Monthly Archives: October 2013

Spiders, Diving Boards, and Fear

high dive

          I can still remember sitting on the couch, Mom sitting next to me, trying to comfort my teary soul.

                It was the summer of my eleventh birthday, and, as usual for summer, I was taking swimming lessons.  In class that day, we had been given the chance to jump off the high-dive, and the rumor was that we were going to be forced to jump the next day.  I hadn’t gotten a chance to jump today, and now I was super-scared of jumping tomorrow.  Now, this wasn’t any normal fifteen feet higher than the surface of the water high dive board, like you usually see.  This was like one of those Olympic high dives where you had enough space for at least four or six Goliath-sized giants to stand on each other’s shoulders between the tip of the dive board and the surface of the water.  It was high.  And the ladder to climb to the top was, of course, LONG and high.  Top of Mount Everest high.

  Now, before you get any ideas, I’m not afraid of heights.  There are many things I have a healthy (or unhealthy in some cases – spiders) fear of, but heights is NOT one of them.  But, for whatever reason, I was deathly afraid of jumping off that high board.  

The crazy thing was, I hadn’t been as I watched several of my classmates jump off.  I wasn’t afraid at all during the drive home.  I was excited.  But somehow, as I got further away from the actual board, it kept getting taller and taller.  And, as I talked with Mom about it, I felt fear growing in me.   I actually realized that I was getting more afraid the more I talked about it.  I even worked myself into tears.  I remember having this disconnected part of me thinking, “What’s going on?  Two minutes ago I was excited, why am I scared now?”  But I was.  Deathly so.  Suddenly, what had just a few minutes before been an exciting adventure, was going to literally kill me.  I pictured myself jumping off and never coming up – I would die at the bottom of the deep end.  Or I would jump, and I might even come back up, but I wouldn’t know where I was, and so I’d die swimming in circles.

I know, it sounds crazy.  The teachers were there to direct me, to protect me, or to swim down to the bottom and bring me up.  But the more I focused on the dive board, the more fear grew in me.

Which, I have learned, is how fear works.  It grows.  Whether or not it’s a rational fear – you focus on it, and it will grow.  You focus on doing the world’s worst belly-flop off of a dive board that is five giants’ height tall, and your fear of death (or all your bones shattering at once) will grow.  You focus on falling down a mountain you’ve just hiked up, you will be practically immobilized as you try to climb down.  You focus on that small, harmless beige spider on the wall jumping at you and biting at your neck like a vampire – and your fear will grow.  Promise.  Suddenly your fear of that harmless spider will be so great that you can’t squish it with a Kleenex.  You’ll be screaming for your mother, or your boyfriend, to do it for you.  And they will laugh.  Because they just see the tiny little spider on the wall whereas YOU see this ginormous, face-sized, hairy spider that is cackling as he preps for the jump.

Fear makes us do silly things – like screaming bloody-murder over a spider, like never crossing the monkey bars as a kid, like never leaving our house, or never getting on an airplane, like not asking the teacher why we missed a point on the test (and so getting a lower grade), like avoiding conversations (and so ruining friendships).

Fear is a big deal.  It’s incredibly harmful. And the longer you don’t deal with it, the longer you let whatever you’re afraid of dance around in your mind, the higher the dive board gets, the hairier the spider, the darker the shadow, the meaner the teacher, the angrier the friend gets.

The longer you avoid your fear, the more power you give to that fear.

Fear is NOT one of those things that if you just ignore it, it will go away.  Promise.

Fear doesn’t go away, it grows – unless you deal with it head-on.

So, my advice?  Go deal with whatever you’re afraid of.  As they used to say in wild west – bite the bullet (they used to literally bite a bullet so they didn’t scream during surgery – no place for painkillers in the west) as soon as possible.  Just get it over with.  It’s probably not as bad as you’re making it out to be.  Go have that conversation.  Say “hi”.  Squish the spider.  Jump off the high board.    You’d be surprised how freeing and light you’ll feel after you get it over with.  Defeating fear is a crazy-awesome feeling.  You almost you believe you can fly…which might be a problem if you’re afraid of heights.

And no, I was not forced to jump off the high-dive the next day.  In fact, I think my teachers got in trouble for letting my classmates do it the day before, because we stayed  away from that part of the pool for the rest of the class sessions.  Go figure.  It’s okay though, I’m not afraid of high dives anymore.  I’ve jumped off of many since then.

shelob

You mean this isn’t what you see every time you see a spider?

