Friends: I am excited to introduce you to Tifani Oaks, who sent me this post as part of the Words That Changed my World series. I am so grateful she chose to share her story of daring greatly with us.
Toward the end of my senior year of college, a very wise woman uttered something that turned my world upside-down. She charged me with a task of sorts: to some, it may have seemed simple; to others, it may have seemed almost second nature; but to me, it seemed impossible.
It was crazy. It was far outside my comfort zone. And it was risky.
There’s no way on earth I would actually consider it, I reasoned. She’s out of her mind if she really thinks I’m going to do something like that.
She doesn’t know me: she doesn’t know my story; she doesn’t know what I’ve been through.
And I was right. She didn’t. She didn’t know me at all.
In fact, I had met her just days before: she had humbly offered up her driving services to those of us college students who were interested in attending a book signing event in Palo Alto. And I, somewhat on a whim, had decided to join.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I felt anxious—uncertain about whether my sudden burst of spontaneity was such a good idea after all.
But after spending no more than a couple of hours with her, squashed between children’s car seats and several mounds of Cheerio’s stashed strategically beneath the crevices of the back seat of her minivan, I found myself utterly drawn to her.
It wasn’t because of anything she said, really; it was just her: her passion, her wisdom, her demeanor.
So I shot her a rather lengthy message after the event, hoping my honest [albeit somewhat forward] words would elicit a favorable response.
The following evening, I found myself seated comfortably on her couch, surrounded by a trove of children’s toys, an expansive collection of coffee mugs, and an inexplicable feeling of warmth and acceptance.
There was a genuineness about her: a transparency that I longed to understand.
There in her living room, I began to share a piece of my story with her.
I told her about the breakup, about last summer, and about my honest desire to have and maintain spiritual friendships.
She sat quietly for a moment, as if she were taking everything in.
“I dare you…” she began.
My heart began to race. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I was eager to hear what she had to say.
“I dare you…to be vulnerable with them.”
My heart sank. I hadn’t anticipated that one.
Instead of the usual feelings of eagerness and zeal that would typically accompany the almost-immediate acceptance of such a challenge, her call to action was met only with silence and timidity.
With them? I thought. She was referring to the women in my Growth Group, or small-group Bible Study: the women I admired; the women I wanted to impress; the women with whom I longed to develop lasting relationships.
Impossible, I thought. I could never do that.
Sure, I could be vulnerable with her.
But that was in the safety of her home. She was an adult, a mother, a mentor.
She wasn’t a college student, a rival, a peer.
She had been through all of these things once before: she could provide me with insight and guidance, not judgment or rejection.
That was what they would offer me, I was certain—like the others before them.
It was easier to hide.
Easier to hide behind my walls of insecurity and self-doubt: behind perfect makeup and plastic smiles; behind red lipstick and inside jokes; behind sparkling shoes and busy schedules.
“I—I don’t know if I can do that,” I managed to stammer after several moments.
“I’m not forcing you to,” she responded. “Just mull it over—give it some thought.”
And “give it some thought” I did.
For the next 24 hours, doubts about what might await me if I accepted her challenge consumed me.
A million what ifs penetrated my thoughts: What if they hate me? What if they think I’m crazy? What if they don’t understand? What if… What if… What if…
So I prayed. And prayed. And prayed.
It took time and discipline. It took faith and hope. Most of all, it took trust—lots and lots of trust.
Every time a doubt entered my mind, I resolved to give it over, give it up, and trust [and beg and hope and plead] that God would know what to do with it.
And each time I relinquished these doubts, these fears, these anxieties, they were exchanged for peace: peace about my task, peace about my fears, peace about the outcome.
Because no matter how terrifying it seemed and no matter how insecure I felt, God was showing me that He was trustworthy and that He would be there every step of the way.
I wouldn’t be alone: I had a partner, a friend, a Savior.
It’s only been a few months since I accepted her challenge; but the benefits of accepting that challenge have been impressively, surprisingly, astonishingly rewarding.
I have never felt more free, more at peace, more at ease with who I am in Christ.
And I have never been more excited to begin so many new relationships.
Her challenge has truly sparked a desire within me to be real with people: to be open, honest, genuine.
Because my shortcomings, my failures, my misgivings do not define me; my identity is found in Him who is immutable, Him who is immovable. And he will be there through it all.
As a recent graduate of UC Davis, Tifani spent the majority of her academic career in exploration: her interests are vast and diverse, making her decision to finally settle down in the philosophy department a difficult one. In her spare time, she enjoys spontaneous trips to the countryside and practicing yoga. She has a profound appreciation for hazelnut iced coffee, C.S. Lewis, and driving with the windows down. She will also never pass up an opportunity to dance or to talk about her Jesus of the Gospels.