By Kelly Balarie
Get out of my way! I am on a mission. I didn’t say it aloud, but I might as well have. I was on a mission! A critical one that seemed almost impossible, as I could see a long line of people ahead of me inside the coffee shop. These people should know to never get between a woman and her morning caffeine fix. That’s how I figured it. It would be just the thing to send all the dominos of my day falling.
I couldn’t have that.
With all the details of my skinny, extra hot, double pump vanilla latte on my mind, I nearly missed him. My feet carried me faster than a cartoon roadrunner—and let’s be honest, there’s no time for anything when you have the anxiety of time chasing your heels. Must. Get. Coffee. Have. No. Time.
But there he sat. Scrunched in the corner by the door. Humble. Lowly. Dirty. One you would certainly miss if you weren’t looking. But I didn’t miss him; he was staring intently. His eyes met mine with both invitation and conviction. They practically asked me, Are you just like them? Another one rushing past me to get that cup of golden idol to warm your hands for the day?
Everything in me wanted to snap back, “Well, yes, I am. And don’t talk to me any-more, because I am going to be stuck at the back of that line. And then you’ll have to deal with one angry lady and no money in your cup, sir, and you certainly don’t want that.”
I almost said it. I really want-ed to. I wanted to ignore him and rush in to suck down that brown nectar from the green goddess. But I didn’t. I didn’t because sometimes you know it is the voice of God pulling you in to something great, and if you don’t slow down and listen for just a minute, you’ll miss it.
I stopped. I stopped be-cause I was deathly afraid of missing something great-er, something powerful, or something that would release the feeling that an unbound schedule meant I would plummet straight into dark depths of despair. So I took the risk. I drew near, and the closer I got the more I couldn’t help but inhale his stench and observe his deep, dirty lines of life-pain. I didn’t want all this heaviness on my rush-in and rush-out stop-off. I knew this daily twenty-one-minute commute inside-out, and pausing now would throw my whole day off.
Yet what I have realized is that stopping and stepping into unsafe forces us to receive God’s new safe. Will we risk it? Will we receive it?
It’s the only place we get to see that God won’t turn His back on us, disregard our emotions, or critique us. Rather He’ll speak straight into our gaps of discomfort—if we let Him. Will we?
I wish I could tell you, as that man and I talked, that I was given some glory story with words so powerful they made my insides settle like peaceful, early morning fog, but I can’t. Our shared words are mostly blurred in my memory now, but the underlying message of this encounter can’t be erased: shushing up and slowing down is paramount to God working in us—and strengthening us. The truth is, God is ready to hit us with unfathomable new perspectives—ones that redefine our past, present, and problems if we will only stop, receive, and consider.
Will we? Will we walk unafraid into His presence? Into God’s rhythms? Not cowering from mysteries?
You see—that man and I? We both had needs that day, though maybe we didn’t even know what we needed. Maybe we didn’t know why we reached out to each other. Maybe our lack of knowledge didn’t matter. God knew. He positioned that man at the door and me heading to it. He set up a blind date founded on the principle of love—and waited for the celebration to unfold. God’s deep affection was stored up in this chance connection of two unlikely souls. It often is, if only we stop, receive, and consider.
What if I had pretended like I couldn’t see or hear him and just kept walking?
It pains me to think how I could have missed his eyes. Eyes that looked into mine the same way mine looked into his. Eyes that understood. Eyes that said, I see you. I care for you. It is hard out there. Even more, it pains me to think there was a chance I could have missed God’s great collision that wanted to break up my don’t-get-too-close-to-me mentality. Oh, I thank God I didn’t miss out. I thank God I didn’t miss His small prompting of, I see what you are going through. I know you.
I stopped. Received. Considered.
God knew both what he needed and what I need-ed.
This show called life—al-though we think it’s about us, it hardly is at all. There is so much more to it. When we open our eyes to the greater possibilities, we enter an immersive experience where love comes alive, where the pin-drop nature of God’s whispers are heard, and where the form of who we were actually made to be emerges. We hardly need scripts, because the whole point of unconditional love is that it’s entirely unscripted. We don’t have to know everything but just have to be willing to accept His everything. To let it settle right into the deep gashes of fear. Then, things change.
