Leadership: Facing My Fear

from: Kristyn Bray, Co-Executive Director

One of the principles we hold to is:
“God meets us at the edge–when we face our fears.”
Tell me your greatest fear….
I don’t often take this particular exercise from the weekend into my “real” life. However, this year, so far, has been a doozy, and I am finding myself aware of a frequent sense of fear and anxiety.  I took on a new role at The Cross Ministry Group at the beginning of this past summer, and I have discovered that I have a large amount of fear and uncertainty around what I bring to this calling.  In December, my husband and I had a house flood that caused us to need to evacuate our home. We were told by the repairmen that they would “try” to save our house.  (We have now been out of our home since January 1st.)   We are in a conflict with a family member that has caught us up short, and we are afraid, uncertain and heartbroken. Our church family is in a season of radical rebuilding, and the process is terrifying, painful, and uncertain.  We have had challenges with an aging parent, sickness, and troubles at work. I have found myself, on any given day, with a roving sense of fear.
I don’t generally struggle with fear, it is not a place I live in. Or so I would have said prior to the past few months. However, friends, I really am anxious and afraid.  I have sat with this fear, and I have become aware that many of my current fears radiate around my feelings of insecurity, identity or questions about whether or not I am enough. These fears, doubts, and questions are resoundingly loud in my head. What if I screw it up? What if they cannot save my house? What if I don’t know what to do? What if we never resolve this family conflict? What if our relationship is never restored? What if we lose connection? What if I disappoint everyone? What if our church family is not able to reconstruct? What if everyone finds out I am a fraud…what if…what if…what if…? These fears lock me down and immobilize me. They create so much doubt that I lose my bearings on what I need and want to do because I question who I am.  Do you ever feel this way?
One morning, recently, I was sitting with my fears and felt the invitation to bring them into the light with Jesus. He asked me to tell Him my greatest fear.  Then, He asked me again and again, “Tell me your greatest fear…” and each time I went a little deeper. There was something about putting the nebulous haunting fears and questions into real words that brought me toward freedom from them..  They were there in my head anyway. Hiding and avoiding my fear had me locked down. It is the fears I have not voiced and questions I did not want to ask that cause me to freeze. I am learning that I must pull the thread on my fears and be open to following them all the way through, bringing into the light all of the hidden and deep “what ifs.” My current work with fear is to follow the fear all the way to the very bottom. Say it ALL.
When I brought my fears to Jesus, His response was one of grace and kindness and a gentle call to repentance, “It is okay to be afraid. I can hold all of your fears. I see you. I hear you.  AND, you have a choice to make. You can hold these fears and listen to them, or you can believe Me.”  I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in Philippians 4 this year, and I find these words to be gently chiding and comforting, and they call me to believe what He said in a deeper way.  Philippians 4: 6,  ”Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition…present your requests to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
My fear is real. My fear can immobilize me. Jesus, in His grace and kindness, reminds me that fear is also human and that He stands ready to guard my heart and my mind with peace. I have a choice. I can move to the edge, risk facing my fear, and He will hold me.
It turns out “Tell me your greatest fear…” IS a practice that I can do in my daily life. When I am overwhelmed and weighed down by the fears in my head, when I get stuck, I can name the fears, and actively give them to Jesus. Fear itself cannot actually harm me. Will I choose to name my fears and release them? Can I open my hands just a little bit and allow for His grace to come in? Will I choose to take a risk to receive peace that is far and above my understanding?  Today, it is fear about identity, relationships, being enough and my house EVER being put back together. Tomorrow’s fears may be different. The truth remains whatever the fear. “Tell me your greatest fear,” He says. I am deeply grateful that He CAN hold space for it all.