Are you scared? Because I am. Sometimes it seems like I’m scared every single day, like fear defines me more than any other single emotion. In the past 12 months (but before then too) I’ve been scared of the following:
- Rejection by peers, family, and friends
- Being wrong
- Being hurt
- Being made fun of or made to look stupid for some stance I took
- Making the wrong parenting decision
- Making the wrong choices in my theology
- Making the wrong choices period.
And I bet you have been too.
But the thing that seems scariest of all to me is admitting I was afraid. Admitting that the full force of my confidence didn’t rest behind every decision that I made. I think I was brought up this way, but not intentionally. And not by any one person or institution. I was taught to feel this way by everything around me.
In interviews promoting a new movie, celebrities don’t express concern that maybe people won’t like this movie. Pastors don’t express fear that maybe they’re wrong about this point of doctrine. Parents don’t admit that sometimes making decisions for your kid feels like you’re jumping off a cliff with no parachute. You can go your whole life without hearing anyone utter those two words: I’m scared.
For the most part, the communities we’re part of don’t encourage this kind of fear. Friends get uncomfortable if things get too raw. Churches want to salve everything with just the right verses. Experts–take your pick–want to cite studies to justify any choice you make. And the internet is, of course, the great explainer.
After all that, who could be scared?
But this is me, saying it out loud for anyone that might need to hear it. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to have doubts. It’s ok to be confident too. But no one is all the time, even if they won’t admit it. Even Jesus seems to have some trepidation about his own crucifixion–”Let this cup pass”–and right now I’m having fears that this is stepping on someone’s theological toes. Denying we’re scared only locks us into patterns of destructive and damaging behavior–”Everything is fine; I’m the problem.” It sticks inside of us, it boils in our hearts, until there’s really nothing there but fear. And that’s when we put on the biggest smiles and carry the biggest Bibles, and shout the loudest Amens. Because no one can ever know.
The people who care about you will still care if you tell them the truth. They’ll still care if they think you’re making a wrong move. They’ll still care if you break down crying and can’t stop. Everyone does, sometimes. That’s when you find out who’s really there for you, who will stand with you when your soul is busted open and trembling, and simply say, “I’m here. You matter.” They’ll pray without forcing you to be ok. They’ll listen without offering a placebo. And they’ll be there when the fear ends, or even if it doesn’t. That’s perfect love. And it’s the only remedy for fear I know.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.