My late Grandmother once told me that fear is a sin. I can’t remember the exact circumstances that prompted the conversation, but it had something to do with my children – my fears and worries related to them.
The message sounds harsh, but that wasn’t her intention. Her words were delivered lovingly, without judgment, and her point was that I should trust Jesus more and fear less. I listened, and then continued to be fearful, especially when it came to my kids. But the words stuck with me and through the years, in a quiet moment or sometimes in a moment fraught with fear and worry, I remember them.
Thankfully, I haven’t lived with the kinds of horrific fears others have endured – fear of physical abuse or violence, fear of starvation or homelessness or life-threatening illness. I have been abundantly blessed in the areas of family, health, home, education and opportunity.
But when I am being honest with myself, I realize that fear has been a fairly constant companion in my life.
Sometimes, fear has been like a rude roommate, dampening my joy as I entertain guests or meet new people or embark on new adventures. He whispers words of doubt or criticisms in my ear or shouts insults from the well-worn Lazyboy he occupies inside my brain. I know he’s there and I’m aware of his tactics. Therefore, I’m able to ignore him for the most part, but he still makes an impact.
Sometimes fear disguises himself, arriving in designer cloaks of justifiable worry or good parenting. Like many mothers, my greatest fears involve my children, and most of the time those fears take the form of concern for their health, safety, future and happiness. I worry when my teens drive away from the house. I grow fearful if they are driving in bad weather. I fret over their academics, their success in and out of the classroom, their social lives.
Fear is most effective, however, when he takes the form of my shadow — unnoticed, unacknowledged, seemingly inconsequential. Just like a shadow at high noon, fear is smaller and less effective when there is a great deal of light on the subject at hand. But when I keep things hidden, intentionally or unintentionally, the light grows dimmer like a setting sun and the shadow of fear grows longer and more powerful.
That is when fear can change the course of my life. That is when he can keep me from discovering God’s purpose for me, from enjoying the blessings and gifts God has bestowed upon me. That is when I unknowingly, unwittingly take action based on my fears. And more often than not, because I’m unaware that fear is occupying the driver’s seat, my action is simply NOT TAKING ACTION.
But recently, I’ve started to let more light shine into areas of my life that I’ve historically kept to myself, and that light has decreased the size of my fear shadow. I’ve set out on a new path prompted by a maturing faith in God, age, life experiences and an increasing awareness that my willingness to keep company with fear speaks volumes to my children.
I am pursuing my dream of writing fiction. Although I have always made a living with the written word, I strayed from my profession some in the past few years for various reasons, some of which had to do with fear.
I have returned my focus to making a living as a writer and communicator, but I’m making room for writing that fills me in addition to the writing that pads our checking account.
Interestingly, fear followed me on this new path because I left him a trail of breadcrumbs. Bad habits die hard, and he catches up every once in awhile. When he does, he tells me:
- “You don’t have time for this” or,
- “You aren’t creative enough to write fiction” or,
- “You’re too old to write a novel” or,
- “You have no idea what you’re doing” or,
- “The rejection letters will just keep coming” or,
- “You need to focus on making money and bringing in new clients/projects, not writing stories” or,
- “You’re being selfish to spend time on this hobby” or,
- “You are a Mom, not a writer, and your mom work is more important and the two are mutually exclusive,” or
- the list is exhaustive . . .
A friend recently recommend the book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is speaking to me – the book is singing to me. In the first few pages, she writes, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”
I would say that it is God, not the universe, that buries those jewels within us, and God that gives us the courage, if we let Him, to go on that hunt.
I’m choosing to let Him. I’m writing, and I’m putting myself out there: on this blog; in the short stories that I keep submitting and that have, thus far, only resulted in rejection letters; and now, in a book manuscript that is starting to take shape.
Gilbert suggests that we are more than the sum of our daily obligations and duties and that we can choose to make something of ourselves with ourselves. And she says that “fear is a desolate bone yard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.” That is not the life or death I want to choose for my dreams.
I’m trying to choose courage, trying to let the light shine on my dreams a bit more – to shorten the length of the shadows that are cast over them and instead let them cast shadows of hope and joy.
Now it’s time for me to get back to work on my manuscript.