Fear is a punk.

Somewhere along the way, fear crept into me. Into my life, and my thoughts, and my emotions, and my decision making. Not in an overpowering and paralyzing way. It's not all consuming, and it's not even noticeable most of the time. But when I take a closer look, I'm seeing traces of fear all over. It's there in my hesitant decision making. It's there in the way I've kept people at arm's distance. It's there in my decidedly defensive reactions. It has taken hold in subtle, sneaky ways. I'm starting to unwrap its tendrils from my innermost parts, but it's hard work. 

Fear flourishes in my unknown. It sees dark places, shadows of the not-yet-happeneds and holes still to be filled. And then, fear speaks into them. It creates things in those unknown spaces. It uses my insecurities and brokenness and hurt from years past as building blocks, and it creates in those shadows. 

Remember when you were a child, tucked under your blankets, and you looked around your dark bedroom? The shadows from your dresser, the creaking noise in the unseen hallway, the chasm of blackness under your bed. Your mind created the worst possible scenarios- and suddenly there was a monster plotting your murder residing right beneath where you sleep.

See? This, this is the nature of fear. It lies. It creates terrifying and unsettling scenarios in the unknown places. Fear is a liar, and a manipulator, and a no-good punk. 

As I get older, and I have looked fear in the eyes more often, I see that the unknown holds more than just scary stuff. It also holds our wildest dreams and possibilities. Fear want to control the unknown, but beauty and hope want to exist there too. 

The unknown is the space where dreams are free to run wild. In the wonderings and the curiosities, the most beautiful things can blossom because they are not hindered by our own expectations or our rigid boundaries of what we deem to be "possible".  The not-yet-happeneds are where God can breathe his perfect plans for our lives.

I think that there's a reason why one of the most consistent themes of God's voice in the biblical narrative is the commandment to not be afraid. Over and over again, humans need to be told to fight the fear that attempts to commandeer the unknown. God knows that fear is not something to take lightly. He meets us there and over and over again whispers- Do not fear. Do not be afraid. I am with you- alwaysThis is so important because if we let fear be the loudest voice, the hope and the beauty don't have room to grow.

I think that fear is loud and fear is a bully. It shouts over hopefulness and shoves beauty to the ground. It knows that once the good things begin to grow it won't stand a chance. Fear knows that it doesn't have the solid truthful foundation that hope and beauty do, so it's panicky and it's grasping and fighting to hold on. I don't want to let it.

Ahead of me are a lot of unknowns. A lot of territory that is uncharted. In the throes of life's transitions, the unknown is easy to spot, it's everywhere I look, it's almost visceral. But the truth of the matter is, we are all staring straight forward into a sea of uncertainty. Nothing here is promised or guaranteed, despite our most valiant attempts to make plans and strive for goals and hold on to things with fists clenched and heels dug in. 

So we must decide. Do we look at the unknown and allow fear to control us? Do we allow the lies to dictate our decisions and actions and steps? No, we mustn't. For fear, as we've already established, is a liar and a manipulator and a no-good punk. Rather, we must look at the not yet realized parts of our life and allow them to be filled with the goodness and beauty of hopeful potential. We must actively push against the lies of fear, and to find the hope and beauty that fear trampled over, pick them up & brush them off. Then, we can let them run wild. 

 

 

The Braver Version.

No one properly prepared me for what it feels like to graduate college, but it was not for a lack of effort. People tried, oh, they tried, to warn me about the impending storm that was about to sweep me off my feet. But I pride myself on being strong, stable, grounded, rational, and so I thought that I would bypass the emotional explosions that plagued others.

And then I found myself weeping on the steps of my college house as graduation day approached. Everything felt hard, and sad, and unkind, and as though it was ending too soon. As I packed up my life in Madison to move it to Colorado, I did it angrily and bitterly and full of frustration. The hope and excitement that characterized my attitude months earlier had evaporated, and I was left with nothing but the heaviness of walking away from a place that I deeply love.

I drove a thousand miles across the country, with all my things in my car and my sister sitting shotgun and Amy Poehler’s audio book on the stereo. The pavement of Illinois, the cornfields of Iowa, the cattle of Nebraska- I felt as though each object spitefully wedged itself between me and Madison as I drove further and further away. 

We cruised up the winding mountain roads to the summer camp that, no matter what, always feels a little bit like home. Even though it was the end of May, it was bitterly cold outside when we arrived, and there were inches of snow on the ground. I would have given anything to go back to where I came from, with my toes skimming the lake and the humid air made tolerable with a cold Spotted Cow. I swapped my Birkenstocks for boots, and finished unpacking as I attempted to rid these thoughts from my mind.

Even though I was surrounded by people who know and love me, I felt alone and isolated. I was overwhelmed and began to believe lies that I wasn’t fun, clever, outgoing, or pretty enough to be a full part of camp.

But here’s the thing. Life pulls you into your position whether you believe you’re the right person for the job or not. So the days crept by and I did my job. And honestly, I had a blast. I laughed really hard. I chatted with new staff members. I joked with campers and mopped the lodge and served dinner.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that life can’t always be about being exactly where we want to be. That kind of life, a life in pursuit of the most immediate gratification, leads to short-term selfishness and long-term dissatisfaction. Rather, I want my life to be about honestly pursuing things that are important to me no matter how winding, mundane, or difficult that road is.

So, truthfully, the shortsighted version of myself wants to be moving in to a new apartment in Madison. I want to be going to church at the place where I learned to walk closely with Jesus. I want to be working my job at the coffee shop I care about and spending free time sitting on the lawn of the Capital, eating fresh scones and crisp apples with the people who know me better than I know myself.

But the braver, more thoughtful version of myself knows that it is this season, this collection of right nows, that I am called to say yes to. And when I look closely, a little more carefully, I can see the beauty of this season pouring out of every inch of this. This time is unlike any that I’ve experienced. In this immediately post-grad season, I devour novels and listen (almost exclusively) to Brandi Carlisle. I wake up very, very early without trying to. I have people who open up their homes to me without hesitation and I have a team of people I get to work alongside who love to serve, but also love to play.

I think it takes bravery to fully engage. When I look at this season of my life, this transitional in-between period, it feels easier to check out, to sit back, and to wait for what's next. But every season is a waiting season for what's next, and if I spend forever looking to what's next rather than completely living in today, I'll miss it all. 

So today, I want to be the braver version of myself. I want to say a wholehearted yes to this season, rather that halfheartedly wishing for something else. I want to trust that I’m becoming more of the person I’m God intends for me to be by walking in this right now.