Something I have worked on very consciously for pretty much as long as I can remember is trying to overcome my natural inclination to be shy as well as inward, and combatting many of the feelings and behaviors that accompany that. I've come a long way. That said, my first inclination as soon as I see someone approaching me is to hope that they haven't noticed that I've noticed them and turn away and pretend that I didn't see them (and I don't dislike people at all--most people, anyway--its just my first, instinctual reaction), because if I have to talk to anyone I don't know very, very well I still feel hopelessly awkward and very inarticulate. If I'm sitting at a computer or with a notebook and pen, I feel like I can express myself quite well, particularly if I have plenty of time. But when I have to express myself verbally, when I have to interact face to face with another human being, all too often I feel tense and awkward and self-conscious, robbing me of some of my better manners and making my mind go blank. For the life of me, I just can't make small talk sometimes.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I took a summer job that required going door to door talking to people for four hours a day. I gave people lots of reasons for why I did the job, each reason having some degree of reality to it, but the truth was that the primary, driving motivation behind it was this: I knew that in about a year I'd be off to college, and that none of the colleges I was applying to were less than 2,000 miles from my home and every soul I knew; and with that in mind, the fact that I was still afraid of talking to strangers, that new social situations (or virtually any social situation that wasn't my immediate family or the same people I'd gone to school with for 12 years) made me anxious, short of breath and nauseous, made this job seem like as good a place to start as any. After all, they gave me a script to start the conversation with.
Those first few weeks of college were as difficult as I imagined they would be, but in the long run, I made wonderful friends, and even met the boy who became my husband. Part of the reason for that was that I was at BYU-H, a place that was tremendously welcoming (who doesn't feel welcome among Polynesians, really?), and where I was constantly reminded of the power and necessity of prayer. And in prayer, it didn't matter if I was eloquent or even terribly articulate, because I was speaking with someone who knew my heart, and can understand those things which I often had a horrible time trying to say. Recently, a post by a very dear friend of mine indirectly reminded me of one of the things I love most about prayer.
If the Lord can know and understand Andrea's heart even when she is incapable of communicating with the rest of us (and I am certain that he does indeed know what is in her heart), then I have no doubt that he can hear the words of my heart. We have the right, at any time and in any place, to speak to the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of All Things, Almighty and Omnipotent, and yet have no need for any self-consciousness, as flawed and tiny as we are in comparison. We can pour out our whole souls to Him and trust that He hears, understands perfectly, and loves completely.
This sweet photo reminded me that the Lord says, "What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I am," but knows better than anyone what a challenging ideal that is for incomplete and imperfect children to meet, and so in the mean time, he accepts and loves me even as I am, right now, at this moment. Personal, reverent prayer helps me to feel that fatherly affection around me and remember that the Lord loves me in spite of my imperfections, and will help me, bit by bit and day by day, to overcome them. He has already helped me come so far, and so I try to patiently believe that he will continue to make weak things strong, until I get to that point where I have become even as He is.