Picture of high dive found here
 Shelob

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Courage, plain and simple

The knight in shining armor, vanquishing the dragon or the evil witch.    The woman who won’t give up her seat on the bus.  The policeman who delicately deals with the man with a gun.  The fireman who runs into the burning building.  The teacher who works with students who could care less about learning how to add fractions because their mom didn’t come home.  The girl who does her best on the history test, even though she hasn’t made over a C on a test all year.  The boy who goes out for the football team again, even though he hasn’t made the team the last two years.

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.  Which is kind of the problem.  We assume that courage looks more like the knight in shining armor than the boy who gets cut… again… from the football team.  Or that courage looks more like the woman who refused to move back a row on the bus, than the girl who refuses to give up trying in school.  But, in many ways, the everyday, ordinary, doesn’t-even-feel-like-it courage is the harder kind.  Because it’s the kind you have to deal with every single day.  Day in and day out.  Time after time after time.  Never ending.  At least with the knight, if he doesn’t succeed it’s all over – because he’s dead.  Or the woman on the bus – she had no idea that day when she woke up that she was going to make history that day.  It wasn’t in her plans.  Promise.

The thing is though, if you’re NOT courageous in the day-to-day stuff, like school, or work, or whatever is hard for you, than when it comes to facing the dragon or the witch or the burning building, you’re not going to be ready for it.  Because you haven’t practiced.  Courage takes practice.  Every day, don’t give up, keep trying, keep pushing, practice.  Courage isn’t going to suddenly burst from you when the huge, life-or-death, history-making hard stuff comes by if you’re not practicing it in your day-to-day life.  You have to practice it in your day-to-day life!!!!  The everyday, little stuff counts!

So, what does daily courage look like?  It looks like going to school even though it’s not fun or easy.  It looks like trying to get along with your family.  It looks like facing the daily grind with a smile.  It looks like hoping things will be different this time, even though history says they shouldn’t be.  It looks like gently confronting a friend, telling them how what they are doing is hurting you, or how they’re hurting themselves.  It looks like being willing to deal with the elephant in the room, to deal with the awkwardness that is, for whatever reason, between you and someone else.    It means facing the hard, uncomfortable stuff – not avoiding it.

It’s easy to avoid stuff.  Unfortunately, it’s also cowardly.  And, well, while being a coward feels more comfortable in that moment – it’s only for that moment.  It actually steals little tiny bits of you at a time, because God didn’t make you a coward.  With Him, through Him, you’re supposed to be bold and courageous (that’s in the Bible).  Being a coward means denying who you were created to be.

So, go say the hard stuff.  Say “hi”.  Workout and practice throwing all year, and try out for that football team – again.  Study your heart out, Dear, and do your best on that next History test.  Have the courage to hope that when you go talk to your boss about that thing, it’s going to be different this time.  Believe that God is who He says He is, that He’ll do what He promises…even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

That is courage.

And it is, ladies and gentlemen, incredibly important.

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Stop and watch the leaves

DSCN4566

I am crazy busy right now.  Midterms are in two weeks, but because of papers and other projects and youth group stuff and friends, I haven’t even really begun to start studying.  That will change this evening.

I’m not complaining about my life.  I’m enjoying every second of it – maybe more than I have in years.  I love my classes.  I love my friends and where our relationships are right now.  I love my beautiful teen women and can see God doing so much in them.

But I am busy.  Granted, I am always busy, generally, but this is more than normal.  I’m having to schedule things that I normally don’t schedule.  I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to.  And any ability to just drop things and go do something because I have time to do what I was going to do now, later – is just gone.

And, to be honest, I hate that part.  I feel like I’m running in circles.  I’m actually pretty worried about falling behind and never being able to get back on top of everything.  It’s not good.

It’s in moments like this – moments of chaos and uncertainty  – it is these moments that surround the verse in Psalms 46 – when God commands us to “be still”.  Now, sometime in the future I fully intend on doing a study on that word and verse, but for now, simply knowing “be still” is enough.

