I have a complicated relationship with fear. For example, I am paralyzingly afraid of sharks. When I was young, I watched a couple of terrifying shark movies and then allowed my imagination to run wild, creating images of sharks busting through the shower wall like a shark cage, or jumping 20 feet out of lake water, or waiting for me at the deep end of a pool. But on the other side of that, when I was on a snorkeling trip and we were warned about the open water and the potential threat, I became overcome with this sense of invincibility, with an attitude that I welcomed the idea of a shark approaching. I don’t know why I am this way, but looking at this fear as an example, it poses a greater question for the way I respond to it.
Logically, I know that these fears are irrational, unfounded, and absurd because there are real facts that I can look to and remind myself that, no, there will not be a shark busting through the walls of my shower. When it comes to the more serious types of fear, however, it’s much harder to differentiate.
When I knew my depression was worsening, I remember looking around at my life- my comfortable, independent life that had everything I needed, everything I wanted. Despite my inability to fully live in the happiness and comfort that this life provided, I knew that I didn’t want to lose it. In fact, I was terrified to lose it. The fear told me that if I was honest about what I was feeling, honest about the thoughts that riddled my mind, then all the things I worked so hard to build would be gone.
As things progressed, I realized that my options were limited, that I either needed to be honest and vocal and trust that my fears were unfounded, or that I would lose myself completely.
Even during the process of seeking the help I needed, I remember trying to comfort myself by the reassurance that nothing would change, and nobody would look at me differently. In this mindset, I found the strength to power through, and work toward a place of healing.
On the other side, I knew that my decision was the right one, that it was the only way to truly reach the recovery that I had desperately craved. The thing was, that one by one, little by little, the wonderful life that I had so carefully crafted began to fall away. The fear in me rose up again, countering the assurance that I knew was right, telling me that my fears had been valid, that I never should have been honest like I was.
Wait, WHAT? Isn’t this a post about fear being wrong and that when we’re brave and vulnerable then good things happen? In a way, yes. But as I watched my world crumble beneath me, there wasn’t anything proving to me that it was the right call.
While I walked through the rubble of what had once been so valuable to me, I felt a surge of anger- anger at myself for the choice that I had made, and committed to never admit that I was in a dark place again. If everything I was afraid of came true, what would possibly happen next time?
As things go, that anger didn’t last, and instead it was replaced by the reality of what needed to happen in my life, what I had to go through to truly be free. As Jesus walked with me, and gently revealed what my life had really been, I saw what I never wanted to see. I saw that I placed all my value, all my worth in what I surrounded myself with, the people I found solace in, the places and things that brought me peace. I had stopped turning to Jesus in my pain, stopped standing on the solid ground He had built for me and chose to stake my claim on the sand castle I built myself.
He showed me that my fears were only fears because I placed my identity in the things around me, instead of in Him. Good things come from doing the hard things, even if it doesn’t look like it. Sometimes a shark winds up in the deep end of the pool, but is it enough to keep you from ever swimming again?
Fear can be a liar, but what we do in spite of fear, the courage we are able to find even when the odds are against us, even when the things we are afraid of come true, is what dictates our freedom from the fear in the end.
Always be brave, sweet friends,