up to our own, often too high, expectations.
Treating ourselves and others with compassion is key. This implies being kind, caring and present and not systematically pouring advice and focusing on ‘being a rescuer’. Sometimes, people don’t want to be rescued, they want to be loved! They don’t want to feel inadequate or be told nicely that their faith doesn’t measure up! They just want someone to grab their hand and be alongside them for a while to give them courage.
Six months ago, I decided to leave a fairly secure job with a big team as I decided it was time for me to step away from the music stand and out of my comfort zone to a new adventure. Although I still have my challenges, I am glad I have stepped out and get to be me and to be loved for who I am with all my ways! In the last couple of months, I have spoken in more different places than I have done for years and have met some of the most incredible people who reflect God back to me in their fragility and weakness. There has been some amazing “Me too!!” moments and moments of pure joy as well as moments of tears!
So, what’s the point of this blog…. I guess I wanted to encourage you to keep stepping out to know your true value and that you are loved and made in the image of God. I don’t have all the answers to the “whys” of this world but I know that when we hide away, we don’t do ourselves or anyone else any favours.
Maybe you could be the person to grab someone’s hand…. Maybe you could be that person who doesn’t judge…. who doesn’t even give loads of advice but simply lets someone know you are there for them!
This great big elephant is slowly learning that the things he thought held him back are not as strong as they used to be! The second word in the name of our charity is Hope. Hope is saying hard times don’t last forever…. They will pass… We want people to journey with each other, to find hope, to grab someone’s hand for a while and not look to rescue them but to love them!
For me, the voice which was calling me was a voice I have struggled to hear! I was often too distracted with other things, and the voice of God doesn’t often shout but is often quiet instead, yet it is always there.
‘Honesty Over Silence’ is now out and available from www.kintsugihope.com
Join Patrick and Diane for an example evening of music and spoken word on the Honesty Over Silence Tour in November.