Fear is an emotion which we all have, that seems to grip us in some area of our life and just won’t let go. We are only born with two fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear we have in life is a developed or learned fear.
Looking at my kids, I see this statement to be true. Jonas use to love for daddy to throw him high into the air and now he’s terrified of it. I still have yet to figure out why he is so afraid, and I promise it’s not because I missed catching him. I guess my question would be, when did his fear of falling become greater than his trust in dad’s ability to catch him?
As kids, we all have moments that we can look back on and see how fearless we were. We would suggest something that was out of this world, only to be shot down by a sensible adult, “Oh Sammy, that will never work. You can’t do that.” We believed in ourselves like no one else. No jump was too big for us to handle. “I can make that!” we tell ourselves.
When I was about seven or eight years old, my dad had a blue 1976 Chevy truck with a cloth bench seat, which he named Betsy. My dad loved that truck. You would have thought Betsy was a part of the family.
At the house we lived in, there was a chain-link fence around the entire yard with metal spikes of death protruding from the top. The fence was set up in such as way as to give us a makeshift driveway. It had to be done this way because our house was off of a one-way alley. My dad would back Betsy up into our driveway and pull right up to the fence gate. The fence, at the time it seemed to be ten feet tall, but in reality, was probably only five or six feet tall.
Every little boy has at one time or another thought to himself, “I can make that jump!” and then preceded that thought with the greatest act of courage ever imagined. The stakes are made higher when mom or dad, in this case, tells you not to try and jump over the fence because, “you could hurt yourself.”
It was a warm, summer day. I was wearing a light blue tank-top and some Hawaiian shorts my mom had made for me a few weeks prior. My dad and I had just gotten home and he backed his truck into the driveway to unload stuff from the bed of his truck. To get all of the stuff out, we had to open the tailgate. And on this day, the tailgate fell just inches away from the fence.
We got everything cleared out of the back of the truck and as my dad went inside, he warned, “Don’t try to jump over the fence, you could hurt yourself.” Now in my defense, isn’t it a green light to try something stupid when your parent tells you not to do something and then immediately leaves the scene? As my dad walked inside, I hopped down out of the bed of the truck. I turned to walk in the gate, but something inside of me wouldn’t let go of how great I would feel if I jumped over the fence from the bed of Betsy onto the ground on the other side. It seemed like a much better entrance into our yard than walking through a boring gate. It was my destiny.
I hopped back up into the bed of the truck and got as close to the cab as I could. I knew that if I got a running start I could make the jump. I mustered up all the courage I had inside of me to defy my dad and make the grandest entrance our yard had ever seen. I got ready, I got set, I counted down, 3…2…1…and I was off and running. With each step came a little bit more excitement, until I got towards the end of the truck and realized I had misjudged the distance of the truck and the fence and how far up I’d actually have to jump, but that didn’t stop me.
As I leapt off of the tailgate into the air, I picked my feet up to clear the fence, the problem was, I didn’t even get high enough to clear my thighs over the fence. I crashed into the metal bar that ran along the top of the fence, which sent me into a flip over it. But, instead of completing the flip over the fence and landing on the ground, the metal spikes of death grabbed my shorts in the middle of my thigh, stopping my momentum, tearing my shorts from the middle of my thigh down to the hemmed seam at the bottom. To which, I was left dangling upside-down with my shorts around my ankles, a huge scrape down my leg, and my shoe snagged on one of the metal spikes. I couldn’t shake free either. There was nothing left to do, but to yell for my dad’s help and deal with the consequences of my defiance.
At what point in our lives do we stop taking risks? Even though others told us we can’t do it or that it is too dangerous, we still attempted to defy all odds and make the grandest of entrances. We believed that we were different and we could accomplish what everyone else said we couldn’t. Instead of living our best life and taking risks we’ve succumbed to the fear of failure, insecurities, and the fear of what others think of us. We begin to listen to those around us, tell us who we are and what we can accomplish instead of believing in ourselves and defining who we are in our own terms.
I’m as guilty as they come. I have, for far too long, been afraid of what others have thought of me. I catch myself from time to time, instead of listening to the conversation I am having, clamoring over the thoughts that those I am talking with have of me.
I understand that everyone isn’t this way, but I believe the vast majority of us struggle with our fears of what others think. The fear of failure and the fear of what others think may not solely depend on one another, but are closely related. Not only has fear made me socially awkward at times, it has brought me some of my biggest regrets of chances I didn’t take. I feared failure and people more than getting wrapped up in the excitement of what could be. In high school, fear of missing a catch in a football game, kept me sidelined more times than not for fear of letting my team down.
What we fail to realize is our fear of letting others down, actually causes us to let them down in one way or another. We have people in our lives that, at times, need us to be fearless. They need us to lead and not hold back. They need us in the game, no matter what the stakes, and not sitting on the sidelines in the crowd.
I’ve taken some risks, but they were always calculated and I knew I already had the support of the majority of people in my life to which I look to for acceptance.
I’m learning that husbands and fathers not only provide security in their houses, which gives comfort and stability, but we also provide security in our kids lives of who they are. After all, our identities are given to us by our fathers and so we find security in them as well. Fathers are so incredibly important to the development of children. Part of the reason we are a culture full of insecure people is because we are also a society of a fatherless generation.And there are more ways than one for a father to be absent. He doesn’t have to be out of the home to be absent from his family.
However, for those of us that grew up without a father, we can’t allow it to be an excuse for who we are for the rest of our lives. Eventually, we have to take responsibility for who we are and find our security in something else…someone else. If we don’t confidently determine who we are and who we are going to be, there is a world full of people out there that will take great joy in defining us. They will tell us who we are and what we should do and keep us trapped in the confines of their picture of us.
Which is why my relationship with Jesus will be my saving grace. My security is no longer found in who I am or who my father says I am, but in who God, my Heavenly Father, says I am.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””
We have to get to a point where our fear of falling is swallowed up by our overwhelming trust in His ability to catch us.