forgiving fear

“I just don’t think I’ll have the time. I’ve got three AP classes and college applications…” I was spitting off excuses like it was my job, “I really want to focus on my other classes right now.”

I was a junior in high school, telling my drama teacher why I needed to drop out of a musical that I had just been cast in, and I was lying. I spent more time doodling in my 3 AP classes then I did taking notes, and I cared WAY MORE about my boyfriend of the day than I did academics. So why was I lying to her? Because I was afraid.

The musical in question was Nunsense, a five-woman hilarious show about nuns. There were 2 separate casts to perform over 4 weekends. I had miraculously been cast as Sister Hubert. I was the non-singer of the group. Not that I couldn’t sing, and not that I was terrible at it, I was just never cast in musicals, until this.

I sat through one week of rehearsals, and started to learn all the songs I would need to sing in front of a crowd and I scampered away like a mouse caught guilty with the cheese. I made up excuses and made the counter-part of me play Sister Hubert in both casts. I watched them perform 6 weeks later and felt twinges of embarrassment, guilt and shame. But I didn’t remember it until a few weeks ago.

I was driving home from work one day, and was instantly flooded with memories that reminded me that I had given up on something because of fear. Like someone had taken over my thoughts and I was being forced to re-live my adolescence in true Christmas Carol fashion. I remembered when I faked sick to get out of my first equestrian meet on the high school team and quit the week after. I remembered giving up on ballet because I had fallen behind and didn’t want to look like a fool. I remembered dropping a class in college because there was a girl in there that didn’t like me and I was afraid to ask for forgiveness. I remembered giving up my spot in Nunsense out of fear that I wouldn’t be good enough…

And suddenly I was grieving. I was grieving for my younger self. If only someone had come along and taken me by the shoulders and said right to my face, “you’re okay, you can do this, shake it off and get out there.” That person wouldn’t come along until I was 22 and met my husband.

And then I was angry at myself. For being afraid of little, petty things- like messing up, or that people would judge me, or that I was running away from things simply because they required me to step out of my comfort zone. I was mad at me, and I wanted to go back in time and change it all.

But then I realized, I still sometimes did that. Not in the obvious way that I did as a kid, but in little ways. As an adult, those little fears manifest themselves in attitudes of apathy, and shyness. They are the times when I chose to stay silent instead of being bold and encouraging to speak life into someone. They are the times when I choose the comfortable route instead of taking a risk.

I then felt the urge to forgive myself for acting out of fear all those times in my life. I wanted to forgive myself for being childish and afraid.

Forgiveness has taken many forms in my life, and I’ve discovered that with forgiveness comes a shift in expectations. A friend hurts my feelings, I forgive her, but then my expectations of that relationship are shifted. A personal expectation shift. Because often, forgiveness is required when expectations go unmet. So therefore, when I forgive someone, my expectations of him or her, in my own perfectionist mind, must shift. Because that’s what Jesus did on the cross. Through his payment for our sins, God’s expectations of us were no longer that we would be children of the darkness, defined by sin, but that we would be children of the light, defined by our identity in Christ. Forgiveness often requires some form of repentance. Of turning away from old habits and turning to belief. If someone wrongs me, I have to turn away from feeling wronged, from righteous indignation, and turn towards grace and trust.

So, when I forgive myself for fear, I then have to chose to see myself as God sees me, and in turn believe that my identity is in Christ, not fear.

Let’s forgive ourselves of fear and repent, turning with confidence to the person God is calling us to be as we ache to be more and more like Jesus. Let’s live lives not defined by fear and doubt, but press on to believe that what He has promised to do, He will fulfill.

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