What is your biggest fear? What are you most afraid of?
That was the question of the night when the church girls and I went on a weekend trip this summer. It’s a question I would have never thought about asking. But, if I’m honest, there are a lot of things I am afraid of. Like spiders. Those guys are creepy and fast. And most other bugs. “Blood and guts” as my girls say, are fine but bugs are gross. My friends all had different fears. Losing the people they love, dying, rejection. All super legitimate. I don’t know that any of us are fearless. And maybe that’s a good thing. We should be wary of wandering out into the street, feeding wild animals, playing with matches and all the other things your mother told you not to do. Fear and worry sometimes work to my advantage. In my line of work you prepare for the worst case scenario. You think of all the things that could possibly go wrong and then work to avoid them and then figure out how to fix them if they occur.
But, in general, I’m not sure fear does us a whole lot of good. When we are afraid we move away. We walk to the other side of the street, we go to the end of the line, we don’t raise our hand. We miss out. One of my best girls painted a canvas for my youngest when she was born. Her life verse.
“God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.”
Say whaaat? I will not fear. Um, I’m not so sure. I will not fear…except for when I face something new or unexpected. And maybe when things are tough. Oh and spiders…still fearing spiders over here Jesus. But what do I fear most? What seems impossible when it comes to “I will not fear?” Suffering. Loneliness. Failure. You see I’m not afraid of death but I am afraid of suffering prior to dying, getting defeated by illness, and then no one showing up to my funeral. Funny how fear works. It seems to find the things deep inside you where you are most vulnerable and remind you of why you put them there.
Today pastor Jason and I went on an adventure course. We did a 75 foot high tower ropes course, a vertical drop, zip line, fun slides and a rapid rafting course. I was afraid and thrilled all at the same time. I’m wearing a harness and watching other people older and less agile than me do all this stuff and manage to not die…but still. There’s a part of your brain that just can’t quite shake the feeling that flying 80 feet in the air over a river and then back is not that safe of an idea. That place deep inside begins to creep up and tell you to be afraid. But then you do it. Mostly because the old guy in front of you managed to be courageous enough to do it. Partly because your dad has done it and you can’t chicken out on something your dad has conquered. And it’s amazing. You realize what you would have missed out on had you not stepped off that ledge. And you’d take the step a dozen more times. The fear doesn’t disappear but knowing what is on the other side makes it seem so much smaller.
I think fear keeps us from taking that first step in so many places in our lives. When I am afraid of suffering I will never move out of my comfort zone. When I am afraid of loneliness I miss out on those quiet spaces of rest and refuge. When I am afraid to fail I miss out on all the good things that come with doing something hard, something new. When fear controls us we are powerless to change. Will I be killing all the spiders at our house from now on? Nope. But the next time fear creeps in I’ll try and remember what it felt like to take that step off the ledge and into the air today.
(photo credit ultimate selfie at Riversport adventure in okc)