Last winter, at 26 years old, I learned how to ski. Everyone says you should learn those kinds of things as a kid, before you know that falling is scary. That way your learning won’t be hindered by your fear.
Whoa. I’m going to say that last sentence again. That way your learning won’t be hindered by your fear.
Isn’t it funny that the longer we live, the more we want to avoid things that scare us? We literally hinder ourselves from learning new things when we do that. We become stagnant in our bodies, minds and spirits because we’d rather be numb than injured.
I remember thinking about this concept a lot when I was learning to ski. It almost made me angry, the thought that because I’m “old enough to fear it,” I could hold myself back from an experience. I realize everyone is not wired this way, but my response was par for the course for my fiercely competitive personality:
“Don’t tell me what I can’t do. I am about to NAIL. THIS. THING.”
I was obviously humbled as I not-so-gracefully cruised the bunny slopes with my patient and gracious professional ski instructor friend on my first day. But you know what? I caught on quickly and I was skiing blues by the fourth time I ever put on skis.
That does NOT mean I didn’t almost throw up from anxiety on the way up the lift a few times, or that I didn’t let certain four letter words come out of my mouth on the way down when the speed made me uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t, as the ski bums say, “biff it” (aka major wipeout), or that I made it out of the season without a few minor injuries.
But those were some of my favorite days during our first year in Utah, and I think it’s because I was living outside of my comfort zone and coming home better for it. It wasn’t without some pretty gnarly bruises on some days, but something in my spirit was being strengthened by this act of continuing to return to the mountain and choose bravery.
Back in the spring I designed a few prints that we sold as a fund raiser for our trip to Europe to engage the refugee crisis this summer. One of them said, “Fear is a Liar.” I have a copy of it framed in my house and another one above my desk at work, and I can’t decide if it feels ironic or timely that I designed it in this season of my life. I have never wrestled with fear more than I have (or still am) this year.
If I’m honest, all of my fear is wrapped up in this one area of my life: an empty longing for motherhood. Losing two babies in 14 months does not exactly make you feel encouraged about continuing to run your race.
It is the place I feel the most injured, and the place I have the most tendency to self protect. It is the area of my life that I feel the most exposed and vulnerable. It is the deepest longing of my heart and the most out of my control thing I’ve ever walked through.
As we go through the adoption process this time around, I wrestle with fear every day. Fear of whether I’m even going to be good at this mom thing when it finally happens. Fear of it never happening. Fear of feeling so exposed and vulnerable through the process of fund raising. Fear of failing at that part. Fear of missing any opportunity to feel joy on this whole journey because I’m just waiting for the bottom to fall out like it always seems to.
The list could go on.
But here is what I’ve learned: there is a difference between living through our fear and living fearful.
When we live through our fear, we choose to walk into hard things, because we know that getting “over” something is not actually helpful — it’s getting through it that bears fruit. When we live fearful, we self protect from the “getting through it” part because we know it will cost us something, and we don’t want to feel the pain and discomfort.
I think I’ve said this before, but I heard someone say at a conference earlier this year that “fearless people don’t know they’re fearless.” They live outside of their comfort and they allow hard things to sharpen and refine them. Fearless people don’t know they’re fearless because they are constantly choosing to live through their fear.
Y’all. I DO NOT FEEL FEARLESS. But I want to do this season of my life the same way I did it last winter: continuing to return to the mountain and choose bravery. Knowing that the Perfect Love who casts out fear (1 John 4:18) is going before and behind me. Believing even when I don’t feel like it that He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
Throwing off everything that hinders and the sin (read: FEAR) that so easily entangles. Running with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
. . .
Maybe you need a daily reminder like me. Including a free download of the “Fear is a Liar” print below. Enjoy. May it encourage you to live through your fear, not from it.