When I was a little girl, my brother used to tell me there was someone or something hiding in the closet. It was an effective way to get me to be quiet for sure, and perhaps that’s why he did it. Suffice it to say, I was scared of what may come creeping out of that dark closet. As I grew, I began to understand that there was nothing to be scared of in between the clothes and toys, and that sometimes brothers are just mean to younger sisters (believe me, I’m sure I deserved it!)
As I got older, fear of dark closets was replaced by a fear of bees, wasps and really anything that flew around and buzzed. My neighbor, Charlie, amazed me at his ability (AND DESIRE!) to hold a wasp in his bare hands without ever getting stung. I vividly remember asking him to do it again and again. I thought he was one of the bravest people around for that stunt. Today, I kinda just think he was nuts!
When I got to college one of my biggest fears was spiders. Ok, I’m still afraid of spiders. My first year of college, I went on a date with a guy I met at school. We were both from Louisville and home on the same weekend, so we made plans to go out. He asked me over to his house to meet his family, then had plans for a movie. I met his folks and they left for the evening, so he and I were hanging out until time for our movie. I was standing in his hallway looking at family pics and trophies from his younger days when I felt something on my shoulder. I thought he had just tapped me, so imagine my shock when I looked to find a GIGANTIC TARANTULA on my shoulder!
I wet my pants, y’all. Seriously.
We spent the next hour doing my laundry in his house after I showered and borrowed a pair of his sweatpants. No movie that night.. or any night after that. (My momma didn't raise a fool)
Fear is a funny thing (or not), isn’t it? I have an aunt who is crazy fearful of cats. I know people whose lives are crushed by the fear of being in a crowd. My daughter has a fear of dogs that prevents us from going to houses with dogs unless she is 100% sure they are put up. It’s an understandable fear for her, but it disrupts her ability to be with people sometimes.
That’s what fear does; it disrupts.
Two years ago when I prayed about what my word for the year would be, I felt the Lord tell me “fearless”. I embraced it. That year, among other things, I put on a bee suit and worked with a friend who has beehives, actually finding the queen in the midst of hives! I started thinking in terms of “conquering fears”, and it felt good. Really good.
In December of 2017, I felt the Lord telling me to keep that same word for 2018. It didn’t make any sense to me. I’ve never kept the same word two years in a row, and I couldn’t understand what the Lord was doing. I thought I had done well with embracing fearlessness in 2017. Was the Lord telling me that I hadn’t done well after all? What was up? But whatever the reasoning, I knew He was telling me “Fearless is your word. Trust me”.
Little did I know what was coming.
We were in the midst of making some awesome plans for an anniversary trip to Hawaii, and I decided that getting in a shark cage would fit in perfectly with my “fearless” year. So, I found a place, and we made reservations. And I assumed that was that; I’d prove my fearlessness in a cage surrounded by sharks.
But God had other plans. He began to move in our hearts as we prayed in January “God, are we where you want us to be?”. For 19 years, He’d answered that prayer with “yes. You are in Richmond KY where I want to use you”. And it was good. So very good. But in January of this year, He began to stir in us that there was something else, someplace else. And so we prayed.
Little did I know how much a simple text from one of the pastors at Hillvue Heights Church would change my life and challenge all I had learned about what it means to be fearless. This church was asking for Jeff to come to Bowling Green KY to serve on staff. Not only were we talking about a move across the state, but we were talking about Jeff going back to church staff! I was afraid. Our lives were comfortable, and I had loved the past 6 years of Jeff serving in ministry outside of a church staff. What if things weren’t as good and as comfortable? (this cracks me up now. Following Jesus isn’t supposed to be comfortable!!) What if the church didn’t like me? What if the church expected me to have the same gifts that Jeff has? What if Ellie didn’t make friends? What if I didn’t make any friends? What if we never met anyone else who would play Settlers of Catan?? What if BG didn’t have a good coffee shop? (ok, they don’t have a Purdy’s, but I digress) What if there was no place for me there? What if I lost myself in this move and crashed into depression and resentment that I’d followed Jeff somewhere and was left without anything?
Fear had crept in. It was crippling me, if I’m honest. We obeyed the call that we KNEW was from the Lord. And we showed up in Bowling Green with a suitcase and some toiletries and nothing more because our house hadn’t sold yet. We walked into the church that first week, and I was terrified. It had been almost 20 years since I’d walked into a church where I didn’t know almost everyone. And the Lord met me there. As the music started, I heard His sweet whisper saying “thank you for obeying. It’s going to be an incredible ride”. When waves of fear crept up, I could literally feel him crushing them back down with a simple “I’m in control; I’ve got this. You can trust me”.
And I can.
And so can you.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have this down yet. I still feel the fear sneaking in sometimes. In the stillness of the night, as I’m laying in bed, I still feel the lump rise in my throat, and more times that I like to admit, the tears roll down my cheeks, and I just cry into Jeff’s shoulder. But I’m finding more and more that those tears are for homesickness and not fear. And for that I’m so very grateful.
I don’t know about you. I don’t know what fears you’re wrestling with. Maybe you’ve been called somewhere new. Maybe you’ve been called away from a job you know and love well. Maybe you’re being called back into the workforce after a time away, and it terrifies you to think about that. Maybe you look at your bank account and wonder how it will ever be enough, and you feel the fingertips of fear around your throat, threatening to choke you. Perhaps the doctor has looked at you with sadness and regret at having to tell you the bad news of a diagnosis that you never wanted to hear, and you feel the smothering cloth of fear covering your mouth to suffocate you. Maybe you’re watching with trembling as your children make decisions that could have devastating consequences on their lives, and you feel the grip of fear rise out of the depths of water to pull you under. I don’t know your story.
But I know my God. And He is able.
He is able to conquer my fear and yours, my friend. He is able to destroy the walls that fear builds around your heart. He is able to crush the mountain of doubt and terror that stands in front of you and seems impossible to get over or around. He is able to navigate the path out of fearfulness that is hidden by the overgrowth of fear and unbelief.
He. Is. Able.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who stumble and fall Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fail. Though war break out against me, even then will I be confident”. (Psalm 27:1-3)