Granted, I can’t really “be still” right now.  Not physically.  But my spirit can be.  My spirit can abide in Christ, and trust that He’s got my back, that’s He’s protecting me and working in me through all the crazy stuff that is my life right now.   The problem is, I’m not any good at that.  So, I get to work on it.  Which is okay; He has definitely given me the perfect setting to do just that!

Especially when He helps you.  For me, there is nothing like a calm, peaceful Autumn afternoon, hanging out by running water, taking pictures of the beauty around me.  There is very little like a good conversation with a close friend, to remind me to abide.  To slow me down.  To give my soul room to sigh, smile, and bask in His goodness.

Which is exactly what He did for me Saturday afternoon.  Sometimes He hijacks what you think you’re doing, and you discover He’s done so much you didn’t expect.

So, look for your moments, your things He has given you that remind you to slow down.  Those things that give you peace.   Those activities that revitalize you.  And remember to breathe, to smile,  and just look around you.  The Earth, especially this time of year, is gorgeous.  It’s a great reminder.

 

Psalm 46: 9 – 11
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.    Selah

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Expect Perfection

Hello, my name is Amy, and I’m a broken Christian.

When churches mention building projects, because of my past history with them, everything inside me shrinks, and thinks, “Here we go again; in a couple years, we’ll be another sad, cautionary tale, that, apparently, no one will listen too, because they’ll still be doing the same thing”.  Which, of course, isn’t always true.  It just has been in my personal past.

When a man smiles extra-friendly-like at me, I don’t see it.  Or I pretend not to see and walk away quickly. I’m not sure how to handle flirting from a stranger.  I’ve been pretty hurt in this area before – mostly by my own inner thoughts.

When a man gets angry around me…everything in me shuts down and wants to find a blanket to cover my head with and a corner to hide in.   I don’t speak peace into the situation; I run and hide.

When someone asks me to do something, my immediate, gut response is “yes” – whether or not I can or have time to do it.  I HATE saying “no”.  This is not healthy or always helpful.

I don’t respect and appreciate my body as much as I should…mostly because it’s never worked the way everyone else’s seems to.   Still, I should love it more; it is, after all, a pretty amazing gift.

I cringe at some worship songs, and sing others too freely.

I sometimes try to manipulate God by praying extra hard or promising to do something (or to never do something again).  This is not very respectful or very faith-full.

I don’t always stand up for those I love.  I’m not sure why; I just instantly freeze.  I think of ten responses a half hour later.

I take God, His goodness, His grace for granted.

I don’t expect His justice enough.  Or respect His righteousness enough.

I get angry…and then suppress it.

I am not always as respectful to my father as I should be.

I sometimes waste money and time.

Sometimes I use people.  I never mean to though, not that this fact makes my usage any better.

I often let my thoughts wander to places that I shouldn’t.  If, according to Jesus, thinking about something is as bad as actually doing it, I’m in trouble.

 

I am not perfect.  And as much as I would love to say some day I will be, I don’t actually think that’s possible…at least, not until heaven.  But I wish people wouldn’t expect us to be perfect anyway.  Christians expect other Christians to be perfect, and then tear each other apart when we aren’t.  The world expects Christians to be perfect (perhaps because we expect it of ourselves?), and then gets mad at us when we’re not.

But see, the thing is, Jesus never calls us to perfection – He calls us to imitate Him.  And yes, He was perfect, so you could make that jump.  But I think it’s important that we don’t.  You can be “perfect” and live nothing like Christ – the Pharisees came pretty close.  We are called to be like Christ, which is, to live a holy, righteous, God-focused life.  Which, of course,  due to the disposition towards sin that Adam and Eve so generously gave every human who ever lived, means that living a truly, entirely, holy life is impossible.

And this is why we need Jesus, and His sacrifice on the cross.  Because we aren’t good enough to enter into the presence of God the Father without Jesus’ precious, perfect blood.  Because we’re sinful.  Because we’re imperfect and broken.

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of this.  To be reminded that we’re not perfect – and so we can’t expect anyone around us to be perfect.  We forget this so often.  WE CAN’T EXPECT ANYONE AROUND US TO BE PERFECT.  So give them a little extra grace, because God gave you A LOT of extra grace.  And remember that you’re not perfect.  You’re broken.  And while that’s awful and separates you from God, it’ll work out okay in the end.  Jesus has got you covered.   Literally.

Hi, I’m Amy, and I’m an imperfect Christian.

 

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