Moving Forward in the Midst of Fear
As I write, I’m sitting in a comfy black chair, and the window to my left reveals a beautiful green landscape, or as I like to think of it, an enchanted forest. The surviving leaves, brilliantly colored in all different shades of orange and red and yellow, are clinging desperately to the naked branches as their fallen friends create a delightful, colorful carpet on the ground. The soft trickle of rain is falling in the background and I’m fighting the lump in my throat as I gaze out from my London dorm room on what has been my home for the past three months. I’m reflecting on my time here as I prepare to say goodbye, and my heart is filled with deep, deep gratitude. This semester has been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. But how did I get here?
London was first entertained in my mind as a far-fetched thought. I had always wanted to travel to different places in Europe but had never actively pursued any opportunities to do so as I had always given myself a plethora of excuses why it couldn’t work—expenses, time, and the subconscious belief that only those kinds of people are fortunate and fearless enough to do something so daring. (I guess the absurdity of the lies we live under become more evident when we speak them out loud). In actuality, the root of my hesitance was fear—of the unknown, the unfamiliar. The world of travel was also very new to me, but the few tastes I had gotten left my heart thirsting for more. The turning point came about a year ago when I realized that my final window of opportunity to do a semester abroad was quickly closing, and I resolved that I didn’t want to live a life restricted by fears, but wanted rather to adopt habits of living in which I continually stretch and challenge myself. So, I went about the meetings and paperwork, and my excitement grew tangibly as my doubtful dream morphed slowly into an exhilarating reality. I talked to friends and family, prepared, and made plans to work hard all summer, picking up any and every extra shift that I could obtain.
However, as the process became more and more real, those old fears began to resurface. Living in London for a semester would mean venturing away from all that was comfortable and familiar and exchanging it for a vast unknown, something I couldn’t wrap my mind around. Plus, I was going into it alone, not knowing any of the other people in the program and thus having nothing to cling to, no sense of security. I didn’t know what to expect or what this world outside of my own would be like, and those uncertainties scared me. Though I knew in my heart that this experience was something I wanted, there were moments where the nervousness caused me to question it. During one of these periods of anxiety and doubt, a trusted confidante shared with me some wise words:
This simple truth struck me. Huh. So I don’t have to feel ready. I don’t have to know what to expect or be able to wrap my mind around it. Walking back to my apartment from Biola’s campus that day, something shiny on the ground caught my eye. I bent down to find a silver charm, broken off of some sort of chain, with the word “London” boldly engraved on each side. Okay, God.
Beyond simply my quest for travel and adventure, God’s plans for my time here went far deeper than I could have imagined. For where I was at in my story, London provided the perfect space for God to show me Himself in ways that I had never experienced Him before, to teach me about myself, and to bring me into a deeper understanding of His love. Stepping directly into my fears was necessary for me to receive the blessings God had in store for me—healing, freedom, joy, peace, life. Sure, there were overwhelming moments in the beginning—like figuring out the grocery store alone, or blowing the electrical fuse for my entire room because I used my adaptor incorrectly, or being immediately confronted with a university campus culture that is entirely different than anything I’ve ever known—all of which happened on my very first night here. But that’s the thing with fear, it comes at you like a wave which initially seems impossible to overcome. It is thick, almost tangible, and threatens to erect walls which confine you to a reduced manner of living. Obedience to fear only causes these walls to contract further and further inwards. I like to do things that scare me as a way of keeping these walls broken down, so that I can experience and live life to the fullest. Life is found outside one’s comfort zone, and I am a firm believer that God desires our continual experience of this freedom.
In my scramble to finish off the last few items on my London bucket-list, the other night I rode the London Eye. For those who don't know, I am terrified of ferris wheels and the Eye stands as the 3rd tallest in the world. While some friends and I walked up to the attraction, my story of the "London" charm came up in conversation, somewhat randomly. We then loaded onto our pod for a 360 degree view of the city by night. This experience (and my panic throughout
part of the whole ride) served as a reminder to me of the importance of facing our fears, no matter how overwhelming they may seem, and of the beauty that can result from doing so. After the ride we went to a souvenir shop directly across the walkway. As I rummaged through the same postcards, t-shirts, and refrigerator magnets that have decorated every tourist shop I’ve visited this semester, something new yet familiar caught my eye. It was my “London” charm, the exact same one only newer, and this time attached to the rest of its keychain. I couldn’t help but to smile. Once back at home, my use of this keychain will serve as a daily reminder of God’s faithfulness and desire to show us His love; and it will remind me not to be afraid of the uncertainties He might use to bring this about.
God graciously led me into the palpable thickness of my fears knowing that this was necessary for me to receive the tremendous, adventure-filled blessings that He wanted to give me. I challenge you as I challenge myself to do something today that scares you—there is life to be found in doing so!
One of the greatest blessings to come out of my time in London.