When You Don’t Want to Show Up

But can you do this?

I’m Not Qualified

It’s Thursday afternoon again. It’s almost time for me to go.

But should I go? Do I even want to?

I volunteer as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher each Thursday with a local group of Christians who want to share the love of Jesus with others in our community in practical ways.

Teaching free English classes is one way to love the foreigner as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34).

We’ve all been a foreigner somewhere, in some way. Then, as now, we needed others to treat us with compassion, with dignity, with attention.

I’ve wanted to teach ESL for awhile, ever since three short-term mission trips over three summers to El Salvador and Guatemala. I practice my Spanish a few minutes every day at home with Duolingo. I use Spanish sporadically at Manna House when I need to translate, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But of course I speak English fluently. It’s my native tongue.

So I’m ready to teach it, right?


Just because we know something doesn’t mean we’re qualified to teach it. That’s what I hear in my head every Thursday.

That’s how I attempt to talk myself out of going each week.

The Voices Say . . .

What voices keep you from showing up?

In my own language, I clearly hear these voices say:

  • “You’re too tired.”
  • “You’re not cut out for this.”
  • “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
  • “You should let someone else do it better.”
  • “You already have too much to do.”

That’s when God reminds me of the agreement we share:

“Just show up.”

God has been telling me this the past seven years: Just show up. When I feel too shy or too afraid or too lazy, God says if I’ll just show up, God will show up, too. And God will do the heavy lifting once we get there.

So I get in my car. One more time. And I go. Just this time, I’ll do it again.

I’ll just show up. But God will have to do the rest.

How God Shows Up

The women in my classroom open their workbooks.

When I feel nervous, I remember that they’re more nervous than me. I see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. They have more to lose, and more to gain, by learning English. They have a lot riding on these lessons.

But they are also more courageous than me. They have shown up in a foreign country to create a better life for themselves and their children. Some were fleeing violence; others, poverty. Some were following a spouse. Or seeking more opportunity.

They dare to show up as humble.

  • They show up at the doctor’s office when their baby is sick, knowing they’ll struggle to understand instructions they’ll hear.
  • They show up at the store to buy food, wondering what all the labels mean and if they’re calculating the cost correctly.
  • They show up at school for the parent/teacher conference, aware of the effort it takes to comprehend the teacher’s words.
  • They show up at work for their employers, despite worries about having confusing conversations with co-workers.

And they show up at ESL class, thinking that they’ll sound foolish for not pronouncing “th” and “y” correctly or for knowing only a few English words.

And I question if *I* should show up to speak a language I’ve known since birth? As one with power and privilege? As one holding the gift of words they so desperately need?

Maybe it’s not about me at all. Maybe it’s about God. About God wanting to show up.

  • To provide knowledge to these adults seeking to know more.
  • To welcome those who often hear “you’re unwanted” here.
  • To show love just by showing up.

Maybe the Lord shows up to the foreigner (Psalm 146:9) when we show up to them.

This You Can Do

Our class is over for tonight. My five students had repeated pronunciations after me (“participate”, “about”, “talkative”). They practiced connecting sentences with “and” or “but.” They asked good questions of me, some I could answer easily (what is “laid-back”?) and many I struggled with (what’s the difference between “I wish” and “I want”?).

I still feel inadequate as their teacher.

Even when you’ve been speaking it your entire life, English is a difficult language to learn and to teach. But Jim is excited about the latest curriculum we’ve just begun. He says I can take the new book home to get familiar with it. I’m excited.

I tell myself, “Maybe next week I’ll do better.”

But improving as a teacher or not, I remind myself of the main thing: Just show up again.

I realize God can help these beautiful hermanas with the help of someone else instead of me (Esther 4:14). But God is inviting me to participate in what God is doing right here.

There are many things I can’t show up for. And many that I just don’t show up for, even when I can. But this, for now, I can do. 

  • I want to show up for God.
  • Show up for my new friends.
  • Show up for myself.

So for now, I will just show up. I’m always glad when I do.

* * *

Do you ever struggle to just show up? What motivates you to go? Please share in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “When You Don’t Want to Show Up

  1. Pam Ecrement

    Great post! I think those feelings and thoughts are ones so many of us can experience. I am so glad you have and are taking this opportunity…even when you don’t want to show up❤️

  2. Karen Friday

    Lisa, such powerful thoughts about showing up. Love how you said we’ve all been a foreigner at one time or another. You know what? As Christians, we are spiritual foreigners in this world…only passing through. So, it’s exciting to think about God calling us to help others, to just show up as He shows up. And when we show up, we are the ones who receive the greatest blessings even if we feel inadequate at the time.

  3. Martha J Orlando

    Just show up, trusting that God will meet us right where we are . . . Love this, Lisa, and admire you for your commitment to helping others in this way. So many folks that do come to the States don’t even attempt to learn English, so I’m gratified to learn that these women are bound and determined to acclimate to the American culture.

  4. Jana

    This is so inspiring. Just last week, I was in line behind a woman who was struggling greatly to sign in on an electronic device in a registration office. I watched her persistently try and try again. Finally, I asked her if I could help. She didn’t know a word of English. I marveled at her courage. It must be incredibly intimidating to navigate a world where you can’t understand the language! I was humbled by it.

    I’m encouraged by your post because I feel inadequate in so many areas, yet I know God can use me. It’s a matter of letting go of my pride and allowing Him to work through me even though I don’t feel “ready”.

  5. Laurie

    Lisa, you always amaze and inspire me with the ways you show God’s love to others through your selfless works. You have a true servant’s heart. Just showing up is sometimes the hardest part. I have had the same feeling so many times – if I just show up, God will do the rest!

