Words on Facing Your Fears and Embracing Freedom
Breath quivering, I wrapped my arms tightly around the big, rough trunk. My toes teetered on the edge of a small wooden platform. Beneath me, a fifty foot drop. I snuck a glance down, and my stomach shot up into my throat—I shouldn’t have looked. A wiry current worked its way through my body, my fear thick and palpable.
Carefully, I stepped down on the balance beam, doing all I could to focus on the wood, and not the peripheral sights beneath it. I had done high ropes courses exactly like this one a hundred times before, and for some reason, it was always the balance beam that got me. Maybe because it’s usually the one section with no ropes hanging from above to hold onto—just air.
Normally at this point, the fear would envelope me and I would push forward as fast as my feet would carry me to escape its grasp and make it safely to the other side, where I could hug the next tree and catch my breath. But this time, I decided to try another approach.
As my feet found their grip on the wood, and the fear hurried round to hug me, I decided not to skip ahead of it, but instead, to sit in it. I stopped in the middle of the balance beam, fear surging through me and the tops of pine trees tickling my toes below, and I took it all in. Everything in me wanted to fight the fear but instead, I felt it. When I did, something unexpected happened—it dissipated.
Fear is funny like that. It likes to chase you around and keep your muscles clenched, preventing you from living fully in and embodying your one life. Rather than enjoying the course, it causes you to rush. It fools you into believing that the point is to make it through and survive, not to live it well and thrive. Fear, however, is nothing but a big ‘ole poser. It casts a big shadow, but when you stop and make space for it, you see that its bark is bigger than its bite.
I think we sometimes try to outrun our fear because we’re afraid of feeling it. So we let it chase us off that dream or relationship or exciting new opportunity—because what if we fail or get stuck or get hurt or don’t measure up. We let fear tuck us back into our secure, comfortable little cocoons and as it does, it reassures us we’re safer there.
Safer, we may be, but we’re also unsatisfied, because none of us was created to live small.
Fear bullies us into obedience with the false promise of security, and all the while it robs us of our purpose and joy. But I honestly believe that oftentimes what we’re most afraid of is the fear itself. It’s this vast, intense, all-encompassing emotion, and we think that if we feel it we might get lost in it. So we steer clear and try to outrun it, and it chases us right off of true life itself. But the thing is, if we actually allow ourselves to feel fear, it’s a lot less big and scary than we thought. And once we feel it, it just might start to fade. After all, the only way around fear, is through it.
I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert talks about fear in her bestseller, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. It was almost a year ago that I read this book, yet I still think about this little nugget all the time. In the book, she describes creativity and fear as being innately interwoven. Whenever we step out to do something meaningful and good and worthwhile, we are likely to face fear. When we try to kill off that fear though, she’s found we often end up inadvertently killing our creativity in the process.
She continues on to give the analogy of her taking a road trip with creativity. When she does, fear always seems to pop up. It’s inevitable. So instead of trying to kick him out of the car, she gives him a seat. The only catch is, he’s not allowed to make any decisions along the way. He doesn’t get to pick the songs or decide where they go, and above all he doesn’t get to drive.
What this means is, fear is generally never a good reason to make a decision. It’s all too easy to give fear the wheel, but when we do, it ends up driving us right into an unfulfilled life. It makes us hold back and play it safe, because it’s nothing but a bossy bully.
But as am I, YOU are created in the image of God. That means there are treasures tucked away in your heart that He wants to flush out and use to bring about His glory and your good. There is so much LIFE to be found on the other side of your fear.
Fear is always going to be a part of life, but it doesn’t have to be the only part of life. What does it look like to face our fears and embrace freedom? Simple. We feel it. We give it a seat in the car, but we refuse to let it drive. Because where it’s headed is nowhere good, and God’s got much better places for us to go.
P.S. This high ropes course experience and the photos that captured it were from the Soma Retreat I was a part of last July. Soma is an incredible community for young adults at my home church, 3Crosses. If you’re a 20-30something looking for community in the Bay Area and you’d like to join, come hang out with us on Thursday Nights! 😊