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I am serious about chocking hazards.

I still cut my 6 year olds grapes in fourths (sidebar: that’s cool, right? what about when she’s 16?). Ask my friends about my reaction when a kid even slightly coughs while eating. Total overreaction. I’m in fight or flight ready to give the heimlich. It’s one of my fearsAnd it impacts me as fears do. If you bring your kids to my house, I will cut up their food into minuscule, hardly recognizable pieces. Sorry, not sorry.

That’s the thing about fear. Our decisions, reactions, interactions, emotions, etc….all impacted. There are easily “nameable fears”, like my irrational fear of choking.  And then, there’s the deeper fears, the ones we all hold and are much less easy to name. I believe that these fears are very powerful motivators in our lives and so worthy of our time and attention.

In my work as a career counselor, I hear people’s fears all the time (even though they rarely name it as such). People don’t change career paths when they know they should because of the fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear or losing control, fear of disappointing someone. These fears hold such power.

When I’m honest with myself, I fear being over looked, I fear missing out, I fear not being liked.  These fears drive me. I say “YES!” out of impulse and overcommit leading me to lifestyle that is too full.  I hold back from being a truth teller and compromise aspects of myself in attempts to be thought well of by the world around me. When I’m operating out of these fear-ridden places, I have less space to respond to God. My fears are louder than His voice.  I miss opportunities to be present, to be honest, to be grateful. These hard to name fears are layered into my self-concept and impact my image of God.

The problems is, identifying these fears involves intentional work,and making connections about how these fears influence behavior involves more work. Oh, and actually changing involves even more work.

I don’t walk around thinking, I have a fear of missing out today….I better make some phone calls to pack my schedule.  I don’t wake up thinking, I hope my friends think I’m the best ever, what can I do to make them like me more? No. It’s in only in reflection I am able see how I’ve been motivated by fear. It’s in vulnerable conversations that I am more aware of my need for wholeness in the broken, wounded, weary parts of me. It’s in quiet, surrendered space where I open myself to the one who created me and knows me that I am reminded of who I really am and what the kingdom of God is about. It’s in these places that I can piece together how my fears grip me.

Most importantly, this hard work brings about freedom. People in my life, who I would describe as “living freely” seem to be guided by less fear and more hope. I could write a book about my friend Diedra. In so many beautiful ways she is not bound by fear and it is contagious. She’s open to God’s voice in a way that many are not and her fearless faith inspires me. Diedra’s attention is on God. She embodies Matthew 7:14 which promises,”The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention.” Diedra is willing to take risks, she’s willing to do hard things, she listens to God and responds.  Her life doesn’t look “easy” and she’s definitely not perfect, but there is an unshakable peace, confidence and freedom in the way she lives.

So, if life with God requires our full attention (again, Matt 7:14)  than anything that is guiding our decisions, behavior, interactions, self-concept, impacting our image of God, robbing us of freedom…is worth some looking into, right?

This is courageous, holy, hard work. 

I challenge you and I challenge myself to:

1. Sit with God.

I believe fear is an invitation to do soul work with God. He is present to us in these vulnerable places.

2. Name your fears.

Reflect on how your fears are guiding you. How are your fears getting in the way of the life God intends for you?  (Fear of rejection?  failure? being too much? not enough? fear of being alone? forgotten? mistreated? misunderstood? fear of…?)

3. Explore why.

After you identify fears that have a grip on you, try to explore why those fears exist. How did they become to be?

Why am I afraid of the unknown?

Why do I fear missing out?

Why do I fear disappointing people?

Why do I fear failure?

The answers to these questions are quite revealing and, thankfully, God meets us there. He is always redeeming His people. He wants us to live in freedom, not fear and awareness is what often breeds change

4. Invite God to bring wholeness out of brokenness.

God is all about this work. Our open posture towards God will allow Him to transform our unhealthy patterns and tendencies.  Begin to take steps (change behavior, tell the truth, seek counsel, break a habit) and slowly experience the freedom that it brings.

In my office hangs a Nelson Mandela quote that  says “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears..”

Let it be so Mill City friends.