My Brain is a Liar

This isn’t the first time I have been vulnerable on this site, nor is it the first time that I have written about my struggles with fear, in fact it is the 3rd blog on that topic. Fear seems to be a recurring topic and struggle for me and I’m assuming, for you too.

Fear is tricky. Fear can keep us stagnate and in a depression, but it can also result in some of the greatest moments of our lives. How can something manage to produce both highs and lows?

A few years back I went skydiving. My friend took me and a few others up with her to a place where she completed dozens of jumps. I was pumped! I had so much nervous energy it was ridiculous. I was going to do a tandem jump, so I strapped my instructor on my back like he was a backpack (weight restrictions required me to have the smallest instructor and it was pretty comical our size difference), climbed in the plane. As we climbed higher and higher I was getting more excited. Then the instructor yelled in my ear to climb out on the wing. We weren’t doing the stereotypical out of the cargo door jump. I had to climb out onto the wing before I would basically fall backwards. I climbed out no problem and then when I was told to remove one hand at a time and put them on my chest, I think my fear took over. And by I think, I mean…it definitely did. I “misheard” him a couple times and kept shuffling my hands one direction or the other on the strut. Finally I understood him and put one hand on my chest while the other hand gripped the strut with all of its strength. I literally was looking at my hand and telling it to let go, but my body wasn’t having any of that. It was petrified of what might happen, of what might end in pain. Finally the instructor grabbed my hand and pulled it to my chest. I had no choice at that point, but to fall backwards and trust my instructor would do whatever was necessary to keep me safe. Not only did he keep me safe, but those few minutes were exhilarating and I would love to go again.

This past week a good friend/mentor/counselor of mine was in town. During his time here we had a few hours to process through recent happenings in both of our lives. Granted I did most of the talking, but we both were able to talk about some things that were on our mind. One of the topics we discussed was fear. You see, I had sent him an email a couple weeks prior telling him I was struggling what I had described as “fear that was approaching debilitating.”

I was stuck. Stuck in a place and time where I wanted to plan for the future (in a wide variety of ways), but not doing anything. I needed to talk to my brother and mom about my future, but I was afraid of what their reactions would be. Don’t get me wrong. They gave me absolutely no reason to fear this, they have been nothing but supportive my whole life. That was the problem. My fear was filling my head with lies.

A big decision is approaching in which I must decide if I am to return to the US and get a so-called “normal” job with a “normal” paycheck or if after a year in the US (An agreement between the US and Germany requires a year back in the US every five years.) would I come back to Germany and continue working with GEM. Let me show you a glimpse into my head as to how the fear was wrecking me:

If I go back to the US for good, I will have to find, interview and get a job.
What if I don’t like that job?
I might have to move to another new place, where I know no one.
I would have to find new friends to satisfy my extroverted tendencies.
I would be leaving the families and friends that I have developed over five years here in Germany.
I may not even live much closer to my mom and brother.

So many things that I can’t control. So much in the distance, just out of my view. So many reasons to make the “easier” choice by staying in my apartment, in my little village and with my job. Not that being a missionary is “easy,” but having to move to a brand-new place and start a brand-new job with brand-new co-workers, etc. isn’t exactly easy either.

My brain wanted me to settle for “easy” because there was less chance of failing, less new that could be tough, less ways for me to affirm all of my fears.

The problem is, none of that matters.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Isaiah 41: 10 & 13

I love the imagery in these verses, but specifically verse 13. When I was a kid and afraid, nothing could allay those fears quite like my mom or dad grabbing my hand a giving a little squeeze to let me know that everything was fine, no matter what. How much better could it be than the God of the universe saying, “I’m holding your hand. I am here to help.” It may not be easy, it may not be perfect, but He is here to help.

Facing Fears

Between Christmas and New Year’s I went up to Berlin to hang out with a friend and decided to head to a church service on Sunday. While researching churches in Berlin that had English translation (my German is still not good enough to understand a full sermon in German), I found that Saddleback church had a church plant. I was curious to see how they handled a church plant in a foreign country, so I headed out and here is what I learned.

