We live according to many laws in our lives. As Christians, we adhere to a set of standards.
When you’re in school, things like red pen and raising your hand to go to the bathroom are normal – the laws of the land. But those laws are no match for the harshest laws of all…
The laws of the playground.
Do you remember the games you used to play? The names people would call each other? There’s a whole new way of speaking on the playground. ‘Groundies’ and ‘tap taps’ and ‘zaps’ and ‘cooties’ are all legitimate cultural norms. You either play by the rules or the rules play you. Those are your choices.
But to my recollection, there is one thing on the playground that you can never, ever be:
A scardie cat.
Kids do all kinds of wild things to prove that they’re not afraid. They’ll eat glue, talk back to the teacher, or touch the Bunsen burner in science class. They’ll talk to the girl, look like an idiot, or jump off the highest point on the playground – because no matter the consequences, having people see your fear would be far worse.
There are a million things that change when we get older, but one thing rises above the rest these days.
Somewhere along the line it became cool to be afraid.
We live our lives to avoid risk. We stay close to home—avoiding anything that we’re not sure of on the front end. We hate unknowns and shutter at uncertainty. We buy insurance policies and research everything—protecting ourselves and our families in every way possible. We put leashes on our kids, wont let them touch or eat anything, and I’m waiting for the day that we put railings on our big kid beds, just to be safe.
We do so much, spend so much time and energy (not to mention money), and avoid some of the best things in life, all in the name of ‘responsibility’—which on most days I think is just nicer way to say ‘fear.’
We love our ‘what ifs.’
We ask questions like …
“What if we fall short?”
“What if I’m rejected?”
“What if I don’t have enough money?”
“What if I fail?”
“What if he doesn’t love me?”
“What if we get hurt?”
… sitting paralyzed and bored out of our minds because we’re too afraid to do anything – heaven forbid something goes wrong.
Now, I would love to tell you that I’ve been parked primarily on the playground, that I’ve been reaching out for the best of life with hands wide open, palms up—ready. But that would be a lie.
For the last several months I’ve been camped out with a blanket over my head, in the company of the naysayers, the critics, and the pessimists.
I lost track of the wild, appreciative woman that God made me to be—the woman who sees beauty everywhere she looks and walks through every day to a soundtrack that only she seems to be able to hear. I’ve been transformed into a creature wholly other.
I’ve been shaky and tense—easily startled and often upset. I’ve been filled with fears, ignoring everything lovely around me and only focusing on the most terrifying of scenarios.
What if I heard God wrong?
What if I mess up his plan for me?
What if life isn’t the beautiful, miraculous thing I always believed it to be?
Instead of choosing a life of risk and courage, I chose a life of closed off, fear-filled safety.
I thought that being cautious and hidden would protect the beating, tender thing within me.
But instead, it isolated me. It felt like the sun had gone out and joy had been wiped away completely.
Blood was no longer coursing through my veins – lifeblood replaced by fear. I had myself locked up, hidden away, and protected – protected from any connection to love, or life, or joy.
But what I’m discovering as I punch in the code to the panic room is this: we don’t have to protect ourselves. God will.
We don’t have to build up a fortress around ourselves, because he’s there. We don’t need to protect ourselves from heartbreak or pain or even death, because even in the worst circumstances, he’s there comforting us and taking care of us.
In scripture, God tells us over and over to be strong and courageous – not to be afraid, that we haven’t been given a spirit of timidity. Perfect love casts out fear, and our God is defined by the perfection of his love.
Worst case scenarios don’t worry God. We don’t have to be afraid.
And it’s only when we unclench our jaws and release our death-grip, that we get to ride the most beautiful and wild ride with the God of freedom.
And I think that’s what faith looks like.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Isn’t it time that we replace our fearful “what ifs” with “what ifs” of possibility?
What if this worked out?
What if I succeeded?
What if the world was actually full of beauty?
And what if, no matter what, God is with me and I can trust him?
What if there was actually nothing to fear?