If you asked me a week ago what my biggest fear is, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you.
I have a fear of heights. And I’d most likely say that with a shudder, too.
I remember where it began too, oddly enough. I was barely six-years-old at the time, standing on a really tall stump in the far back end of my backyard. I was barefooted with hair wild in my face–a real Pocahontas wannabe of the neighborhood in mid-August. I was prancing around on it, twirling, playing out the whole “Grandmother Willow” scene that I had memorized just as clearly as the “Colors of the Wind” song. But within a fleeting second, my ankle turned just slightly, I lost balance, and I plunged face-first off the stump and into the pond to the right of me. At the bottom of the pond was a rock *a sharp one at that, might I add* and it nearly broke my nose when my face hit it.
It’s been, what? Nineteen years now? And I can still remember that pain. The rock crushing against my nose in the slimy water. The drop of my heart as my small body flailed off the stump. Oh– and the blood. It was everywhere.
From that point on (small, as it seems) things changed for me.
(Being held on this railing–up in the space needle–equaled Fear Central)
I can’t climb ladders without my knees knocking together–quite literally. I can barely hang Christmas lights on the top of my kitchen cabinets. I have a hard time crossing bridges in the summer time and an even harder time looking down from one. Steep stairs can even pose an issue. And here’s the thing. As stupid as that fear sounds, fear is very real.
And you have fear too. We all do.
The other day I decided to examine my seemingly insignificant fear and dissect it in a way.
A Bible story came to mind so I looked it up again. It’s a common story with a common moral. But I looked at it a little bit differently this time around.
It’s the story of Jesus and Peter on the sea. You might be familiar with it. If you’re not familiar with it, no worries. Here it is in Matthew 14:22-31.
22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
I usually see this as a story of doubt in the Lord. I used to think, why did Peter doubt the Savior’s power when he was RIGHT there? But this time, I saw it differently.
If Peter were scared of the water, he would have never stepped out. It wasn’t the water that scared him. No. Peter was a fisherman.
He didn’t fear being out on the water. But he undoubtedly knew about riptides and currents and safety precautions during storms. He knew how easy it was to drown when the winds got rough and the boat tossed and turned and he knew how important it was to be in control, for he’d most likely grown up at the water’s edge. So with that behind him, the fear of drowning sunk his heart–and then in turn, his feet.
Peter taught me a lesson in my own fear. I don’t have a fear of heights. I fear falling.
Fear generates from past failures and the conscious or subconscious inkling that history will be repeated in a way.
You don’t have the fear of dating again–you have the fear of being rejected again. You don’t have the fear of public speaking–you have the fear of people thinking your lisp is annoying and laughing at it. You don’t have the fear of getting cancer–you have the fear of leaving behind your kids just like your mom unwillingly left you. We all, in different ways, have the fear of falling. Of losing our footing.
Fear is real. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. BUT it’s time to stop.
We criticize Peter for his lack of faith all the time–we make whole sermons out of how faithless he was. But how often is fear the one thing that even keeps us from even stepping off the boat?
One thing we can learn–from Job, from Peter, from Samuel, from Lehi and Moroni, you name it– is that the only thing in the world that conquers that kind of power such as fear, is faith.
I’m talking about the kind of faith that you have to work at every day. The kind of faith that takes practice. Courage. And dedication. Fear is overcome by the type of faith that is taught during those silent car rides with silent tears and whispered prayers to a Father in Heaven that you feel in the passenger seat. The type of faith that’s taught by giving that 10 percent–even when your pocketbook shows that there’s only enough for groceries. Fear is only overcome by stepping out of the boat and making the decision that this time, it doesn’t matter what your feet do. Because your eyes can only see the Savior.
Fear is keeping you back from knowing Him more. I know it sucks to hear it, but it’s true. And I only know it because well, I’m human too over here. And experiences tend to become us.
And it’ll stay that way until I decide–and you decide–to focus our eyes, just like Peter was told, and let the Savior become us instead.