The summer I was 12 years old, my dad took me white water rafting. It was on a big river in Pennsylvania called the Youghiogheny. I would love to have lots of photos to document that amazing day but alas, I had not yet found my style stride and my glasses were choking my head with a sports strap. So I take back that wish.
That day was a big deal. It was of the first times I remember making choices in the midst of fear.
My dad and I had our own two person ducky and we hit that river with adrenaline. We were a good team, my dad and I, not tipping our boat one single time. But come on, what fun is rafting without being in the water?
When we came to the Swimming Rapid, I knew what I wanted to do.
The People Who Knew gave us instructions: Jump into the river, point our toes, lean back into our lifejackets, go with the flow of water and swim to the side after the rapids.
As I stood on solid ground peering into the river, all of these instructions were having a hay day in my head.
Jump, point, lean, flow. And I was scared.
But only for a second. Because I jumped.
Swimming that rapid was a big rush for me on that adolescent year old day, one that I remember all of these years later. Slightly terrifying, knowing that something could go wrong, but oh my gosh, so much fun!
Apparently I'm not always brave. Later on that same day, our group pulled up beside this enormous cliff, looking for another adventure. So. High. As I looked that thousand-story-high cliff, I decided that I didn't want to get wet again. I had had my adventure for the day and I was bowing out.
So I watched my dad and the others jump and I let fear keep me in my boat.
As they surfaced, their eyes were cartoon-sized and they were gasping and could hardly speak except for Wow.
If I could go back and do things differently, you bet I would.
My fear held me back. My fear held me back! No one else said I shouldn't jump, no one else was cautioning against it or putting up road blocks. It was just me and my fear.
Already the next day I was regretting letting fear be my boss. To this day I can't think of my rafting adventure without feeling regret.
Many years later, glasses gone, mostly grown up, married and headed to southeast Asia for mission work, I found myself afraid again.
Not at the thought of moving across the globe, but at public speaking in NYC's subways station. Gulp.
The husband and I were training with our team in Brooklyn, NY and were given a lot of interesting assignments, this one being our most intense. At least that is how I saw it. Maybe everyone else thought it was a cakewalk, I don't know. But I was afraid.
Our trainer was taking the group of us down to a big station where many of the trains intersected and there was a nice hub of activity. His job was to get the attention of the waiting crowd and introduce a friend who wanted to tell them about Jesus. That would be us.
My baby was being watched by a teammate while he slept, and I needed to go first so I could catch a train back to him in time for his next feeding.
So with twitching knees and nothing but the Gospel of John in my hand, I hollered to those subway riders about the Jesus who fills our hearts when nothing else can.
I have sweaty palms just remembering it.
I also have no regret.
I could have easily used my baby as an excuse and never faced my fear. If I had, no doubt I would be remembering that day with the same wistfulness of my rafting day.
But in that winter moment, somewhere under ground level in the largest city in the country, I faced my fear.
And it has become one of my favorite memories of my life. People stepped up to me, took the Gospels of John from my hand and strode off into their genuine lives with the hope of Jesus. Five minutes of my time, five minutes of my fear, was completely worth it.
I wish I could say that now I'm cured. That something shifted in me that day when I faced my fear. But you know it doesn't always work like that.
Because you too have been afraid. You too have looked at the opportunity in front of you and felt fear. You too have stepped out weak-kneed and faked it. You too have discovered the exhilaration of doing it afraid.
And we have to do it over and over again.
I would love to hear your stories of being afraid. I would love to hear the good ones and the failed ones. We all have them both. And they are powerful.
My prayer for me is that I stop letting fear be my boss and start bossing my fear around. That I never again let fear hold me back, that I would always make good choices in the midst of fear.
And that is my prayer for you too.
May we, as Disciples of Jesus, put fear in it's place and show our world what living fearlessly looks like.
Fear, you ain't the boss of me.