I’m scared of the ocean. I’m not too proud to admit that to you. It is the literal home of animals that choose to eat humans.
I am a human. I do not want to be anything’s dinner.
For years, I have avoided the ocean for this reason. I have always loved going to the beach, and I am perfectly happy sitting on the sand or swimming in a pool. But swimming in the ocean, even as a thirty-something year old woman, just did not seem like a worthy risk.
Until last fall.
Twenty of my girlfriends and I took a weekend trip to the beach. Wives, mamas, hard working women, everybody left their babies and husbands and jobs and lives to take a short but sweet vacation together.
And on our first day at the beach, the waves were massive but manageable, and we wanted to play.
This situation immediately put my heart in conflict. Fun is a high priority to me, and the idea that all these friends who spend their lives serving others and caring for others were going to throw caution to the wind and play in the waves? Well, that’s all my dreams come true.
Also? All my nightmares come true because SHARKS.
Do I face my fears and play with my friends in the water or do I stay where I am, seated comfortably on the beach, and take a lot of hilarious pictures on my iPhone of my friends getting absolutely creamed by the waves?
. . . . .
It’s a silly example to be sure, but doesn’t it resonate with you when you think about your own fears and struggles?
The risk to quit your job and start a new career.
The risk of asking that woman on a date.
The risk of sharing your dreams.
They all look like they could be fun, like those big waves in the ocean, but what if there are sharks in the water?
Fear is always trying to whisper to you about how you should live your life, offering to decide for you how you want to spend your time, money, and heart.
And then that one opportunity comes around and you think, “this could be worth it. This could be the time that I’ll be glad I didn’t listen to my fears.”
. . . . .
But how do you decide, in that moment, if the risk is worth it?
1. Sift out the truth.
You’ve got to figure out what is true and what is a lie. In my situation, is it likely that a shark is going to eat me if I’m playing in the ocean with my friends, only up to my waist in crystal clear salt water? It’s not impossible, there’s a little risk, but it’s definitely not likely.
For all the daily risky decisions that you face, probably less of the oceanic type, you must find the truth, embrace it, and let the lies that fear whispers fall to the ground. We have the Bible to center us, to remind us what is true and what God’s ultimate plan is for our lives. We can turn there, any time, and find hope and direction and examples that can speak the true things into our stories.
But at times when the truth seems hard to find...
2. Invite others in
We were never meant to do this life alone. Whether that is your spouse or counselor or small group, we have to invite other people into our fears and let them help us identify truth where we can’t see it ourselves.
I sat on the beach with my friends that day and just said out loud, “we’re not going to get eaten, right?” with a little half smile on my face (and full panic in my heart).
“No. We aren’t.” Molly replied.
And that’s all I needed. I needed someone else to hear my fears and fight them with me. I wanted to stay right on that beach, to give up on swimming in the waves, but my people wouldn’t let fear win.
I was facetiming this morning with my little brother across the country. He asked a simple question and suddenly tears were in my eyes and I said outloud a fear that I had not previously been able to put into words. It didn’t change the situation, but it changed me to invite him into the sentences swirling in my head.
3. Look for lovely
And at some point, you just have to plug your ears to the fear voices and look around you. What is beautiful about the situation right before your eyes? Even on the hard days, can you find one little bit of beauty to help you hang on? Like a gas station in a cross country trip or a knot in the rope you are climbing, those moments will be what helps you hold on when it all feels to hard or the fear sounds too loud.
The girls and I ran out to the waves and for almost an hour we got tossed around, slammed to the bottom of the sea, and laughed our heads off. We jumped over waves like we were children and I lost my very favorite hat. But it was a beautiful afternoon.
I’ll never regret running out to the water with my girlfriends, making memories doing something we may not repeat again anytime soon. Even though it cost me my Boston Red Sox baseball cap, the risk was worth it. I’m glad I didn’t let the fear win.
Annie F. Downs, author of Looking For Lovely (April 5, 2016, B&H Books), is also a speaker and blogger based in Nashville, Tennessee. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. An author of three previous books - Let's All Be Brave, Perfectly Unique, andSpeak Love, Annie also loves traveling around the country speaking to young women, college students, and adults. Annie is a huge fan of bands with banjos, glitter, her community of friends, boiled peanuts, and football games. Read more at anniefdowns.com.
Publication date: May 9, 2016