If I wanted to chronicle all of the things that are different now as opposed to when I was eighteen or eight, I would start with all of the obvious things: I weighed less, ran more, had more energy, slept more, slept less, ate more candy, was a LOT more emotional. But the things that’s been weighing on me more and more since I’ve been pondering my upcoming trip is “I used to be fearless.” When I say “fearless,” I mean that stupid, “why weren’t you ever snatched/kidnapped?” fearless, that “you went where and did what by yourself when?” fearless. Now…not so much.
As a kid/teenager, I walked or biked everywhere. You couldn’t convince me to accept a ride. I loved putting on a pair of headphones, cranking the volume up to “I can’t hear a bus horn or a predator” loud, and set out, usually with a backpack slung across my back (had to hold the books, CDs, and candy). I walked to the library across town. I walked to the ice cream shop at the other end of town. I walked up and down the East side. I even walked to church through the South side. When I went to high school, I walked from the north side all the way home twice (I got picked up once) after school. When I went to private school, I went from one campus to the other on foot. When I went to college (all three colleges, LOL), I walked all over campus, day or night, well lit or dark, steets full or deserted. Whether it rained, snowed, or was 90 degrees, I was outside walking, running, or biking…all day.
During all of this time, despite pleas from friends and family, despite having common sense and self-preservation, I never thought about the very real possibility that I could be snatched, raped, killed. I always believed in the goodness of other people. I smiled and waved at everyone I saw along the way, then completely ignored them as the next song that played caught my attention. I was oblivious to what was going on around me. It’s a miracle nothing ever happened to me.
Now, I don’t think you could pay me to walk in half the neighborhoods I routinely strutted around, especially once it started to get dark. It’s not that they are any less safe (they weren’t the safest places then, either). It’s not that the people have changed. It’s that the switch has finally been thrown in my head that says, “this isn’t safe. Why are you doing this?” I now realize the danger. I watch everyone I see, judging whether or not I could take them if they tried to grab me. If I have to go on foot, I hurry to where I’m going. I’m not fearless or invincible. To be honest, I’m scared witless.
Maybe you’ve lost your fearlessness, too. Maybe you are no longer jumping off of cars and roofs, playing in the street, forgoing protection when you sleep with someone. Maybe you’ve stopped leaving home in 50 degree weather without a coat on or going out in 90 degree weather without sunblock. It makes sense that you have. It’s a natural part of growing up to begin to make smarter choices, to limit your exposure to unnecessary risk and possible injury. But we shouldn’t swing from fearlessness into fear.
It would be sad for me to go home and be afraid to walk to the corner store. It would be sad for me to want to run or take a walk, but I’m too afraid of what may happen when I walk out the door. I wouldn’t want to be afraid to leave my apartment from dusk to dawn. Sometimes you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
God has not given us a spirit of fear. What does that mean to you? For me, it means that being cautious and alert isn’t the same as being fearful. There are times that we can’t be certain of the outcome, times when there is risk involved. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.
There’s a parable in the book of Matthew about a lord who goes away on a trip (Matt 25:14-30). He calls his servants and give them each some talents (the NIV specifies bags of gold) to oversee while he’s gone. One is given five talents, one is given two talents, and one is given one talent. The two with five and two talents invest their talents and are able to present their lord with more double what he left them with at his return. The servant with one talent, afraid of the master’s wrath should he lose the talent, decides to bury it until his lord returns. The lord is not pleased with this at all. He tells the servant that he should have put it through the exchange and been able to present the talent with interest to his lord. He takes the one talent from him and gives it to the servant with ten talents. It’s all about what you do with the talents you’ve been entrusted with.
In order to gain, we have to risk something. Fear can keep us from gaining and attaining. We can become so afraid to lose what we have, the very thing we are trying to hold onto, as well as things we don’t even realize we need, can be lost to us. This happens in relationships when we compromise our values and ideals because we are afraid to lose someone. This happens when we miss out on career opportunities because we are afraid to leave the comfortable job we have. This happens with our dreams, when we are so afraid to set out after them that we never get close enough to touch them.
So, once I get back to my hometown, I’m going for a walk/run. I’m going to visit friends and family. I’m going to enjoy myself and stay out past my (usual) bedtime. I’m going to be a little less afraid, a little more fearless. I’m not going to let fear keep me prisoner.
What fear are you going to overcome? What risks are you going to be willing to take to gain your reward?
I want to leave you with one of my favorite Their Eyes Were Watching God quotes, from the very beginning of the book. I think it sums everything up pretty well:
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon never out of sight never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
Here’s to acting accordingly!