Living beyond my fears

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You know you have a good friend when they push you to live beyond your fears. At 16 I had yet to push fear aside when it came to roller coasters. Having visited Disney World and Six Flags numerous times, I never was able to conjure up enough bravery to put my life in the hands of a iron (or wooden) contraption. My cousin and friend Christy knew that I would never go on a roller coaster on my own bravery.

For her 17th birthday she invited a few close friends to join her for a trip to Six Flags. I had asked before we left what she wanted as a gift for her birthday and all I could get out of her was that when we got there, she would come up with an idea for a gift. We enter the gates of Six Flags and Christy turns to me, "I know what I want for my birthday present. All I want is for you to ride one roller coaster." Believe me I tried bribing her with any other gift the souvenir shops were selling that day. She picked the coaster Mr. Freeze. Now this coaster in particular was chosen because it was literally the shortest in time. I counted the seconds as we watched while winding through the line. Sixty three of the longest seconds. What she didn't mention is that the coaster shoots you out of the gate, going from zero to 70 mph in less than 5 seconds. As we inched our way closer to the coaster fear gripped me. I began to shake I was so nervous. Sitting down in the coaster car I remember telling myself, all I needed to do was count to 63 and this would all be over with. I could hold my breath for 63 seconds couldn't I? About that time the green light lit up and I closed my eyes, inhaled as much air as I could possibly hold for 63 seconds, and death gripped the handlebar just in case the seat bar did not work. Whoosh! Off we went and for the first 10 seconds I just checked to make sure I was still alive but the next 53 seconds were the most exhilarating of my young life. I opened my eyes, exhaled in a loud shriek, and lifted my hands in the air. We stepped off the platform and I turned to Christy, "LET'S DO IT AGAIN!" Of course I thanked her too.

Fear has a way of telling you that you are not missing out on anything by not trying. I was content to spend my whole life never trying a roller coaster, sitting on the bench waiting for everyone else to finish the ride. I had allowed fear to tell me I wasn't missing anything. Yet after experiencing a roller coaster, I realized that the exhilaration of the ride is exactly what I love.

One of my personality traits has the potential in every situation to be a great asset or my downfall: I am a perfectionist. The good part of this trait is if I'm doing a task, I am all in and will do my best to make sure every detail is perfect. The accounting realm became my wheelhouse as it is an industry that encouraged every detail to be in order. The downfall: if what I attempted does not seem perfect in completion, the whole attempt seems like a complete failure. I was the kid who would cry with a test score of 95 because it meant I missed 5 points.  If I wasn't first in whatever I competed in, it was failure. Before trying something new, if I wasn't for sure that I could be the best at it, then I wouldn't even attempt at trying. Fear of failure became the tool the evil one began to whisper and use to get to keep me from stepping out in faith.

God has been opening my eyes to the grip that fear has held on my life. Fear of failure is my strongest fear, but others also held too strong of a hold on my everyday life. After years of living with strongholds of fear, how does one no longer let it control you?

You know what pushed me to let go of my fear of dying on a roller coaster? Love. I knew that Christy loved me and wanted the best for me. She only wanted me to try a roller coaster because in the end, she knew I would grow from the experience. Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) The more I understand and know the character of God, the less fear has a grip on me. The more I understand the unconditional love of the Father, the more I trust Him in faith rather than make excuses due to my fears.

In what area of your life are you letting fear hold you captive? Fear of disapproval of others, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of opening up to others, fear of failure, fear of success: these all have one thing in common. They keep you from living in faith. My husband has shared these truths in a past sermon: Faith asks you to trust. Fear tells you to control. Faith moves forward in action. Fear paralyzes. Faith stands in humble confidence. Fear questions whether you are good enough. Where faith is bold, fear cowers.

The question I've been turning in my mind has been this: What would I be doing if I no longer lived in fear?

Here are some of my answers:
1. Write. Hence the blog was created. Here's where my fears are being faced. Writing and sending it out into Internet space is scary. People can be harsh critics. I didn't get my undergrad or Master's in composition or English (I was a business undergrad/MBA type gal). I'm just a stay-at-home mom trying to share my reflections on what God is teaching me through written word. I know I'm not the best writer/blogger. Yet God is using my writing to prune away my fears of failure and of what others think.

2. Allow myself to fail forward. "Failing forward" is a term that was written by one of my favorite leadership authors John Maxwell. In his writings he leads the reader to recognize that we all are going to fail at something. Only the successful leaders understand that you use your failures as stepping stones for success. In parenting: What if my girls never see me fail forward but instead see me living comfortable and safe? Do I want them to replicate safety and comfort in their faith? Or do I want them to live out their faith with boldness and confidence? Do I allow my children to fail forward in the safety of my home so that it strengthens their character?

3. Risky in my faith: Fear of failure has kept me on numerous occasions from stepping out....to share my faith, to defend my faith, to step out in faith. I have heard it said that Christians should be some of the most riskiest people as the Lord is continuing to call them out in faith into action. I on the other hand have allowed my fear of failure to keep me safe. Safe from failure, yes, but safe from exciting adventures, unknown territory, and a faith that can literally make mountains move.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, "...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control."  The Greek word for fear in this verse is deilia which refers to one who retreats from battle, and has a strong tendency towards cowardice.

Let us not be known as one who flees from the battle out of fear. Let us go walking boldly in faith, knowing that because of God's perfect love, we can stand in power, love and self-control. Living a life of faith in Christ sometimes means exhaling that breath you've been holding, and letting go so you can raise your hands and enjoy the exhilarating ride.