"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Striving Against Fear

I am a scaredy cat.

A big one.

I have always been a pretty fearful person, and for many years it held me back from doing things I had the desire to attempt. I am getting better with conquering that.

....it also causes me to be anxious and insecure. (especially in the middle of the night.....why is stuff always more scary then??)

In other words, it causes me to forfeit my peace.

I have all sorts of fears; something happening to my husband or children, a criminal breaking into my house, my parents dying, cancer, failing as a wife or a mom........

Let's talk about fear, and how to deal with it. Are you afraid of stuff? I hope I'm not the only one.

Recently, I have become re-afraid (is that a word? I say it is...) of something which I had previously overcome. Descending hills on my road bike. You see, this year I saw three bike accidents, two somewhat major, one minor. All of them involved people I love. All of them resulted in at least one broken bone (the clavicle is the common theme..... apparently, me being on the ride is also a common theme with all these crashes.....ugh). All of them made me feel scared, helpless, and not in control. Unfortunately that same feeling (scared, helpless, and not in control) overwhelms me now when I try and descend any slightly steep downhill on my bike. Yuck. Back to this story in a minute....

I have dealt with fear before. Like I said, fear has stopped me from doing things in my life. One thing my husband had ALWAYS wanted to do was take a cross-country driving trip. To me, when I would think about that, I could see so many dangers, pitfalls, and unexpected troubles. Finally, in 2009, we planned a trip to Florida. More specifically, 3,000 miles away. One way. A couple of months before the trip, the transmission started going on the vehicle we were going to take. So we decided to take the smaller vehicle. Then, about three weeks before, we had several mechanical issues with that vehicle, so we decided to purchase a new-to-us, used vehicle and drive that. Now mind you, we also had to figure out a way to get 4 bikes on that car as well, since we were travelling to a race that myself and three friends were participating in during the trip. I decided one day, a few weeks before the trip, that is just wasn't meant to be, there were clearly too many issues to deal with, and what if we had car trouble and ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere????? So I decided that we should cancel the road trip. Thank GOD (literally, thank God I married a man who can tell me when I'm wrong and take charge of making the right choices) my husband quickly nixed the idea of tossing aside a year of planning, saving, and dreaming. We took the trip. Drove 6,000 miles. It was the best trip of my entire life. I got to see so many different places. The kids loved it. I completed my first Ironman triathlon. We saw family we hadn't seen in years. It was amazing. To think that I almost missed it....... how silly.

(this was what we got to look at from our balcony in Panama City Beach- amazing!)

Fast forward almost a year. We decide to take another trip, this time to Yellowstone National Park. I had the same fears, which were less intrusive because of the success of our previous trip. This time my WORST fear was realized- about 60 miles from a town with so much as a gas station, our car suddenly shut off. We were up a mountain, no cell reception, nothing. So we managed to get the car turned around, and coasted down the mountain, into the nearest town (which was so small it didn't even have a gas station) and arranged to have our car towed the next morning. We thought it was the alternator, which would set us back about $500 and half a day's time. Though I felt afraid, I prayed a lot, and felt God telling me that I needed to act in faith and with peace, and not spend a lot of effort verbalizing how afraid I was. (a quick note- especially to women- I have ALWAYS found that if you want to change your emotions, you have to act the right way first. Your emotions will follow......if you wait to feel the right way before you act the right way, forget it. That won't work) So the next morning we had our car towed, only to be told that our timing belt had let go, and bent all the valves in our engine. In simple terms, our engine was totally useless. It would have taken $5,000 and at least 10 days to repair. To add to this, there was a once-a-year festival occurring in that town, and all the rental cars, rental towing vehicles, hotels, etc, were booked. So we were stuck at a mechanic's shop with our two boys and the stuff we had packed for our trip. I was TERRIFIED. My husband and I stepped outside and quickly decided two things. First, we knew that God is good. Even though it seemed like everything was falling apart and scary and horrible, God was still in control, and still good. Second, the only thing anyone (especially our two kids) would remember in a year was how we acted. They wouldn't remember exactly what was wrong with our car, or how much it cost, or how we solved the problem. They would remember our attitude, and what we did. So we took a deep breath, made a few jokes, and made the best of things. Our boys quickly followed suit, and it became a bonding experience unlike anything we could have ever manufactured. I was so proud of my husband, my boys, of our family. (we ended up having some family members drive out to WY with a flatbed trailer and towing the car back home to be fixed- and putting an offer in on our first house the day after we got home!!! God had a plan in it all.....)

(The tow truck driver thought we were a bunch of nut jobs for taking pictures and laughing about the whole thing.......)

So back to biking. I sought out some advice from  a few cyclists I respect and who have experience with this type of situation. They told me this- you have to go out and find a nice long hill, and descend. Again and again. Each time will get a little better. In other words, the thing that I have learned (act the right way then you'll feel the right way) applies here too. I know it is going to take me awhile to get back to where I was. That's ok. I am going to keep at it.

In dealing with fear, I think Wade and I used the two most powerful tools available to us that morning in the mechanic's shop.

~Realize (and even verbalize) that God is good: this is a statement that is as true as it is powerful. Romans 8:28 says " And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose". I don't need to be afraid of things I can't control, things I can't expect or plan for. I have a God that knows all, sees all, has power over all, and loves me. My job is to trust Him.

~Act the right way even when you're afraid: this is huge. If you keep acting in fear, it becomes a cycle. You begin to act in fear without even choosing to. That simply becomes your default. Change your default. Act in faith and with courage instead. Even though you still feel afraid inside, it will be ok. Obviously you need to be prepared for things, you need to be responsible, but don't allow fear to be the catalyst for your actions. For example, when (not if, WHEN) we take another road trip, I will make sure we have the best AAA towing package. We'll have the car serviced. We will have the means to pay for our vehicle if it needs to be repaired. That is our way of being prepared and responsible. But then we will act in faith, even though we can't control every unforeseen circumstance.

Almost 5 years ago, my friend Mickey and I were talking after a run, and he convinced me I should try a triathlon. A short one. It took him a while- I was terrified of swimming in the ocean,  and not too thrilled about biking. I was afraid of failing. I was scared I would come in last place. We signed up, and I made it through my first triathlon!  A year and a half ago, Mickey was one of the friends with whom I completed an Ironman triathlon.

So take THAT fear. Ha!

I would encourage you to think about the things you're afraid of, take them out of the shadows, and deal with them. Who knows, you may do something amazing!

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