Fear as a comfort? You might be questioning my sanity. Everyone has at least one fear they can put to words whether it’s fear of heights, fear of the dark, fear of small tight spaces, etc. Those of us who’ve lived through and survived various types of abuses might have more emotional or internal fears that are harder to pinpoint but the feeling, when pressed, is definitely fear.
I’ll get back to the harder to explain fears in a second, first I want to make my point of the ‘comfort’ of fear with an example everyone might understand. My fear of heights, for instance. If I’m asked to step at the top a step ladder my legs get shaky and my stomach churns. Stepping to close to the edge of a bridge or holding on to a railing of a balcony that is 10 stories up and looking down causes my imagination to crumble with irrational negative outcomes. (What if the railing were to break in that second? What if a gust of wind came and knocked me over the edge?)
Eventually I learned to stop going to the edge of high places, it became a habit to never look down if I had to cross a bridge or hang out on a top floor balcony, and if asked to do something by getting on a ladder I’d conveniently re-delegate the task to someone else without calling attention to my fear.
I got comfortable with my fear and missed out on many once in a lifetime opportunities. One I regret the most is crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. My entire group dawned the safety outfits, hooked up to one another and to the railing and did the emphasis climb. They said the views were inspiring, breathtaking, amazing. And I missed it.
What was my real fear?
On that trip in Sydney I was leading a group of young adults on a pilgrimage to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. I was their spiritual leader and yet I couldn’t trust God with my life to experience the beauty HE created? I let the comfort of my fear cage me in.
From that moment missed I have made a conscious effort to forgo the comfort of the ‘cage of safety’ and have actively (because it has had to be a true active decision with much much prayer on my part) trusted God with His plan for my life. If His plan is to allow me to fall from a 10 story building or be swept off the edge of a bridge then so be it. If am to walk my walk and talk my talk then I believe that when it IS my time that my purpose here is finished and my reward is waiting for me with HIM.
I took my ‘bravado’ in this matter to the ultimate test one year ago when I decided to zip line in Mexico. We were hundreds of feet up…above the tallest trees…and with each zip line it got higher and higher.
The comfort of that cage was calling me back down those first set of stairs. Tears burned the back of my throat as my excuses began to bombard my thoughts. My desire to forgo the comfort won and my trust in His plan gave me courage.
It wasn’t just about the fear of heights…this ultimate test for me was proving to myself I could conquer the more difficult fears – the ones that are more difficult to express. Like fear of intimacy with the ones I love, fear of failure or abandonment, or even the fear to trust.
When the fear is hard to express because of deep wounds that were impressed upon us by others that cage of comfort is often the very space that helped us to survive. Our cage of comfort is our home and everything outside of that comfort zone is considered a threat. As we mature and move through the healing process we begin to see that there is an entire world outside of that cage of fear we’ve become accustomed. We realize how much we are missing out, that instead of surviving we are slowly re-victimizing ourselves when we need to be thriving.
Speaking from personal experience I can attest to this in regards to my fear of intimacy. Last year when I was proving to myself I could conquer my fear of heights I really wanted to prove I could bust through the more fortified cage I’d built around my ability to let others in completely.
What I learned from zip lining was to trust in Him. And what I’m learning this year is God knew best that I would sit inside my cage of comfort holding the key He had given me, and not be able to open the door. God has taken an opportunity to take something bad and make good of it by opening that cage and dragging me out by my hand, with the key still clutched safely in my fist.
Now I stand on the outside looking into what intimacy really looks like. I know I am safe, trusting in God’s plan for me, but I fight the hesitation to step forward into a world of Godly experiences with the ones I love. It is one small step at a time. I am trying. I know one day I will step far enough away from the cage and hopefully never look back. But just in case, God gave me the key, it is safely in my hand. If for some reason I find myself in that cage again I have the means to leave.
What cage of fear has kept you from experiencing the life you deserve? That’s the first step, recognize the fear, acknowledge it, ask God to help you use the key He’s given you to be free and if you can’t, hold on tight because He just might drag you out. 😉
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