[Today's guest post is from Laura Droege, a wonderful writer whose insights always build me up in knowledge and wisdom.]
Throughout my life, fear has dragged me down.
It’s like having a third leg: unnecessary, but attached so well that I can’t tell the difference between it and my legs. So I lug fear around, letting it determine my pace, and stare, wide-eyed, at people who run.
I need an amputation.
God must agree, because He keeps sending me one message, over and over: Fear not, for I am with you.
It started with a job opening. A part-time position as blog editor was available. I read the job requirements; I might be qualified. But the third leg stomped on the ground, diverting my attention, and my confidence wobbled.
This was mid-week, and the deadline for applying was Saturday. There wasn’t time to dilly-dally in my decision. I had to act now. So I wrote a blog post, describing my fear, and convinced myself that I was confident enough to submit my resume.
I wrote: Bring on the application.
But I didn’t start working on it immediately. First, a message from my mother had to be answered, even though no phone conversation with her ever lasts under ten minutes. This time, it was an hour and ten minutes. In all fairness, though, she had a disturbing story about a friend (whom I know) and her young relative (whom I don’t know). I listened, offered what insights I had about the mental health care system (namely, how messed up it is), and hung up, my heart heavy for the young girl.
The story followed me. I looked at my resume, muttering about how incompetent I look on paper, and I remembered the story.
This girl wasn’t my target audience, nor was she likely to ever come across this blog to which I was applying. But there are people in similar circumstances who might, possibly, stumble on this blog, and it might, possibly, point them to hope: Life will not always be this bad. One ray of light drives away darkness. Search for that one ray, even when it cannot be seen now.
Cheered by these thoughts, I kept going. The resume had improved; I still had to write a cover letter. But now my work day had ended, my children needed to be rescued from school, I had to fix dinner and clean up dinner and finish the laundry and fold the laundry and— I was procrastinating. I knew it. Fear tingled, that extra leg waking up from slumber.
The next morning, I plopped my rear in my desk chair. I vowed not to rise from the chair until that cover letter was finished. Two hours later, the letter was finished. But I still didn’t hit “submit.” (Procrastinating again.) I had a “works published” section on my resume. I had claimed familiarity with the Chicago Manual of Style, which is both true and a job requirement. Shouldn’t I have listed the items according to the Chicago method?
I dragged out the orange-covered 15th edition of Chicago and realized that they don’t cover electronic journals or blogs. Logged on the internet. Searched for the 16th edition. Found what I needed.
In between, I did laundry, refereed my kids, cleaned the kitchen and my bathroom, supervised the kids cleaning their bathroom . . . Obviously, a dirty sink was more urgent than a complete resume. (Or so my fear said.) A dirty kitchen wouldn’t laugh at my cover letter, and a pile of laundry wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the fourteen-year-long gap in my employment history.
Please, God, I prayed. Please. I wasn’t sure what I was praying or what I wanted. Please.
At three o’clock, I hit “submit.”
The fear didn’t leave.
I had to deal with it. So I did the only thing I knew to do: wrote. I wrote through the questions, sought answers, and stumbled over a crucial question. Why do I write?
Because it reveals the truth. Picasso famously defined art as “the lie that tells the truth.” It isn’t real—thus it’s a lie—but it reveals the truth. The truth sets us free. Freedom is good; hope is good; the response to the resulting blog post is good. All my thoughts converged and sliced through part of my fear.
But only part. It was still there, dangling.
I was totally sick of thinking about fear. But God wasn’t through with the subject.
I went to a meeting of the school ladies association. These are the folks who raise gobs of money for our private school. They’re the competent, confident, and take charge-ish sort of people. Not the fearful types. Not like me.
The president mentioned that the book fair, coming up in late September, still needed a chair. Push, shove, push, shove— God, I argued silently, I am not the chair-of-anything type. It usually involves telephones and telling people what to do, and I’m afraid of that. Remember my phone phobia? You remember, right? And what if I screw up? The library won’t get enough funds and . . .
“What’s involved?” I heard myself say.
All eyes looked at me. I was in the spotlight, another fear of mine.
Their faces lit up. “Yeah, we have a chairperson!!” one lady chirped.
Indeed they did.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by cast-out-fear reminders. Blog posts, both mine and others. Songs on the radio, both sacred and secular. A poster on my daughter’s wall that read, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-control.”
Power. Love. Self-control. The things I’ve needed my entire life, the things that God has that I don’t. I can’t amputate this fear on my own. Only God can.
Slowly, surely, God is cutting through that fear and giving me more confidence.
My fear still kicks. But it’s not as strong now, and it’ll never be as strong as God.
[Laura Droege is a wife of a rocket scientist, a mama of two daughters, and a novelist with three manuscripts in search of a good publishing home. She holds a graduate degree in literature and taught English as a second language for four years. Now she stays home with her kids, writes fiction, and blogs at lauradroege.wordpress.com]