Once there was a little girl with curly brown hair and green, serious eyes. This little girl had a mother and father who loved her completely, just as she was. She had a sister and brother, grandparents on both sides, aunts, uncles, and cousins, friends and teachers who encouraged her, taught her, and loved her well. There were dogs to play with, acres of woods to run in, and a lovely little home where she had a yellow (and later blue) room filled with toys and books and clothes. And she was afraid.
For as long as she could remember, Fear hounded her. She lay awake at night, afraid to sleep, convinced her house would burn down in the night or thieves would break in to hurt her family. She was afraid to climb too high in the trees. Afraid to meet new people. Afraid to break the rules. There were few areas of her life that weren’t defined by Fear.
As she grew into a young lady, her fears grew too. Fear manifested itself in a need for control, in self-reliance, in perfectionism but in reality she was choking under Fear’s tight grasp. It governed each decision she made, each adventure she refused, each friendship she avoided. No matter what she tried or how hard she fought, she couldn’t defeat Fear. Inside she was still that scared little girl cowering under the covers.
My friendship with Jesus began almost 30 years ago. At seven years old I believed there was a good and loving God, and I wanted to know him. My parents told me that God was holy and perfect and that our sins, the wrong things we do, keep us separated from Him. No amount of good works can earn a place for us in heaven. But God loved us so very much He made a way for us to be His friends and live with Him forever by sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus’ perfect, sinless life met the requirement I could never meet and His death paid the price for my sins. Then He rose form the dead, making away for me to live with Him in heaven forever. Over many conversations I began to understand this story of salvation. One hot autumn night, after my parents tucked me into my big canopy bed, I asked God to forgive me for the wrong things I had done and to come live in my heart.
That simple prayer born from a simple faith started a long friendship with God. There was no dramatic transformation, no stirring before and after story. Instead I have grown to know and love this childhood Friend more and more. The changes in me have been slow, shaped by Him over many years – but they have been no less profound. He has walked with me through seasons of intense brokenness that I didn’t want and wasn’t sure I could endure and has consistently and faithfully woven something beautiful and lasting from those tattered threads. I have stubbornly refused to obey Him, sure that what He asked was too much to give only to discover a breathtaking freedom on the other side of surrender. He has challenged my pride, my control, my anger, my priorities, my identity- and my fears.
One Sunday in the winter of 2011 I stood singing with the rest of the church. I don’t remember what precipitated this thought – some conversation or lyric or nudging of Go’d Spirit – but I realized that I was tired of living in fear. I didn’t want it to control every decision and saturate every moment of my life, and asked God to help me. What followed was two years of the most brutal, vicious attacks on my mind and heart that I have ever experienced. I doubted my faith. I doubted God’s existence. I was literally choked by fear, panic rising from deep within me. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a deep, dark chasm, about to fall and unable to stop myself. I cried and cried from confusion and pain and fear. Slowly, I began to realize that the way out of this awful mess was through complete, absolute surrender to God. I cannot describe to you how much this terrified me. Despite a lifetime of walking obediently with Him, of memorizing and studying the Bible, I knew I did not trust Him. Could I trust Him, this God who could, who would ask me to surrender all the stuff – possessions, position, people – that gave me comfort and security? This God who asks me to live a life of sacrifice and pouring-out and yielding of my needs? This God who let people, good people, die too young from cancer? Did I want to surrender to Him? I fought it hard. And then, in the darkness of a hotel ballroom when I least expected it, God met me. I saw a glimpse of His glory and I was undone. I was a blubbering mess of surrender, but it was beautiful. I confessed and He forgave. He moved mightily in me – and so many other women – releasing me from the fear that held me captive. Here are my thoughts from that night.
El Shaddai, I confess my sin of fear. I have loved this world more than You. The fear of losing family, status, comfort has kept me imprisoned. I live controlled by worry and anxiety, struggling fruitlessly to gain control. I surrender. Tonight I have come face to face with You and You are worth it. Wherever You lead, whatever the cost. I tremble to write that, but I have nowhere else to go. You have the words that bring eternal life.
I have experienced an amazing peace a freedom since that night. Do I still struggle with fear? Absolutely! But it does not control me. I am finding joy in surrender, in walking into those things that cause me fear. This little space on the internet is proof of that. I am learning to trust Him, perhaps for the first time. I think I will fight fear my whole life. Part personality, part personal weakness, it will be something that must be faced in every circumstance. But I am also discovering it is not me that needs to do the fighting. When I surrender to God, when I say “whatever,” then He sucker-punches fear and I take a step forward in freedom. When I try to fight fear with control or self-reliance then I get pummeled. Exodus 14:14 says “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” In the still of surrender is victory.