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Success comes from a tide
    which is taken at the flood;
    perhaps true for he who thrives,
    but my tide is formed of blood.
    I face, now, the evil day,
    and nights that never end.
    The best I have is to find a way
    for one more hour, to stand.
    I don’t want to reach to others,
    but I know I simply must,
    for if Christ and I are brothers
    that obligation’s in my trust.
    Hand on the pain, the poisoned cup;
    I’ll drink it, and then I will show up.

  7. Lesley

    I love how you have persevered in this despite not feeling adequate at times. I’m sure that apart from anything else your commitment has been a blessing to those you are teaching. It’s true, there is huge value in showing up when we don’t feel like it.

  8. Mother of 3

    I often struggle to show up.. I am an introvert by nature and so often when we have plans to go to a party or get out of the house I am often hit with an intense desire to stay home. I try to (almost always) move past that and make myself go; inevitably I have a pretty good time and end up being glad I went but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like that.

  9. Barbara Harper

    That would be a scary situation for so many of us, even though we’ve spoken English all our lives. I am thankful you showed up and were used of God to help these brave ladies. I can only imagine how hard it would be to go to a new country with a different language and so many different customs. I’m sure your warmth and smile and welcome ministered to them as much as the English help.

    Something I try to keep in mind is that the other person’s need is greater than my fear. It doesn’t take away the fear, but it helps me look past it. And, now that I am thinking about it–God’s grace is greater than both. I don’t know why I am still so prone to quiver in fear rather than step forward in faith. Thanks for being an example I can relate to.

  10. Trudy

    This is so good, Lisa. I love your acceptance, empathy, and compassion for those of different cultures. The Leviticus 19 verse is a truth we all need to remember. I’m so grateful you showed up and I’m sure your students are, too. Love and blessings to you!

  11. David

    Dear Lisa

    Very true, and very timely. I think I am prone to those feelings when I’m over-concerned about the “skills” I have or don’t have. But time and again in life and work, what I bring that makes a difference, that is praised, is not this or that
    skill, but something about me that’s harder to define. I’m sure it’s the same with
    everybody — we are not just vessels for the skills we carry. I am learning to value myself truly — in harmony with God and a kind of bringer of harmony. That helps me “show up” and shine, and helps me notice rather than worry.

  12. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    When I started RCF – the non-profit that supports Christian schools for orphans and impoverished children in the Middle East, I knew absolutely NOTHING about starting a non-profit. I knew even less about running a Christian school in a country that persecutes Christians, but God simply asked me to “show up.” He put the right people in my path and open doors and I have certainly learned A LOT. He did all the work…all I had to do is say, “Here I am, Lord…use me.” Wonderful post and ministry in which you are serving!
    Bev xx

  13. Anita Ojeda

    I taught ESL to elementary, junior-high, and high school students for about 12 years ?. Showing up can be hard, especially when we don’t feel confident—I feel that way about mentoring girls. But showing up is the first step of obedience.

  14. Calvonia Radford

    I can relate to your temptation to stay at home. I struggle with the “just show up”. Knowing full well, if I show up God will exceed my expectation. I struggle now with making one step each day toward writing a book God clearly prompted me to write. The feelings of inadequacy, the thoughts that know one would find me credible….. Ridiculous. Thanks for the swift kick in the butt.

  15. Meghan Weyerbacher

    Yes, Lisa, this is something I deal with weekly too, now being a youth “leader.”
    I tell God, “It seems like they are leading me, so why am I even here?”
    Not in a bad way, just that they are so wise beyond their years.
    I say “just show up,” too. And I do, and I struggle with grumbling to myself under my breath at times, mainly pointed toward myself which if I keep my eyes on Christ, doesn’t happen near as often (duh right? lol).
    Thank you for sharing this. It shows me we all go through these times and that I am not weak when I also say, “God, you’re going to have to do this…”.
    God bless you. I think it’s awesome that you are giving like this. Keep up the great work and faith my friend.

  16. Teresa

    What a great article. I think it’s wonderful that you are accepting the challenge! Let us know how it goes and thank you so much for linking with NanaHood.com

  17. floyd

    Awesome advice. If you don’t show up it’s a certain fail. If we just show up and try there is no losing. That’s reserved for the ones that don’t show up.

    I believe, as you well know by now, that perseverance is one of the greatest gifts God can give. And your self discipline is just that; perseverance.

    They’ll show up because you do. It’s not a race, it’s a lesson… all the way around…

  18. Carlie

    An agreement you share with God– just show up for what He’s calling you to, and He’ll show up and do the heavy lifting! I love that! Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for showing up for God.

  19. Sylvia | Grace for a Gypsy

    Oh my gosh! Just show up and He will do the rest! Perfect! I love the line “I realize God can do this work without me; he can help these beautiful hermanas without my help (Esther 4:14). But he’s inviting me to participate in what he’s doing right here.” What a perfect explanation. He invites us to participate in what he’s doing right here! What a revelation! Thank you

  20. Leslie Susan Clingan

    Timely post for something I am struggling with in my own life. My P. Charming is losing his job and although I am retired, I am now looking for part-time work to help us through this season. One of the jobs I am applying for is online English teacher through VIPKids. Just lacking my teaching demo video. But I am so nervous about it. So worried that I will get the job…then what??? And worried that I won’t get the job…and then what?

    I appreciate your encouraging post.

  21. Jean Wise

    I struggle with this too. I think it goes back to us being introverts and threes – who want to succeed and entering into a situation where we may not be a successful as we want. Just show up – a great one line mantra for discernment. Love your line: Maybe it’s not about me at all. Maybe it’s about God. About God wanting to show up.

    lots to consider and your comment about the difference between want and wish – now that is a good question to ponder too.

    wow you have my brain thinking this morning. Thanks!!

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