Monday, January 11, 2010

Facing Fear With Him

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power,
and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7 -- Part 2

Sometimes a fearful life becomes a way for us to avoid dealing with the hurts we don’t want to face. It also can serve to help us to avoid more hurt. My family has been through a tremendous amount of hurt over the years in the various churches we attended. As a result, I fear the leadership, making it difficult to form new relationships with leaders. Sometimes I am afraid to love new people God brings into my life. Ironically, Yet I admit that God used a new group of people to bring His word to life for me. At the time I was struggling with fear and a lack of confidence when God led me to attend a retreat with a youth group. At the first meal the topic of the conversation was centered on the "Confidence Course." When asked if I were going to do it, it seemed to be the thing to do so I signed up for it.

The next day, I found myself face to face with a rock wall, a zip line, a tree with large staples in it, and a couple of ropes courses, all of which were way off the ground. Now I am a person who doesn't like to even stand on a chair and has anxiety attacks climbing ladders. Nevertheless, wanting to look like a "good" leader, I managed to put on the safety harness without hurting myself. I listened to instructions about spotting and encouraging each other and knew that I could do that. But when it was my turn I realized three things. First, to accomplish the tasks ahead I would have to face my fear of heights. Second, I had to submit to being the center of attention while others cheered me on, which is something with which I am uncomfortable. Third, I had to listen to advice called out and follow it carefully to accomplish each challenge.

Our first challenge was the “Leap of Faith,” which was climbing up a tree, first using a ladder and large metal staples. One of the other leaders, Tonya, had done the course the year before and remembered what it had felt like her first time. She came over and told me not to look down. She instructed me to keep reaching up and pushing with my legs, which thankfully is the strongest part of my body. I did as she said and all of the sudden I found myself high in a tree on a tiny platform. My knees were trembling, my heart racing, and I was getting more comfortable with the cheering. Then it occurred to me what goes up has to come down. So with a lot of coaxing and realizing the only way my legs would quit shaking was to get it over with I sat down on the platform and scooted off. The harness caught, I lived. It would have made more sense to just jump. But at least I got off the platform.

The next challenge was the rock wall. Tonya came up behind me again and pointed out that there were a couple of hard spots. I swallowed my pride and asked her to talk me through those places. At first it was easier than I thought it would be. I kept looking up and reaching until I reached the spots that were hard. When I hesitated the teens started cheering me on. That encouraged me, but the voice I listened for was Tonya's. As promised, she talked me through it. The next thing I knew, I was at the top and on another tiny platform being hooked to a zip line. The man working told me all I had to do was walk off the platform. Again my legs were trembling, but I did it! Flying through the air was one thrill I will never ever forget!

In reflecting on the "confidence course," I had learned some important lessons. One, when life has knocked me around and my confidence is down I don't have to do it alone. Two, being a leader includes being vulnerable and letting others lead me and cheer me on. Lastly, I can overcome those fears that often rise up and paralyze me. I didn't grab the bar on the "Leap of Faith, didn't scale quickly to the top of the rock wall, nor did I beat the fastest time on the rope courses. However, I did overcome the biggest optical there was -- my fear! I can do the same in ministry. To be successful I can let go of the past and "press towards the mark of the high calling of God" (Philippians 3:14) in the same way that I let go of one rock and reached for the next. Rather than focusing on the whole task ahead of me or my fear I can take one day at a time, one person at a time, and one obstacle at a time. I can keep looking up and reaching forward, and when it gets tough I can listen for God's voice just like I listened for Tonya's. It may come in the form of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, staff members, or even those I minister to. I now know fear doesn't make me a bad person, for without it I can't know courage. More importantly, I know as I face fears. God will fill me with His confidence, and I will know the thrill of soaring with Him to accomplish things I could never do on my own.

Prayer: Father, please help us always be willing to let go of the past and press towards the mark of the high callings you have placed on our lives. Help us face the fears that rise up inside of us and paralyze us and prevent us from doing your will. As we keep looking up and reaching forward, help us to listen for your voice and walk through the fear with you. We thank you for the circumstances that cause us to need you more and for the promise that you are always with us…we know fear does not make us bad, but gives us an opportunity to experience you and the kind of courage only you can instill in us. AMEN.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!