I think I write a lot about fear, or about experiencing it. They say to write about what you know: I have spent a good chunk of my life experiencing fear, listening to the fear voices. I have feared the bad opinion of others. I have feared rejection. I have feared the most irrational things: when I was on intensive voice rest last spring, I was afraid I would never sing again (In hindsight, I can tell you that this was not only silly, but also false). Fear is a pretty normal part of any adventure. Everyone experiences the fear voices. I can think of many instances in The Lord of the Rings where the characters were terrified. But the fact that everyone experiences it doesn't make it any easier to bear. Nor does realizing that your fear is unfounded mean you'll suddenly stop being afraid.
In my own experience, what I fear is usually directly connected to the things that I crave. I love music so much, and I want to be so good at it, that I fear the opinions that say I'm no good at all. I crave real, true community on such a deep, spiritual level that more often than not, I will shy away from community because I don't want to be rejected by those I seek out -- or don't seek out. I think it's easier for me to reject them than to be rejected by them. If you're reading this and you say, "Sara, that makes no sense," you're right. But fear doesn't care about what makes sense. Fear doesn't always reflect reality -- but it does always reflect our hearts.
We listen to the fear voices because we think they know. You don't want to be rejected? Here is a surefire way to never ever be rejected: never connect with anyone. EVER. That's not wrong -- but it's also not really living. When I am not connected to those around me, I sense an emptiness -- something is missing. When I am overly concerned about others' opinions -- of my singing, writing, or anything -- I miss out on the joy I get from doing any of those things. I have a history of worrying about what other people think of my performances. That worry sucks all the joy out of performing, 100% of the time.
I am learning that it is better to live dangerously and be fully alive than to be safe. I am learning that I would rather be vulnerable and exposed, willing to give a piece of myself away to others, than cower behind my perfectionist façade. Perfectionism is really a place to hide -- hide from rejection and the opinions of others, hide behind your schedule and your planner and your discipline and your on-top-of-it-ness. Maybe, just maybe, if they see that, they won't see that underneath, you're terrified that you'll be found out and that you're just as scared as the rest of them. Maybe even more so.
In my experience, people receive that façade if you present it strongly enough. I can't tell you how many times people have complimented me on "having it all together." Those words leave a bad taste in my mouth. I don't want to have it all together, because that's not my heart. My heart is made of music and dreaming and words and adventure and sunrises and joy and Jesus. My heart isn't perfectionism. That's just a tool I've adopted to shield myself from harm -- because I've listened to the fear voices. Perfectionism and fear are so deeply entwined -- to suffer from the first is to suffer from the second. So if I don't want to be known for my perfectionism -- if I want people to know my heart -- I have to be willing to let go of my fear. I have to walk into the fear and believe that I will be okay even if the whole shebang comes crashing down around my head.
How do I do that? How do we do that?
In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul tells Timothy that "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." Some translations say "power and love and a sound mind." What does that mean? It means that whether you feel like it or not, whether you believe it or not, God has made you bold and brave, and you get to live in that identity whether you feel courageous or you're so terrified you'd like to die. God in His grace and wisdom has declared once and for all that you are safe and secure in Him: nothing can separate us from Him, or snatch us out of His hand -- and because of this, you get to choose whether or not you listen to the fear voices. It doesn't mean you won't feel fear, but it does mean that you get to tell the fear that it's a liar.
I don't think I'm ever going to have a day I don't feel fear. But as I walk with God, write about what's going on in my heart, and connect with a community that loves me, I discover more and more that I have a choice: listen to the fear and hide in a safe prison of my own making, or step out in faith that Jesus is going to catch me if I end up falling flat on my face. I want to do the second thing.
Lord, may we step out in courage today. May we refuse to listen to the fear voices. May we remember that You have made us bold and brave, and even if we don't feel like it, may we be willing to try it out, to taste and see that You and the abundant life You offer are so, so good. May we come out from hiding and really live.