Do Scary Things

Hi! My name is Esther, and if we were sitting down at a coffee shop together, I would be drinking a tea latte while asking you a thousand questions about your life. (I’m an introvert who loves to listen to people tell their stories.) But after a while of telling me your life story, you’d probably stop and say, “So now tell me about you!” And this is when you get to take a sip of the coffee you ordered thirty minutes ago that’s starting to get cold.

In a nutshell, I’m a university professor, writer, speaker, pianist, and wife to a ridiculously brilliant guy who’s on staff at a church. Me and my husband’s long-term dream is to one day move to Japan to start a church. Oh, and I’m writing my first book! But I’m getting ahead of myself; I’ll come back to that later…

A number of years ago, I participated in an international piano festival in D.C. and auditioned to perform on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Exciting, right? It should have been, but I was more scared than excited—the I’m-so-nervous-I-want-to-throw-up kind of scared. This was months after I earned a master’s degree in piano performance, and as big as that accomplishment was, I didn’t feel very accomplished. I felt like an imposter.

Let me back up a bit and explain. The university where I did my grad studies had a competition where students auditioned for a chance to perform a concerto with the university symphony. I worked on my piece for a year while doing occupational therapy for hand problems—drilling rough passages, icing my hands, memorizing every detail of my score, heating my hands…Honestly, it was the kind of piece that I should not have been able to play with all the hand issues I was dealing with, but I learned it! And when audition day came, I poured out my soul on the stage. Being able to compete and perform the way I did was a big deal and should have been affirmation enough for me, but it wasn’t. I wanted to win.

The following day, as soon as I arrived on campus, I rushed to the bulletin board where the results of the competition were posted. I read the words on the white paper. I panicked and read it again. There were four names on the list; my name wasn’t one of them. That loss felt like a failure. What am I doing here? Why am I pursuing this degree? Is this a sign that I should quit?

I didn’t quit. I graduated, and two years later I finally had the opportunity to perform that concerto with an orchestra, and it was an amazing experience. But between finishing grad school and that amazing concerto experience, I had the Kennedy Center audition. Painful memories of my previous audition haunted me. I’m going to be found out. They’re going to see I’m an imposter. I’m going to make a fool of myself. It was scary. And I did it anyway. And you know what? I didn’t make a fool of myself. I played at the Kennedy Center. And four years later, I went back and did it again.

I’m the kind of person who feels deeply. I embrace every emotion I feel, including fear. In fact, when I’m embarking on something big, I’ve found that fear exhilarates me! I know this sounds crazy, but stay with me.

There’s a common phrase that I believe sabotages the dreams and potential of so many people: “No fear.” Big dreams require bravery. That doesn’t mean we have to have no fear, but we face the things that scare us and do them anyway. And when a God-sized, Kingdom dream is scary, then we can get excited because we know that it’s too big for us to do in our ability. And that’s when we know it’s big enough for God to show off and display what only He can do.

So what do we do when we have a God-sized dream and we’re scared? The answer, though not easy, is quite simple:

Pray + take the step in front of you.

Don’t use prayer as a crutch that keeps you from moving forward, and don’t take any steps without praying. Do both. That’s it. Really? Yup! But don’t we need to research and seek advice? If that’s the step in front of you, then yes! But if you’re trying to stall, then tell your trusted friends and advisors to give you a light push (or shove) and take the step that’s right in front of you.

So let’s get back to that book I’m writing. Writing your first book is scary! And when I first felt God whispering this idea into my heart, I was terrified! I know that people write books every day, but this is way out of my element. I write a blog, but writing a book is so much…bigger! It’s way more research, a way more intense commitment, and a way bigger risk. What if no publisher wants to take a risk on a “nobody” in the publishing world? What if it gets published and nobody buys it? What if 99% of the reviews of my book on Amazon are 1 star and the other 1% is 5 stars because that’s the review my husband wrote? What if, what if, what if.

What if this book is what will make the difference between hope and despair for someone? What if this book is the answer to hundreds of desperate people’s prayers? What if this book is just the tip of the iceberg of something amazing God wants to do?

I pray about this book every moment I think about it. I pray about it when I’m starting my day and looking over my to-do lists. I pray about it in bookstores when I’m standing in the aisle in front of the bookshelf that could one day hold it. I pray about it as my head rests on my pillow and I drift out of consciousness.

And I also take each step in front of me. No leaps. Just steps, one at a time. The first step was to start writing in my journal. The next was to buy a notebook devoted to writing this book. Then after that, I told a few people so they could cheer me on and make sure I didn’t quit.

Each step leads to another. And the more steps I take, the less scary this dream appears. I’m still scared, but I’m also growing in the confidence that God is in this, carrying me, guiding me, doing what only He can do.

There was one Monday morning when I felt like I was drowning in the bigness of this dream and I exclaimed, “God, I don’t know what I’m doing! I need a writing coach!” Later that morning, I was scrolling through social media and one of my favorite authors had a bunch of videos on Instagram about how she was going to open her schedule to do some coaching calls. Talk about God’s timing! He totally delivered! Oh, and that coaching call ended up being a life changing experience that transformed insurmountable, blind leaps into clear, doable steps. If you pray and take each step in front of you, God will show off in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine!

I bet God has asked you to do something scary, too—something significant, something way bigger than you can handle on your own. And if He hasn’t, don’t worry…He will! So let’s harness ourselves to a big God who holds all things together and let’s go do some scary things!

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