Some things are bigger than ourselves. There are forces at work we are not able to see.
Conditions begin to align, phone calls come seemingly out of nowhere, chance meetings occur in random locations.
The dots, which have always been present, are finally connected and the complete picture comes into focus, the picture they’ve been making all along.
The timing is right, the tumblers click into place and it is clear that the idea should move forward. It does so almost under its own momentum.
In those times, we have a choice. Will we continue to mention the idea when the conversation opens the opportunity? Or will we ignore the opening, ignore the possibility? Will we make that phone call and allow the person on the other end to make his own decision, or will we make the decision for him without him even knowing?
Mentioning, calling, speaking up — these are scary things. Our hearts race, our body temperatures rise just considering the act.
But I think this is more than just being scared. It’s a deeper fear than that. It isn’t focused so much on the action but on the actor.
It’s about us. It’s about me.
Getting Caught Up in the Fear
We can keep our fear at arm’s length if we stay focused on the action we’re considering, rather than the why behind the feeling of fear. If we stay focused on the foreground of the picture, the action of taking that step or initiating that process can receive our energy and attention. If we re-focus, however, the thing that shows up in the picture is not the action; it’s the identity and the fear of being found lacking. Many times the nerves about a specific action stem from an internal fear about ourselves. We’re in an argument with ourselves.
The argument goes something like this:
1. I’ve got this great idea.
2. I’ve run this idea past some trusted people in my life, and they think it is more than just a passing whim.
3. I know some next steps that could make this idea a reality, or at least take it from just being in my head to being out in the world.
4. When I think about this idea, nothing in my spirit gives me reason for concern. If anything, when I consider what God would think about the idea, I feel like He would give it His endorsement.
5. Doing something with the idea is intimidating. It is a new thing, something that requires me to take action in a new way.
6. The questions of “what if” start to rise. What will happen if the idea is met with resistance?
7. The questions of my own value and qualifications start to rise: who do I think I am to pursue this idea?
8. Those questions continue to gain silent momentum, camouflaging themselves as weak spots in the plan to move forward/ They often appear as hindrances to the success of the idea.
9. If left unattended, these doubts and insecurities will undermine any further steps. The idea will fall away and become one more hairbrained scheme I came up with, one more plan that didn’t work out. This will only serve to fuel the questions of value and qualification the next time an idea presents itself. The cycle will repeat.
We quell the momentum, kick ashes on the embers and let fear keep us from adventure. We don’t allow God to fill in the holes where we can’t do it ourselves. We exclude ourselves before we even get started. It’s one thing to be smart and press a plan to find any weak spots in it, and not all ideas are good ones. However, it is another to let our inner doubts keep us from undertaking anything with an unknown outcome.
Where Do You Need to Step Out?
I’m going to share some specifics but insert your own situations, dreams, goals, etc. in place of mine, okay?
There are two possibilities on the horizon for me, particularly as my husband and I consider what things are going to look like this fall, when all three of our kids will be in school the whole day. One possibility is a longer-shot in my mind, and involves selling certain one-of-a-kind items online. The other possibility, which is closer to my heart, involves helping others discover a different form of prayer that centers on visual expression.
In both of these, there are strong indicators that I’m not just talking myself into the idea. Outside sources have provided good feedback and doing these activities brings me joy.
But I’m scared.
These are new endeavors, and I can’t present myself as an expert in any way. But at the same time, they have been so naturally developed, and come as such an outflowing of my interests and experiences up to this point, I feel like they draw on my eclectic interests and background. That makes me the right person to pursue them.
But I’m scared.
I don’t want to give anyone false impressions about my qualifications, my training or degrees. I don’t want to have the impression about myself that the things I would sell look awesome and are meaningful, only to find they look juvenile or wholly amateur to the skilled professional. I am afraid I’ll invest time and energy and nothing will come of it, thus feeding my reputation (even if its only in my mind…but I’m pretty sure it’s public) of pursuing crazy ideas only to have them fall apart.
See what I mean? Ultimately, it’s not even about the activity, it’s about what the activity says about ME.
Does this sound at all familiar?
Send Up Tiny Flames
Did you ever see that creepy part of the Lord of the Rings movies where they’re crossing that terrible bog? There had been a huge battle long ago, and the bodies of the dead were still intact, just under the surface of the water. Sometimes little flames would appear on the top of the water. If any unfortunate travelers followed these lights, they’d go the wrong direction.
Let’s take that creepiness, flip it into its opposite, and use it for our own purposes.
Let’s see a peaceful day, warm breezes, no mosquitos, the sun shining gently on our backs. Each person gets their own expansive, healthy marsh, teeming with life and energy.
Let’s see all our gifting and interests as beautiful rock formations under the water, gleaming and precious. Any one of these would be a gift in itself, and their minerals enrich the quality of the entire water system. These rocks slowly change shape over time, much like a stalagmite (or is it stalactite?) would do.
Occasionally a small flame appears on the surface of the water. The flames indicate a healthy environment and a path that will bring the best views. We can follow these flames, and in doing so, discover the development of our gifts and interests, using them in new ways when they are at a proper stage. Along the way, we can bring a gem up out of the water before it’s fully formed, but if we wait, we fill find that gems which have been allowed to fully develop — these are the most beautiful and healthy. The small flames show us which way to go as we enjoy our walk through the picturesque summer wetland.
What passions of yours are sending up little flames for you right now? What direction are the tiny lights guiding you?
Fight through the Fear
We can ignore the indicators in our lives, of course, and get along fine. However, I think we are at our most fulfilled when we heed our passions and interests, even when they shift. We are not statues — we change and develop over time, even in adulthood. What worked for us ten years ago may not work for us now. That’s not a sign of weakness or flightiness; that’s growth. Even if we take incremental steps, working smart and being conscientious, we can still be attentive to that internal appetite that desires fulfillment through using our own uniqueness.
So take that risk. Be bold. Be brave. You can do it. And when you do, you’ll have more ammunition against fear the next time around.
I can’t wait to hear about the ways you’re fighting through the fear. What risks are you taking lately? In what areas are you growing and how? Inspire the rest of us with your bravery!