It’s not often we get chance to consider our fears but yesterday offered an opportunity to do just that. The weekly Ignite course that I’m currently undertaking took us out from our four walls and to an activity centre. What we were going to undertake was shrouded in mystery. I confess the unknown started to raise my stress levels before we arrived: Would my health be up to it, would I have to sit out, would I need to leave early, would I need a change of underwear?! etc etc
But I love the outdoors, I love a challenge, I love the people I was going with. As we arrived and saw the array of canoes, high ropes, zip wires, climbing walls etc I felt more excited than fearful of the day ahead. Unless they were going to whip out a pit full of snakes I felt pretty sure that my fears would be safely buried deep from the surface for the day! I altruistically concluded that the day would be focussed on me helping others overcome their fears rather than challenging any of my own!
However, as is often the way on Ignite, the day soon had some surprises! We all wrote down things that caused us stress and circled any that could create a risk to life. The remaining fears ranged from ‘getting the kids out of the house on time’ to ‘mess’ to ‘meeting work deadlines’. All were valid as they all caused genuine stress to the individual, but they also shared something else quite profound. After exploring why they caused us stress, the common thread through our long list of varied scribblings could be summed up as pride and reputation.
Suddenly, fear had a new paradigm that suddenly sprang up much closer to the surface. Preserving face and respect has resulted in me hiding in fear on more occasions than I dared to admit:
When I first became unwell with ME I stopped going to my regular church because I couldn’t be the person people knew me to be. On my better days where I made it into church I physically didn’t have the energy to go and talk to people after the service. I didn’t want people to see me like this, I thought people wouldn’t understand so I hid away.
I had very few days where I felt well enough to go to the shops or a short walk. For a long time I seriously considered getting myself a wheelchair. It would allow many more family outings, ‘walks’ in the countryside, and shopping trips, but instead I chose to hide away at home and simply wait for a ‘good’ day to come.
Writing this down, I realise how ridiculous my choices were. But my desire to protect my reputation and what people would think of me made me stubbornly stick to my preservation mode. Fear had gotten the better of me.
Back to my activity day. Heights have never bothered me, so the abseiling task should have been more of a thrill than a fear challenge but fear was still below the surface. It wasn’t a fear of testing out my ropes, trusting my other team members, or jumping off the edge, but it was a fear that I might have to leave before given the chance to prove that I had no fear! The abseiling task was at the end of the day. I had been fighting off an infection and a physical ‘crash’ and consequential failure was still a high possibility. Again, my fear was people seeing the vulnerable, compromised and weakened version of myself.
Another task came that did have the potential to rouse my fear: I was picked as our team leader to disarm a ‘live bomb’ from deep within the dark cellars! Clearly, I had no qualifications for this task and the instructions were deliberately vague. The results were catastrophic and all my team died under my leadership! Had I not known my group well, I’m sure the sense of failure and letting my team down would have bothered me. Fortunately however, we know, respect and love each other well enough to simply laugh the events off without so much as a second thought.
It got me thinking about I John 4:18 “Perfect love drives out fear”. If I was able to shrug and laugh off fear because of love from close friends, how much more must this be true from our heavenly Father
My health is definitely on the up and I’m already thinking about what I should be putting my fragile and limited energies to in the future. It would be so easy to hide away for fear of letting people down, not living up to my or others expectations, being unreliable, and ultimately failing but I know my security and identity is in God and His perfect love. So this is what I’m praying into as my course enters it’s final term. My next small step, whatever it will be, will be a big one!