The power of fear to sabotage our rational thinking is amazing. Recently, I was coaching one of the BT community about some fears they were facing and an old personal memory came back to mind. I can laugh at myself now, but I can also vividly remember the "feelings" I had back there and then.
For various reasons, my mother was very afraid that I was going to get hurt and it would be her fault. Part of that was the death of several children shortly after their birth and then the death of my sister when I was seven years old. All my peers were signed up for Red Cross swimming lessons at the local pool so I joined them. Of course my mother was fearful that I was going to drown.
The other thing to know is that my vision was very bad from a young age. So, when I took my glasses off to go in the pool, I couldn't see much. It was almost like playing Marco Polo all the time during the lessons. Needless to say, I did not do well since I could barely see the instructors and it really was not much fun.
The final day included everyone jumping into the deep end of the pool and doing the best they could do with what they had learned. I was in the back of the line and my mind was spinning because of the fear and shame that I did not know how to swim. Now, I was not about to tell anyone I was afraid. I didn't even want to admit it to myself. Then my fear and shame combined and took over my rational thinking.
It had rained a lot the night before the last day of lessons. I heard someone in line make the offhand remark "I bet the water's deeper than it was yesterday because of all the rain." That's all it took for my mind to jump to "It's deeper. In fact it's much deeper. In fact, it makes no sense to jump into a pool that that's deeper than we've been in all week."
I can laugh at myself about how silly and even stupid that thinking seems, now. I realize is that my fear had already voted that this was too dangerous and finally my mind invented a rationale for voting with my fear to protect me from the shame of being embarrassed. That's at least two-against-one so I went back to the dressing room, got my clothes and peddled my bicycle back home feeling totally smart for not putting myself at irrational risk in a too-deep pool.
The laughing stops when I realize that the same process has operated at several points in my life. Sometimes I've seen the truth and been able to choose to walk into my fear feelings. Sadly, there are other times I did not walk into my fear and see that it was mostly made up in my imagination and that the fear can magnify a little bit of information into a mountain range of obstacles.
Father, help me to see when my fear is at work blinding me to your love and your guidance to some place outside my comfort zone. Help me to not identify You with my comfort zone and to know that following you may feel like walking through the "valley of shadow of death" but it's the path to wonderful places with You.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear - Mark Twain