When Holding onto Fear is Easier than Facing It

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One of the most fulfilling and highly sought-after courses in college was called “Problems of Personal Adjustment.” Students were tasked to identify a underdeveloped area of their lives and complete a semester-long project of self-improvement. Most of my classmates found creative ways to better themselves. I remember one friend learned to cook, and by the end of the semester, she felt comfortable hosting a dinner party for our professor as her culminating project.

I decided this particular semester would be the time I’d finally address a long-held phobia that I’ve held onto since I was seven years old, and I signed up for the required counseling. I remember at the initial intake session, the counselor asked me if there was any reason I was holding onto my phobia instead of letting it go. I tried not to let my jaw hit the floor as I incredulously shook my head. Who would want a fear of this caliber hanging over them day-in and day-out?

Would I be willing to desensitize myself to my fear and let it go completely — or at least enough so that I could flip the channels on a TV without covering my eyes (you know, just in case the creature was lurking on the very next channel as it sometimes does). And was sitting here with this graduate student counselor how it was going to happen?

Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen. I’m still afraid. Irrationally, admittedly, afraid.

Counseling didn’t work for me that semester, but because I haven’t tried much else since, I still carry this phobia around with me. Perhaps it is because I have a definition in my head of what it is I’ll be able to do if only I am not afraid anymore. But maybe my goal is all wrong. Maybe I’m going about it all wrong by ignoring it. I realize that the extent of this particular fear is completely irrational and debilitating, but I’m also terrified to face it in order to heal. The mishaps of an inexperienced counselor were damaging enough!

In a devotional I was reading this morning, I arrived at a section called “Brave Enough to Pursue Healing,” and without even reading what Annie F. Downs had to say about it, that intake session from over a dozen years ago came flooding back. Have I been holding onto this specific phobia for so long because it’s easier to be afraid than to face it?

Have I been holding onto this specific phobia for so long because it’s easier to be afraid than to face it?

Some amount of fear is beneficial when our fear is something that is actually unsafe, as mine is. But what is the purpose of those fears we carry in silence, preventing us from taking risks that could be fulfilling and fruitful? Perhaps we are afraid of the “what might happens” — what might happen if we try to mend a broken relationship, or try to start a new friendship, or head in a direction different than the well-worn path we’ve always taken, into unknown territory?

To what extent do we let these silent fears, such as  loss of security, stability, or taking risks in friendships, become as debilitating as an irrational phobia?

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4, NIV).”

What fears need your acknowledgment? What heavy fears can you shrug from your shoulders and allow His steady presence to walk you through? What fears have you allowed to become larger-than-life? And–dare I ask–what fears have you allowed to control you by holding you back from the calling God has placed on your heart?

As my counselor asked, is there a reason you’re not willing to let go of this fear?

Today, ask God to help you take one small step toward acknowledging the fear that is holding you back from where He is calling you.

Approaching Indecision with Prayer

Raise your hand if you suffer from decision fatigue.

Guilty over here.

And because I cannot always trust myself to make decisions confidently, I put them off. I procrastinate and then second-guess my original choice or hold out in case something better comes along. It’s the reason that despite a better-than-perfect GPA in grade school, I always dreaded taking multiple choice tests, always narrowing my options down to two and then talking myself out of the correct answer by overanalyzing the choices.

One Sunday in early April, my husband and I found ourselves in the left lane on the interstate behind a white Honda Accord whose right turn signal had been on for quite awhile. Jerry Seinfeld called a similar situation the “eventual left.” I checked our blind spot – nothing was even coming. And yet the Accord remained firmly planted in its spot in front of us. When it finally decided to make a move, the Kia Sorento in front of it got over at the exact same moment, and the Accord quickly retreated to its original position.

Indecision and second-guessing can literally drive us to doubt our own ability to make decisions. We wonder which lane will get us there faster (Office Space, anyone?) or more successfully. We waffle between our different choices, even if both are good, even if both will still lead us forward, when really we just need to pause.

We lose ground in the waffling, but never in the pause.

A pause offers us the chance to pray, listen, and bring our indecisions and uncertainty to God, the only true voice of clarity. And once He gives us clear indication, we can put our signal on and go confidently in that direction, not paralyzing ourselves in questioning God’s call.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6, NIV)

Friends, let us pause in those moments when we are unsure, before we make our decisions public, in prayerful obedience, and move forward only when we know that we are aligning ourselves with God’s course for us.

Today, consider your own tendencies. Do you waffle in indecision and second-guessing, do you make bold signals even at the expense of acting prematurely, or do you just slow down to pause, seeking God for His direction?

I’d love to hear your reflections in the comments below.

We need healthy pauses.

How many decisions do you think you made today?

At a statewide counselors’ conference earlier this year, I attended a session (wearing my infant) where our icebreaker was to write out every decision we had made just in the previous 15 minutes. I left the room to nurse my sleepy baby and by the time I returned, the participants were already deeply engrossed in their lists. The point of the exercise was to show us just how many small decisions we make, all day, every day. It’s no wonder that our decision-making ability is finite and by the end of the day, we’re exhausted by all the small decisions that brought us to that point.

Those were just minor, everyday decisions. Now ask yourself – when was the last time you truly stopped and listened before moving forward with a big decision or action?

This is where we can use a pause. You might pause to pray, to think, to decide, to listen, to discern, to breathe, to react, to consider, and to protect your time.

If you’re like me, the habit of pause might not be one you practice often enough.

With this space, I’ll help you create a habit of pausing in every small, great, and wild moment that life brings. Pausing allows us time to savor the precious fleeting moments of life – the seasons, the senses, the memories that happen in the white space – if we just allow ourselves to stop long enough to notice them, to be aware of them, and to name them when they’re happening.

Pausing also affords us time to consider our next best steps in whatever decisions we face. It reminds us to catch our breath, pray, and truly listen for direction. It keeps us from speaking and acting out of haste, which can lead to regret and miscommunication. We are so impressionable, and without taking the time to pause and truly listen for our own unique calling, we run the risk of being influenced by what others are doing around us.

I hope that you will join with me as I offer healthy moments for you to pause in whatever season you might be facing. Leave a comment below to share how or when you use pauses in your own decision-making processes.

In the meantime, I’ll hope you’ll join me over on Instagram @tendingwild.

TEND | to care for, inclined to be, to move, direct, or develop one’s course in a particular direction.