I don’t want to go into detail about how Saddleback Berlin worked as a church plant, but instead I want to publicly ruminate on the topic of the sermon. The sermon was conducted via video and obviously recorded on a different week since it would have been 2 AM in California when I was at church. The pastor for that day was Derwin Gray, a former NFL player who is now the lead pastor of Transformation Church in South Carolina.

His sermon was on fears and as soon as he said the word fear, I had a lot of thoughts pop in my mind. What am I afraid of? What are those fears keeping me from? What could I be doing today that I’m not because of the fears? Then, the sermon started and Derwin put fear into the correct perspective for me. He had 5 points and I wanted to not only share them with you, but also give my thoughts on some of them.

1. Love God’s glory more than your fear. (1 Samuel 17:26)

Most of the fears I thought of were hindering me in my goals…it’s not about me.

2. Ignore cowards (1 Samuel 17:28)

People who are afraid that you will do more than them might try to dissuade you. Not necessarily out of spite or jealousy, but sometimes because they are afraid to do something too.

3. Be yourself, not someone else. (1 Samuel 17:38-40)

One of my favorite quotes from Derwin was when he said; “Be yourself, not someone else because everyone else is already taken.” I am who I am, because I am here for a purpose. My strengths and weaknesses make me who I am, so what do I have to offer that is unique from others, and here is the important part, to bring about God’s glory?

4. Trust the King (1Samuel 17:45-46)

Another good quote from the sermon, “Fear became my friend, because it pushed me to my Daddy.” I don’t know if I have ever looked at fear as a friend, but that’s because I typically let it cripple me instead of leaning on God.

5. Jesus is the true David who defeated the true Goliath: sin, death and evil (Colossians 2:13-15)

 

I don’t know about you, but my fears have held me back from doing a lot in life. While not all of those things are specifically related to expanding God’s Kingdom here on Earth, some are. How can we resolve this? There is only one option…be drawn to our Father and allow him to be our courage and strength.

 

Then at the end Derwin left a thought to take home that he called a “Soul Tattoo.” He said, “Attack your fear by trusting Christ.”

I’m afraid to say that I’m afraid to say

I fear nothing and yet I fear everything. I am not afraid of the dark, spiders, snakes (although they are super creepy, they don’t even havefear legs!) or any other specific thing, but at the same time I can be frozen with so much fear that I essentially do nothing. It can be something as simple as fearing that I find the best price for a big purchase or something as important as asking someone to sit down with me and learn about the ministry I will be joining.

No matter what the situation is I am struck, struck by a debilitating fear, a fear that can make me forget who I am and what I am doing.

I have seen this fear in me for quite some time. Looking back over my life I catch glimpses of when I would let the fear take over and I didn’t do things that I probably should have. You know, the girl I should have asked out, the opportunity during high school that seemed too nerdy (even for me, and that’s saying a lot) or the awesome idea I once had for a great invention, but did nothing about.

In the long run missing on some of these things probably won’t effect me too much, but what if…what if they did…or will?

What I have realized through much reflection on this recently is that I am afraid of failure. I’m afraid that if I ask a girl out, she will say no, or worse she will say yes and then I won’t be any good for her. I am afraid that if I take advantage of an opportunity that I won’t live up to the expectations of others and I will fail them. I am afraid to ask someone to join my ministry partner team because that means I will be going to Germany and I might be mediocre as a missionary (Fail!). I’m afraid that if I try to create something new, or take on bigger roles at church, work, etc. that I might not succeed and the organization will be no better off than when I started.

Failure is a fear that I think more people have than would like to admit. Failure is nothing to fear though and I am trying to learn that.

I am sure at some point you have read about all of the Presidents that failed many times before succeeding or you have experienced failure yourself a couple or couple dozen times before you finally figure it out, so I won’t go into that here. I want to look at what God says our response should be to failure.

Proverbs 24:16 – “Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that’s the end of them”

Notice that it says “if good people fall.” That insinuates that we tried and fell. You can’t fall if you haven’t even attempted to stand. Shoot even the wicked in this verse attempt to stand…once. Obviously this is not talking about me asking a girl out or taking a risk at work, but I think it still applies and the main thing I get from it is:

Stand up and then stand up again if necessary, but first and above all stand up!