My mother was a college student. She was on an archeology dig with some of her classmates and they decided to take a swim break in a nearby man-made lake. My mom swam to the middle of the lake with her friends while someone watched me on the shore…watched me confidently go into the water, start swimming and doggie paddle out to meet my mom. She was surprised and shocked that her two-year-old baby was happily and effortlessly swimming. Instead of praising and encouraging me, she dunked me in the water in hopes that I would be too afraid to try such feats on my own.
I came back up for air, choking and spitting, full of rage and frantic fear. My mother dunked me because she was afraid and thought I should be afraid too. It was her way of protecting me. The problem is, this was my first memory attached with emotion. And in some unfortunate cases, our first memories with emotion teach us a lesson that is written on our hearts and souls, guiding us through life, affecting all our decisions, reactions and sense of well being. Here’s the lesson written on my soul that day: When I take risks, I’ll drown. When I’m extraordinary, I will suffocate. When I make myself vulnerable, I will be overtaken. Stay cautious. Be alert. Avoid danger. And if danger comes, fight like hell to keep from drowning. Trust no one. Because no one can be trusted.
In an effort to learn a little sensible apprehension to keep me out of danger that day, my mother inadvertantly planted a seed of fear in me that has grown with deep roots and controlled me my whole life — controlled my decisions, reactions…everything. My fear has been the pilot of my life. I’ve discovered this truth only in the last couple of years…and the revelation has come slowly, in pieces over time. It’s painful, actually. I imagine it might be the same for a wounded soldier who suffers with pieces of tiny shrapnel that surface through the skin long after the war is over.
Can you relate? Perhaps you have a first memory or an event in your life that has haunted you, made you to suffer, held you captive or forced you to be in defense mode. So what do you do with the knowledge and recognition of this thing that has it’s hold on you?
I went to the Women of Faith Conference last weekend and heard from Lisa Whelchel, you know, Blair from the 80s show “Facts of Life.” She talked about how her first memory shaped her dysfunction of perfection and overachieving that kept her from making deep connections with people. When she talked to God about her desperate need for connection, he said to her…”Baby girl, I’m not mad at you for putting up those walls. I allowed those walls to remain to protect you when you were a child. But it’s safe to come out now.”
Whoa…”it’s safe to come out now.”
Those words spoke to me. But I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around the concept. Perhaps now that I know what my primary dysfunction is, I must learn to understand it in order to conquer it. Today in my Bible study, ironically about turning fear into faith, author Carol Kent defines fear as a reaction to a triggering event, an event we interpret as a threat to our well-being. She said fear “can lead us to feel powerless, and that feeling often triggers rage and a frantic attempt to fix the situation.” Huh! That’s sounds exactly like me! With every wind that blows, I sink like Peter did when he tried to walk on water to meet Jesus. He got scared, he took his eyes off Jesus. His fear overtook his faith. (Matthew 14:22-33)
Fear holds me back from so much and keeps me in a state of anxiety. If affects my own parenting, my marriage, my friendships, my business and my spiritual life. I’m afraid to get on a plane, afraid to be separate from my son and husband, afraid to be successful in my business. I’m drowing in fear itself. I’m dying because of the very thing my mother hoped would protect me. Fear is taking my life. Kent said a constructive resolution for fear begins with 1) sorrow for what triggered the fear, 2) brokeness and admitting we can’t fix this problem by ourselves and 3) submission to God, giving Him our problem and asking Him to fix it for us.
I’m not sure where to go from here. I know I need to rely on my faith more than my fear. Kent reminds us that faith isn’t a guarantee against failure or suffering. I’m going to have failures in my business. People I love might get hurt or die. Kent says, “Our confidence is in Jesus, not in results. Faith doesn’t guarantee desirable results, but it does prevent us from sabotaging the results through our own fear. Sometimes faith feels riskiy, and fear feels like a comfortable burden.” But I want to be free from that burden — free from worry over my son, free from anxiety about my business, free from fear of reaching out to my husband when there’s a conflict.
So I confess my fear and doggie paddle back out to the middle of that lake, with all the expectancy and confidence that God placed in me as a young child….and I listen to His voice, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
- Only Believe (upliftingchrist.wordpress.com)
- The Risk of Living Fully (joyofspa.com)
- 6 Reasons Why People Are Afraid to Start a Business (grasshopper.com)