The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Fearless?

June 1, 2008


Today, I was declared fearless. It was meant to be a compliment and I took it as so. But it also made me think: am I really fearless? Or do I just come off that way?

Looking at me today, you might think I have no fear. I am learning how to ride a bike, stumbling and crashing. I am learning how enjoy hiking, breaking into this with a six-mile hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. This from a girl who’s last hike was about five years ago in the very flat terrain of Wisconsin. Last weekend, I went rock climbing for the first time. I managed to scale about three quarters of the way up a twenty-foot rock. As a badge of honor I have scrapes and bruises on both my knees and my elbows, mostly from sliding down the face of the rock on the way up and slamming into it a couple of times on the way down.

Yet in all of these activities, I have been filled with fear. I fear falling down, breaking bones, splitting my head open. I fear looking stupid, being unable to follow instructions, to master what comes easily to others. I fear the embarrassment of freaking out, showing how my fear can rule and overcome me.

When it comes to the emotional realm, my fears are often overwhelming. I fear that I am unlikeable. I fear that I am boring. I fear rejection. I fear abandonment. I fear loneliness. I fear being too much. I fear being too little. I fear shame. And most of all, I fear humiliation.

Often, I assume that fear is a negative thing. Fear is filled with lies, it is something grown out of falsehood. Fear is what holds me back. Fear keeps me trapped in my comfort zone. Fear is something that at worst, I have to ignore and at best I get to overcome.

In reality, fear is an innate response to danger. It is a signal that something is wrong, that something is threatening our well-being and safety. Fear is a good thing. Without fear, we would not recognize danger and would plunge headlong into situations that could harm us.

Recently, I went through journal entries from the past six months. In each entry, I kept praying to God about one specific fear. I prayed as if my fear was a sign that I didn’t trust God enough, hear God enough, spend time with God enough. When the very thing that I feared came true, I was horrified. I wondered if somehow by fearing this thing I had given it life and permission to become reality.

These days, I’m wondering if my specific fear was actually a signal that something was indeed very wrong. My fear was telling me something very important. It wasn’t something to ignore, it wasn’t something to be overcome. It was something to listen to and to address.

That’s the thing I’m learning about fear. Look it in the eye and it does one of two things – if it is indeed false, it goes away. If it is real, it will tell you something about yourself.

So no, I am not fearless. I don’t really want to be. My hope instead is that I consider all my fears carefully and look them in the eye. My guess is that nine times out of ten, my fears would have been unfounded and that the lies they grow in, with much prayer and petition, will be dispelled.

It’s that tenth time that I want to be paying careful attention to. Because sometimes, when fear comes knocking, it has something very important to say.

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