Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Breathe {inspiration for Wednesdays}

A few years ago for Lent I was trying to figure out what I could give up for a fast or as a discipline.  When nothing really came to mind, I had a crazy idea...I would ask God what He wanted me to give up.  Since, for those of us who observe the Lenten season, the point is God, I thought He might have an opinion on the matter.  What happened next made me seriously question that line of thinking...(just kidding!!)

I can remember sitting in the car outside the church waiting to go in to the Ash Wednesday service.  At this point I was kind of frustrated because I didn't have a plan for what the next 40 days were going to look like.  I remember saying "God...what do you want me to give up?" with a tone of frustration in my voice.  The answer (though not audible) fell upon me like a massive weight.  "Fear, Tara....I want you to give up fear."

Now, you may not be a believer in God and you can call my experience whatever you want, but I will tell you that nowhere inside my mind was the word "fear" even lurking.  Sure...chocolate or coffee were ideas I had been kicking around, as well as abstaining from TV...but fear was just not on the radar.  However, when the words were spoken to me, though my body cringed, my heart affirmed the message with a resounding "yes!".

And so began my 40 day journey of choosing to not live in fear.  Each time I was confronted with a situation that I just wanted to run away from, I stood my ground and did not let fear dictate how I would live.  (Let me say this...I am not talking about that "this-is-really-creepy-and-I-should-get-out-of-here-now" fear that is beneficial and we should all listen to.  These fears that were exposed were more like fear of trying something new, or fear of what other people might think of me, or fear of failure/not being perfect.)

I write all this, because in the last couple of weeks I feel like I am in that place again.  I have had to step into situations that cause me to fear and I've had to not listen to its shrill voice.  I had to attend a birthday party all alone where the only person I knew was the "birthday girl"; I didn't know who would talk to me, if I would connect with anyone there, or (on a practical note) even if I could navigate my way to the event.  (See...I have a stick shift car and I really don't like driving it in Seattle-proper!!  What seems like 45 degree angles are just not really fun when you have someone so close behind you can see the whites of their eyes in your rear view mirror!!  It really freaks me out!!)  I also did a photo session that was different from anything else I have ever done...I was fearful I wouldn't do a good job and fearful of what others might think about it.  (And that's just a couple of things...)

What I am learning in the midst of all this "fear" is that I have the option to shut down, numb myself and avoid the discomfort altogether.  I actually think I am really good at that!!  However, what I am also learning is that when I take that route, I make life less than it is, I stop living from my heart, and I lose touch with the texture of life.  (From a different perspective, when I give in to fear, I am also doing the exact opposite of what God said to me!!)  I also realize that when I stop long enough to stand in the fear (and even move into it), I can ask questions about it and I learn a lot about where it comes from in me.  I am pleasantly surprised to say when I stop running away from fear, my identity as one who is fearful begins to dissolve...and subsequently can't hold me as tightly in its grip as it once did!

I don't enjoy everything that I attempt in fear and to be honest, I may never do it again...BUT I am learning how much I do not want fear to be my prison.  I would rather fail at something that scares me than to be bound and paralyzed by it.  There is a quote that I really like (and makes me laugh)..."In the garden of gentle sanity, may you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness".  That is what fear does in my life (and I would expect yours too!).  It wakes us up and calls us away from comfort, but it also invites into place we've never been - new sights, new textures, new experiences in life!!

May we all be a little less fearful this week by going and doing something that scares us!!

Breathe, smile and go slowly.

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