“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Before I moved to France, the number one thing people said to me was, “Wow, you’re so brave.” I’ve always thought this was funny, because I would never use that word to describe myself. I was scared as shit to move to France. And even now that I’m living here, I’m terrified of so many things. I’m scared of going to the post office, of buying bread and not knowing how to respond in perfect French when the lady asks me how I’m doing. I’m scared of getting lost when I go on walks, not making any friends, or being in a situation where no one can understand my need for help because they don’t speak English.
These are real fears. But they are also all futuristic and somewhat ridiculous (even though I’m convinced the lady at the bakery is out to get me). Each one of them has the potential of stopping me from thriving while I live in France. They are barriers to happiness. But they are also motivators to making this experience something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. See, each time one of these fears surfaces, I remember what I have overcome to get here.
A year ago I was afraid to breathe. I was unsure who I was, what I was supposed to do with my life, and why it didn’t seem like anything was worth living for, anymore. My heart was broken, two members of my family had been diagnosed with breast cancer within months of each other, and I was floundering in my job and relationships.
There’s a reason they say fear is “crippling.” It doesn’t kill you. It leaves you to fight yourself, daily, in some kind of one sided torture. You feel trapped, isolated and like there’s no one else in the world that could possibly understand. But what’s worse, is that you try to talk yourself out of it. You try again and again to fix it, ignore it, numb it until something – anything takes away the pain of admitting that you need help.
But, we weren’t made to fix ourselves. The broken hearts, the self depreciation, the voices in our heads that tell us it’s impossible to get past this, “There is no future, so why even look forward?”
Instead of moving forward, fear holds us back. It can do more damage to us than any other person ever will. Fear of being alone, of being unwanted or of being unable to achieve the standards we’ve set for ourselves. It paralyzes us, sets us on paths to destroy ourselves through whatever means we use to get rid of it.
I know this, because a year ago this was me. I did everything to try to subdue, freeze, isolate, cover up, conceal and dilute the fear that I felt. Fear that stretched back to childhood. Fears of inadequacy, fear of being unloved – or unworthy of being loved. Fears of never achieving anything. Of the people who had told my mom that for whatever reason (race, gender, socioeconomic standing) I would never amount to anything, being right.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Last year I took a two week long backpacking trip around the UK.
Two weeks is no great pilgrimage. There wasn’t a great cathedral that I would find waiting for me at the end of my journey, and there weren’t any saints to welcome me. But before I left, I decided to take these two weeks to do something crazy – to live in the moment.
You see, fear is of the future, not the present. Danger is in the present, and is very real, but fear? Fear is a manmade, demon of a reality, that will probably never even happen. When we stop worshiping the future, we drain fear of its power.
See, as a Christian, I serve a God of the present, who tells me not to worry about the future, because he’s got it covered (Matt 6:34). Which is awesome, because that gives me so much more creativity, ambition and energy to sow into the present – seeds which will grow and produce a more beautiful future, in the end.
I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking about fear a lot, and remembering what it took for me to overcome my own demons. I tried and I tried and I tried to fix myself, but it wasn’t until I let go and let God start working that I saw any kind of healing happen. Only after I realized it was ok to be broken, could I begin the process of being mended.
Overcoming fear is as simple and as terrifyingly difficult as acknowledging that it exists. Until you do that, there really is no way of overcoming it. We all have our own unique terrors, each one changing as we grow and evolve as people. But today I’m reminded that where there is brokenness, there are also opportunities for a healing so intensely refreshing, and in some ways, simultaneously painful, that it can do nothing but refine us into a version of ourselves that would otherwise be inaccessible.
So here’s to taking life one moment at a time, and allowing ourselves to grow and transform into the people we are meant to be. It doesn’t happen over night, it’s a daily chore. But it’s in those little moments, when we decide to conquer the now, that we find the strength, over time, to claim the victory we have won.