at the beginning of my adventure to DC this summer, i prayed for courage. i prayed for courage, but i didn’t have any idea why i prayed for it. i wrote a blog post stipulating a few reasons why i might have prayed for it. i thought i had it all figured out. little did i know then of the news that would bring me to my knees by the time i left DC. little did i know then of the fear that would haunt me now all these weeks later…
oh, how i could use that courage now.
over the past two months (tomorrow marks two months exactly from the day i said bye to my mom for the last time) i have learned much about grief, mostly that it is unpredictable and exhausting and excruciatingly painful. but over the past two months i have also learned much about fear. to be honest, i don’t know that i had ever experienced fear in its fullness before two months ago. and since then i don’t know that i’ve experienced a day without it.
i was afraid to book a flight home from DC because i was afraid it would mean i needed to leave.
i was afraid to board that plane because i knew i’d never be the same by the time i got on another one.
i was afraid to walk down that hallway in the hospital my mom was because i knew it’d be goodbye.
i was afraid to go shopping for a black dress because i felt too weak to stand in it.
i was afraid to leave my family and go back to DC because i felt so very alone and so very broken.
i was afraid to come back to school because i didn’t know how to tell people about my summer.
i was afraid to move back to my own apartment because it would be the permanent start to life without her.
i was afraid to do my work because it would remind me that i can’t do what i used to be able to do with ease.
i was afraid to get out of bed on my birthday because i thought the day would cripple me.
and it did.
after i got back from DC and before i started school, i lived with my friend marie for a few days. on my final night in her house, i felt a certain degree of fear i had never felt before. i wasn’t sure i could go on and function on my own, and i’d be on my own the next day. so from that bed, i cried and i cried and i cried.
another day a couple weeks ago we sat in that same bed and talked about moving forward in this together. she asked me a lot of questions i didn’t have answers to, and as things would go, she didn’t have the answers to the questions either. for the first time in the four years i have known her, when i needed guidance on how to move, when all i could say was “i don’t know,” all she could say was, “i don’t know either.” so from that bed, i cried and i cried and i cried.
well, it wasn’t that long ago when i was reading a friend’s blog (that same friend i wrote about in my last post) and she had written the following:
I want him to know that fear is normal and appropriate and even necessary, but that it doesn’t have to win.
fear is normal. appropriate. necessary.
but it doesn’t have to win.
so what do i do with all this fear i feel? how do i not let it win today or tomorrow or the day after that when i feel just as scared as i did that first time i felt fear, i mean really felt fear?
you see, when i cried from that bed in marie’s house for the first time, i felt very afraid. and before that day i thought that to live by faith meant to live without fear. i didn’t know how to reconcile the presence of both fear and faith. i thought they were mutually exclusive. but i was afraid and i wanted so desperately to live by faith. so i prayed for faith through those tears i cried that night. but i woke up the next morning and i still felt very afraid. and as i drove from her home to mine, i was struck by the realization that just because i was afraid didn’t mean i wasn’t living by faith. i was struck by the realization that walking by faith for me, in this, isn’t walking without fear; walking by faith for me, in this, is continuing to walk into all those fears that i have anyway.
i walked into my own home that day. and even though most days bring me to my knees in that same sadness i felt from that plane and that hospital and that black dress, i am making it. and it is messy. and i still don’t have the answers to all those questions marie asked me about how we are going to move forward in this together. and i still feel all this fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead on this path of healing from this brokenness. honestly, i even fear that there isn’t healing down this path because God might choose not to heal me from this brokenness the same way God chose not to heal my mom, the choice that led me to this darkness in the first place.
but i am going to continue walking into all those fears that i have anyway. i am going to continue walking anyway. because even though my birthday crippled me, it also reminded me that i am so very loved. and last night, the same friend whose arms i cried in at my own birthday party held me by the shoulders, looked me square in the eyes, and called me her brave, strong friend.
“O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.”
there’s something about being greatly loved by God that makes it possible to press into fear anyway. and i am learning that perfect love creates room for courage in even the deepest fears and the darkest rooms. i guess it’s one of those things where if God was everything that He is but He wasn’t loving, then He is to be feared in the rawest sense of the word, like i feared that plane and that hallway and that black dress and the path that lies ahead. but, if God is everything He is and if He is loving, then we can be courageous in the face of our fears because He is for us and He loves us.
He is for us.
and He loves us.
today’s margin note: remember that fear doesn’t have to win and that living by faith doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid. instead, living by faith means you can keep on walking into all those fears anyway. my friend, if you are scared — please, keep on walking anyway. and know, my friend, that if you are afraid and if you are still walking, then you are brave and you are strong.