Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes in your time. Maybe your past has moved in like an unwelcome guest. Perhaps there’s condemnation running through your thoughts—a steady stream of fault-finding reminders. Maybe you’re living under critical words spoken to you in your youth, and, whether they were true or not, you still drag the weight of them along on your journey. If you find yourself living on the outskirts of joy, or even faith, here’s some encouragement.
Fireworks, Fears, and Finding Freedom
It’s the May long weekend in Canada, and for many that means frenzied gardening and fireworks. Last night, after a gruelling day of gardening—and a decently grueling 8 AM workout—once happily tucked into bed I could still hear fireworks firing at 11:30 PM. My dog, Angel, is frightened of fireworks, so when she heard the explosions she crawled and hid under the side table next to our bed.
When faced with something fearful, I’ve been known to behave like Angel. Instead of bravely facing it, I hide. Like the fireworks for my dog, often the thing I’m afraid of isn’t really that scary and won’t hurt me at all. It just sounds scary, or I build it up in my mind to be larger than it is, put roadblocks where none exist, and delay facing it altogether.
Facing fears is hard. They come in the form of a conversation you know you need to have but are putting off for fear it will cause conflict or remain unresolved. It may be that task at work you’ve been given but are avoiding because you don’t know where to start or exactly how to do it. It may be the goal you’ve been holding close to your heart but are afraid to start for fear you’ll fail. It may be that you’re afraid of what people think of you so you avoid social situations. Or it could be a life change that would benefit you, but you’re afraid of the unknowns. Fear often makes us hide from the very thing we need to face to move forward.
To counter this, we need to give our fears a good stare down. They’re what stand between our goals and dreams and even our freedom. Like anything, you can’t get good at something you don’t work at. Every fear we fight and conquer makes the next fearful challenge easier, and brings us closer to the person God made us to be and the things we’re called to be doing. Facing fears gives us confidence to move forward and reach further. Soon you’ll develop a kind of fear-confidence where you find you’re no longer hiding from your fears but boldly and regularly facing them.
Start small. Tackle one small fear at a time. If it doesn’t go well, instead of giving up, assess what went wrong and try again. As much as depends on you, don’t quit. Every failure is growth, and the more you grow the stronger you become. With enough practice, you’ll find the thing that was formerly fearful has become a lot easier and maybe even a strength.
Pick one thing you know you’ve been putting off or hiding from then write down one concrete thing you can try to tackle it. For instance, you’re terrified of public speaking but the job you really want involves speaking to audiences on occasion, so you muster courage and sign up for a public speaking course. Whatever it is, choose one thing and start. Then choose the next, and don’t give up. Facing fears is hard, but so worth it. You never know what you can do until you try. Write down your achievements. When you look back in just a few months you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come!
No matter what age, it’s never too late to learn and grow, and it’s never too late to face your fears. Freedom awaits!
“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14
When approaching something new we can be so afraid to do something wrong—or be bad at it—that we not only procrastinate, we never even try. We can be paralyzingly afraid to fail. But hear this: you don’t have to be perfect, or the best, you just need to do your best. Even before that, you simply need to begin.
Nike’s tagline was perfect: “Just do it”. We can be immobilized wondering how to start, afraid of all the unknowns, fearful of what others think, and particularly afraid to fail. It takes courage to try something new and step out of our comfort bubble. Though starting is the hardest part, starting over is where the battle is won.
If you fail—good. I mean it. Failure is sooo good. Making mistakes is the way we learn and grow. Failure builds the grit we need to keep us from quitting. Mistakes aid humility, form us into authentic human beings, and fuel compassion for others. Failure inspires fortitude and ensures we appreciate the gift of arriving at our goal. Success is sweeter because of the skinned knees and bruises we received while missing the mark. If we aren’t failing it’s possible we’re too comfortable, or even standing still.
Just because you failed, it doesn’t make you a failure. Quite the opposite. You linked arms with bravery long enough to try something difficult. You reached high enough to be breathlessly uncomfortable. The hard things you dared made future tasks less daunting. Accomplishing the seemingly unreachable made the next challenge that much easier. Through it all, you didn’t allow failure to define you.
So you, wildly gifted you, step out—as often as needed. You don’t give up. Each day you pluck away at one smaller aspect of the larger task. You don’t know exactly how you will accomplish your audacious goal, but the fire fueling the inspiration refuses to be extinguished. In spite of the unknowns, the crippling feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure, you don’t quit.
Soon you realize that you’ve completed that marathon, decluttered your home, started your own TV show, saved untold lives, raised a house full of kids, are running your own business, have written that novel, and are celebrating decades of marriage. You’re blissfully surrounded by supportive others on their unique journey, and are championing them on theirs. More than that, you’re deeply grateful for everything—even the failures, of which every single one you survived.
All because you showed up, and didn’t give up. You tried when you were tired, and kept on though you worried you didn’t do it well enough, or fully enough, or were the best for the job. You smiled when you could have cried, because you knew its warmth would lend strength to another. Each day, no matter the mountain, you put one foot in front of the other, drawing from a pool of faith and hoping that—by the grace of God—your efforts would compile to make a dint of difference. That somehow you would scale the summit.
And though it wasn’t the end goal, you got acquainted with your true self. You grew to like your own company and recognised that you’re enough. That the effort was enough and that no part of it was wasted. The failures were the fabric of the journey; all of them forming a depth and richness that much sweeter for the mistakes. Anything lacking, all the stumbles and scraped knees, God somehow stitched together with the golden threads of his love.
So here’s to all the times you could have quit but didn’t. The times you could have listened to the naysayers but plugged your ears. The times it would have been easier to remain on your rear-end in the dust-riddled remains of your pride than risk rising. The times you could have retreated but carried on weary and battle worn. Here’s to not letting go of your vision and for having the heart to start in the first place.
And here’s one more encouragement. Think of the sculptor. He sees the sculpture while it’s still a hunk of stone, then sets about the painstaking work to reveal it one chip at a time. One small manageable piece. And think of you: still in formation; bravely chipping away one small task at a time, hewing you closer to the completion of the larger one. Or, as one of my pastors used to say, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Mile by mile it takes awhile.”
Whatever it is, just do it!
- What mountain or obstacle are you facing today? Is it a tangible task, or something you must overcome in your thinking?
- Pray for the courage and strength to do what needs to be done today.
- Break it into smaller pieces, and tackle one small bit at a time. Show up, do your best, and, just as the sculptor, keep your vision in mind.