I want to briefly elaborate on yesterday’s post. I noted that I’ve shrunk back because I feared peddling the gospel for self-aggrandizing reasons. I see so many people who are dripping with self-absorption. I don’t want to be one of them. Consequently, I haven’t used my writing and speaking voice to their fullest extent-all for fear of running over others and becoming self-absorbed.
I was replying to Summer in the comment section of yesterday’s post when this thought came to me: Jesus could’ve given into this same kind of fear. His fear of giving into the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, specifically the temptation to become somebody by doing something spectacular (jumping off the pinnacle of the temple), could’ve driven him back into obscurity, to a carpenter’s life. That would’ve been equally disobedient, not because carpentry is a dishonorable profession, but because our Father was calling him to public ministry.
I think women often wrestle with the fear of using their voices and influence. They fear running over others and opposition when they confidently go forth with the gifts God has given them. There’s a name for strong women, an epithet hurled at them when they unapologetically use their gifts. In American English, the word rhymes with ‘witch.’ So we shrink back in fear.
In her book, Glittering Vices, Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung names this fear in her introduction: the sin of pusillanimity. I just started hunting for the book so I could quote her. I’ve been re-reading it recently. I can’t find it even though my house is clean. So, I go to Aquinas in Summa Theologica. He says that pusillanimity is the sin of the faint hearted. In his words:
Now just as presumption makes a man exceed what is proportionate to his power, by striving to do more than he can, so pusillanimity makes a man fall short of what is proportionate to his power, by refusing to tend to that which is commensurate thereto. Wherefore as presumption is a sin, so is pusillanimity. Hence it is that the servant who buried in the earth the money he had received from his master, and did not trade with it through fainthearted fear, was punished by his master (Matthew 25; Luke 19).
So ladies and gentlemen, I am encouraging you to use the gifts that God has given you. Do not shrink back in fear. Fear not. Fear not what others think if you are acting according to the law of love: loving God with everything you have and your neighbor as yourself. Wise and trusted others within the spans of our communities will keep us accountable as we listen to them.
Of course I realize that during particular seasons of rest or caring for our family (whether we be men or women) that we might not be able to do everything we desire to do. But again, as Jan Johnson and Dallas Willard have said: “Do as you can, not as you can’t.”
Let’s make that our motto, shall we? Do as you can, not as you can’t.