I have a lot of fear in my life. Its grip has been fierce and unrelenting. Fear has maintained its power over me by reminding me of past mistakes, failures, setbacks, betrayals, which, like a hamster on a wheel, have kept me in the same spot…just to be safe.
Trying something new or out of my “normal” has been out of the question or only vaguely considered because of how it could turn out—like the other mistakes and setbacks in my past. I have recently discovered a funny thing about fear, however. It does not provide the protection that it promises. Mistakes, failures, setbacks, betrayals still occur, sometimes in the area of my life I was trying desperately to protect. In other words, there is no real safety in fear.
I was in a discount CD store recently and struck up a conversation with the girl behind the counter. We began talking about the recent flood. She asked me if I had been affected by it to which I responded no. When I asked her the same question, she responded yes but supplies left over from hurricane Katrina had helped her protect her home. I completed my purchase and left, wondering the obvious, “Did that young woman flee New Orleans because of Katrina only to be threatened by flood waters again?”
I receive frequent emails from Beverly Ryle—a kind of prophet to the unemployed. This week’s newsletter was on fear. She mentioned that when we experience failure, we often put Fear in the driver’s seat of our lives. She went on to provide tips on how to know when Fear is ruling you, rather than the other way around, and how to combat it.
I read another article on fear and failure this week and how famous people overcame it. It mentioned Colonel Sanders, Chuck Colson, and Madeline L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time. I found the last one particularly interesting. Ms. L’Engle had written three books by the time she was thirty and then nothing with any success for decades. She wrote in her diary, “I am a writer. That’s who I am, even if I’m never published again.” She went on to publish her famous, award-winning piece.
Like so many of the things we “hook our caboose to” thinking that it will provide direction, purpose, fulfillment, fear is also a lie. All-encompassing fear doesn’t protect us or provide us with anything. It only leaves us feeling empty, alone, adrift.
The message then is to live our lives with conviction. Follow our dreams…live the life we’ve imagined (Thoreau) and fear…well, fear be damned. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).