It’s been about a week since I’ve returned from Europe, and I’ve got lots to talk about. But before I get into that, there’s another subject I wanted to discuss – fear.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but I’ve spent most of my life afraid. When I was younger, I was afraid of everything. I was shy – a nicer term for afraid – and had trouble talking to people, especially girls. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I was afraid of looking like a fool. I was afraid of rejection. When I almost drowned, I became afraid of water. I wanted to be an author/artist/celebrity, but I was afraid of failing. Paradoxically, I was also afraid of succeeding. I was afraid of – and still am afraid of – snakes. Actually, most wild animals, I suppose. I was born and raised in a big city, so wilderness definitely scares me. I’d much rather face a crowded city street than a desolate forest trail. By the same token, I was raised to be afraid of getting mugged or attacked in a city environment. In short, I spent most of my life in fear. Afraid to die, and afraid to live. I built myself a comfortable box, and I stayed in it for a long time. While the box has gotten bigger as I’ve gotten more comfortable with some changes, it’s still a box. I have overcome my fear of water, even though I still can’t swim. I’ve mostly overcome my fear of talking to strangers, although I still can get a little tongue-tied around women. I’ve opened myself up to new experiences, especially since my last birthday, which is when the whole “Jax out of the Box” experiment began. But, I learned that I still have plenty I fear. The week before I was supposed to go to Europe, a part of me was hoping that plans would fall through, because the thought of going to a whole new continent was very scary. If my flight attendant friend wasn’t going to be able to get me on a flight, or if my boss wouldn’t be able to schedule my time off, well, then, at least I could say I tried to go, and things just didn’t work out. There was so much to be afraid of. What if something happened to the planes? What if I got robbed? What if I couldn’t figure out how to get around? What if I got stranded? What if I couldn’t access my money?
And yet, none of those things happened. That reminds me of the saying that F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. That is so true. We fear things that, very often, never come to pass. I’ve heard many pastors say that the Bible says “Fear not” 365 times, one for each day of the year, as a daily reminder. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, having never counted them myself. (And what about Leap Year? Are we allowed to be afraid on February 29th? In that case, I had reason to be afraid about the upcoming Europe trip!) But I do know there are plenty of times the Bible does tell us to have no fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Hebrews 13:6 states, “The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” And my favorite: “The LORD [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) One night, when the apostles were on a boat and saw Jesus walking toward them, they thought he was a spirit and were afraid. Jesus responded, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) Peter went from fear to trust, enough trust to step out of the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus.
Once the airline tickets to Europe were purchased, though, my fear became something else. Yes, I was still nervous, but I was also beginning to look forward to the trip. A friend of a friend posted something on Facebook which I’d never heard before, but really liked. She posted that “the only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.” As far as the Europe trip, that proved true. Once I changed my attitude from worrying about what can go wrong to thinking what an amazing opportunity this was going to be, the fear was gone, and it was replaced with excitement. I took a giant leap out of the box, and I got to experience so many wonders that would not have come to pass had I let my fear take over.
I know from experience how hard it is sometimes to let go of the fear. But if we never let go of that fear and step out of that boat, or that box, we may miss out on some amazing experiences. I came close to postponing, or even canceling, my travel plans, but, after the wonderful time I had, I’m glad I felt the fear and did it anyway. How about you? Is there something you might be missing out on because of fear? “Fear not.”