My heart has recently been stirred to take Thai classes to be able to grow in relationship with our Thai neighbors and condo complex guards. We are meeting so many wonderful people when we take our regular evening walks with the twins, or when I go running around the complex. The guards now recognize us and love to try to get our children to smile and laugh at them. It is delightful. I know it would be even more delightful if we could communicate better and grow in relationship.
Upon coming to Thailand, we were so focused on the ministry of the school and put off learning Thai since we were busy with adjusting to life in new country, learning the ins and outs of a new school, figuring out how to teach AP classes for the first time, etc. By year three, when it finally felt that we were in our groove and perhaps ready to take on language classes, we found our family multiplying in size. The first year of life with the twins was a blur with jumping into parenthood and adjusting to what the new normal was. I wish I could remember more from that first year, but honestly, it was hard for me to even hold a conversation due to extreme sleep deprivation. :) I now find myself in a place where I feel comfortable leaving the twins with our helper for a while, not feel guilty about it, and not have to worry about nursing or pumping.
So what does all of this have to do with the fear of man?
I am not a "yes-man." I say no to most things, honestly. A large part of it is due to being an introvert (I'm sure only introverts themselves really truly understand that). Another part of it is because I simply cannot handle having my hands in a lot of things...I like to dedicate myself to one or two things and do them really well. And the last part of it is that I guard my time and energy so that God and my family are my top priorities. Because if my priorities are not right, I am not patient and loving towards my family, I cannot be a model of Christ-like love, I don't demonstrate the gospel to my children, I am not a prayerful wife, I don't discipline lovingly to nurture and guide. Honestly, I just act ugly.
So as God stirs my heart's affection for my neighbors and our neighborhood guards, and lays on my heart to take intensive Thai classes, it means less. Less opportunity to play with my children during the day when I go to class, less time to meal plan and have dinner ready for a tired husband, less time to take a cat nap when the kids are sleeping so that I feel rested and ready to lovingly display the gospel to them, and less time with friends because I will be saying "no" even more to guard the precious family time that I do have. It also means less energy. As a former language student and teacher, I know how mentally draining it is to intensely learn a new language. When I lived in Spain and learned through full immersion, I took naps that were 3 hours long after school and then slept 10 hours at night. With age comes responsibility, so I unfortunately don't have the luxury to do that now that I am no longer 16. ;)
I have been fearing the potential reactions of being more guarded and even more of a "no-man". Fearing mainly that I will be misunderstood...that me saying "no" will come across as me being insensitive, unsupportive or mean. As I write this, it sounds so silly...things that God has placed on my heart and how to best care for my family vs. fearing what others may think of me if I follow through with what God has placed on my heart and how I care for my family.
I recently read this devotional on the fear of man by Mars Hill Church. An excerpt from it said, "We live with either the fear of God or the fear of man. It's impossible to live fearing both God and someone else at the same time. Whom we fear determines what we do and how we live."
I don't want to miss out on what God has for me just because I am fearful of what someone thinks of me. So today I commit to choosing. Choosing faith instead of fear. Choosing to fear God instead of man. Choosing joy instead of worry. Choosing to surrender instead of cling to opinion of others. Choosing to be obedient to His call instead of the world's. Choosing to be the "no-man" when I feel it is necessary and choosing not to feel guilty about being more guarded.
So if I say no to you, it's not because I don't care for you...it's because I care about how my heart has been stirred by God and because I care about honoring and loving my family well.