Fearless (Part II)
The evening was winding down. I was still upset over my earlier decision to drive downtown as if it was somehow significant, and my idiocy on the roads. Driving down a one-way street? Good thing you didn’t have to pass a driving test to get into Seminary. Just thinking about Seminary made my pulse go up, and I moved to couch and flicked on the TV. I was procrastinating, but I wasn’t in shape to answer any more emails.
I’d begun to think of some of the things I’d written to people, and I began to wonder, not for the first time, what I was doing. What if I gave someone bad advice? What if I misrepresented God? What if they realize I’m not who they think I am? And what if I caved and fell into sexual sin, all the while talking about abstinence. The questions began to ricochet in my mind like tiny daggers, each time drawing blood. I turned the TV off, listening to the silence. I stared at the piles of books on my shelves, many of which I’d kept since my time in ministry. Theology. Counseling. Discipleship.
“I can’t do it, Lord. I can’t. I will mess it all up. Use someone else, Lord, please. I am not strong enough.”
My voice rang hollow in the empty apartment. Nothing but silence. I remembered a verse in Corintians where the Apostle Paul said that he boasted of his weaknesses so that Christ's power would shine on him. Pah. That was rubbish. People didn't need weakness. They needed strength in their leaders. And i didn't have the strength to be MORE.
The silence began to weigh me down. And then, inside my heart echoed a soft voice. It wasn’t audible, but I could hear it as clearly as if I was speaking to someone on the phone.
“I haven’t called you to be MORE. I have called you to be honest.”
A weight fell over my chest and shoulders, which sounds crazy, but I could feel it. I’d always understood that being a Christian held some mystical qualities, but I’d grown cynical about the “presence of God”, which seemed to happen more in front of TV cameras these days then anywhere else. Or with some polished preacher with a cleft chin and slicked hair talking about it in his five thousand dollar suit.
I thought about my fears, which had plagued me for so long. Fear of failure. Fear of hurting those around me. Fear of being selfish. Fear of trying new things. And most of all, the fear of not becoming who I was supposed to be, the fear of failing the One who made me. I felt my insides well up and begin to choke. A few nights before I’d had a long chat with a friend of mine that had ended in tears about my inability and my sadness over feeling like a failure.
And then, as if the Almighty had reached down and wrapped me in His arms, I began to feel warm. This was crazy I thought. But I stayed where I was, and confessed to my Hero that I was so very afraid. Afraid of disappointing him and the people around me. Afraid of not being the man I should be, or could be. Afraid that I would never have what I hoped for, afraid that I would end up alone.
I stopped when I realized that I’d been praying aloud. And I heard His Voice in the silence.
That was it. No other answers or impressions, except the strong sense that the King of Kings had heard my cries, and that He understood. I wasn’t alone. I sat in silence for another twenty minutes. My hands were shaking. Finally I pushed myself up from the couch and went into the kitchen to get a glass of water.
I had long worried that a foray back into the ministry would not be right for me, because I’d understood the fears that had built up inside me over the years. And I knew how easily it was for me to become proud, to not ask people around me for help, and how much I enjoyed the attention of other people looking at me for answers. And mixed into that cocktail of pride was the genuine fear of not being strong enough or wise enough to be who God had called me to be.
I made a quick decision, grabbed my keys and wallet and headed out of the apartment. I was not sure what time would bring, and I knew that along the way I would offend some people in my quest for transparency. I’d seen so many people, who like me had allowed fear to dominate their lives. Not this time, I thought, not this time. I started thinking about the possibilities of the future, and by the time I had unlocked my car my chest felt lighter.
We all know that we are only human, and for some of us, that is an easy thing to accept. For some of us, our pride wants more. But we all struggle with fear, don’t we? Whatever those fears are, they can so easily destroy the life that God wants for us. Not because we’re not good enough or because we sin too much, but maybe its because we don’t believe enough. We don’t believe that God really wants what’s best for us. We don’t really believe that He understands how difficult life can be. And instead of judging by His eternal, grace-filled standards, we judge according to our own proud and fallen nature, and allow these fears to control us. But that which we hide, that which we don’t face, will eventually emerge from the shadows, and when it does, what will we do then?
The sun had almost fallen, the shadows deepened alongside the car. I backed out, my heart pounding, but for now at least, my hands were steady. A small chuckle emerged from lips at my own silly fear. Later, I would answer the emails. For now, it was time to head back downtown, and see if I could go the right way this time…
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." -2 Timothy 1:7