If someone ever asks me that question, I follow it up with an inquiry of my own. How much time do you have?
You see there’s a master list of things I’m afraid of with subcategories, footnotes and addendums. You have the animal category that includes my #1 arch nemesis – s-n-*-k-e-s -, a word I don’t even say. Then you have the entertainment category which features things like scary movies, haunted houses and gruesome costumes. Of course there’s also the environment category which is composed of water over my head and heights. So yea, I have a long answer to that question.
Some reactions to the items on my list are more severe than others. Take the aforementioned slithery creature for instance. I recently encountered one of those in my backyard. I haven’t been in that section of the yard since. Probably never will again. Certainly not without an escort, golf club and full body armor.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Not very spiritual, or faith-filled of me. I agree. I’m a work in progress. I’m probably the main reason God made sure to address fear in the Bible more than 365 times. Reminders come in handy.
The other day, I came across a video from best-selling author (and hero of mine) Bob Goff. He asked the question I’d heard hundreds of times before – what are you afraid of? Before I could grab my list, I realized the question was not in reference to creatures or things that go bump in the night. He was challenging me to identify what fear could be holding me back instead of boldly stepping into what God was desiring for me at this stage of my life. I knew it wasn’t a creepy animal or a steep cliff preventing me from moving forward. You know what it was? Fear of failure.
Why do we do that? Why are we hesitant to move forward or pursue something because we think we won’t “succeed”? And what is success anyway? Maybe we’re so caught up in defining it that we never make any progress toward it. In fact, maybe success isn’t what we think it is at all. It may not be winning an award or reaching the finish line. Maybe success is taking the next step in whatever the journey is. And isn’t being stuck in the same spot worse than taking a step and stumbling? You can always get back up and find a band aid.
I don’t mean to over simplify our fears in regards to making changes in our lives or pursuing something new. I assure you, when it comes to being afraid, hesitant and/or scared to death, I may be the spokesperson for all of us. I’m certainly more of a “hold on a minute I have questions” kinda gal. Fear is a real thing and it’s something we all deal with in varying degrees and a variety of circumstances. Experts would probably say some level of fear can actually be healthy and helpful. All that said, I also know that if God is calling you to do something, He will equip you with what you need to do it. God’s gifts to us are irrevocable. So whether you actually use what he gave you or not, it’s not going anywhere.
Beginning in Matthew 25:14, Jesus tells us the story of the three servants who were trusted with their master’s wealth. Two invested wisely and were rewarded, but one buried his talent in the ground and was punished for being foolish with what he was given. I’ve always wondered about this story. The chastised servant didn’t lose what he was trusted with so I always thought that was ok. Like give the guy a break. But you know what, he didn’t use it to benefit his master either. He wasted what he was given. Why? I think he was afraid to fail. Opportunity was staring him in the face yet the effort and risk seemed too great. So our guy did nothing. Nothing.
God has given each of us talents and abilities to use in unique ways to do things no one else can do in a way no one else can do it. All He needs from us is obedience, trust and willingness to take that next step. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Yet it isn’t. We like certainty. We like control. We like to know what’s going to happen before we step forward. Even Moses had to stretch out his hand toward the Red Sea before God parted the waters. (Exodus 14:21)
How many times does God have to show us that He has a plan before we trust Him and know that His plan is way better than our own? I’m not even going to try to add up the number of times He’s had to remind me. But today, I’m choosing to take that next step. If I get nervous, I’m surely gonna holler…but I know He is with me the whole way. (If you see me hollerin’, just wave.)
What is God asking of you today? What can God do with what you have? What’s standing in your way of taking the next step? Don’t be afraid to be great.
Special thanks to my pastor, Andrew Gard at Grace City Church, for preaching a message on this very topic on Sunday. I frantically jotted down notes as I realized his message related so closely to what I had been writing. Apologies to those around me for spilling my coffee during my excitement.