Don’t Miss It!
Now I can’t help but think that some of you might look at this story and say, “So what? You slowed down?
You met a man who celebrated God with you, and that’s nice. But what does this have to do with me?”
A whole lot. If you spend your whole life grasping for happy in the future, you’ll end up missing God’s trans-formation in the present. You’ll run after something but you’ll never catch it. I know this to be true be-cause I have lived this way. And one thing I have come to terms with is that if we want the Spirit’s power to crush our momentary fear, the only place that will hap-pen is in the here and now.
Will we believe God can change us right here, or will we continue to pull on a wishbone and hope our best dreams come true?
I know, my collaborators in fear, that many of you are just like me. And in this moment, right here, your excitement is starting to wither. Why? Because you’ve hardly lived in the moment and you feel horrible about that. Let me tell you something: God does not point His finger at you. He doesn’t give you demerits. He doesn’t send you to your room with-out dinner. He speaks life. Let’s allow it to soak into us and be with Him in this very moment:
Child, I am with you. I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you (Isa. 41:10). You can feel afraid, but know this: I will sustain you no matter what—I will not let you fall (Ps. 55:22). Still feel anxious? Pray. Petition. Offer thanksgiving. And let My peace waterfall on you (Phil. 4:6–7). I give you My peace; don’t you believe? It is peace I leave and peace I give, not like this mad world offers but as only I can—so don’t even fuss with all that madness (John 14:27). Turn your shortness of breath into deep breaths, for you have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). You don’t have to fear the intensity of love; you see, My perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). My consolation is what will bring joy (Ps. 94:19). Come, get to know Me. Come, get to see how much I care about your crossed arms, your shaking hands, your jitters, and your all-over-cold sweats. I see it all, and guess what, My child: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). So pull up a chair and let Me do what I do best: minister to your heart murmurs.
I don’t want to let these words fly by unnoticed.I don’t want to stay the same. Do you?
Part of beating what you always do is realizing what it is. I know that I am prone to stay in the status quo, like a teenager with her head stuck in her smartphone, both avoiding and dissing instruction.
Just thinking of this also makes me think of my son. Sometimes I have to tell him to put on his listening ears. Normally this happens when I am on the verge of going berserk, and after I have repeated myself for the fourth, fifth, or sixth time—and my insides are about to spill rage all over the kitchen floor. It is my last-ditch effort that says, This is the moment when you absolutely must listen. It is the moment when everything is on the line if he doesn’t hear me. It is both my way to ensure things don’t fly over his head and to really reach deep into his heart.
With this in mind, I wonder: Will we put on our listening ears to hear God?
Father God, we don’t want to miss You anymore. Will You help us to hear the call to be brave? We believe, by faith, in Your power to teach us, to lead us, and to help us venture to the heights we are deathly afraid of. Illuminate these paths by the current of Your Spirit. But most of all, give us eyes to see and ears to hear through the entirety of this book. Amen.
No One Said It’s Easy
When I look at myself, I see a girl who wants to be brave but isn’t so certain she actually can be. I love all those generic affirmation memes online—Go, woman, go! and Nothing can stop you! and You are better than yourself. Half of me gravitates to them, wishing they were true, but after reading a hundred and one of them,I have never seen them work a single thing in my life and I never really even feel that well just five minutes after reading one. I call them half-baked solutions to a crippling problem.
I am left discouraged; after all, I have tried it all. I have tried to will myself into better thinking: Kelly, you can do it, stop fearing. I have tried to chide myself into better thinking: Kelly, you will never pull yourself together if you act like this. I have even tried to shame myself into confidence: Kelly, you are going to push everyone away with your bad anxiety.
When all these efforts fail, I normally give up and give in to some sort of pleasure to get my mind off it: TV, food, drink, movie—you name it, I know it.
Even talking about this induces my other cure-all answer that is easy to offer: Kelly, give ’em Jesus. He will make everything all right.
But things didn’t look “all right” for Jesus. Things weren’t all peaches and sugar with a dollop of whipped cream on top. They were hard. They were painful. They were tough.
Jesus never said to expect easy. So why do we?
And maybe this is the exact kind of encouragement I really need. I need to know someone gets me. Someone understands. Someone declares it hard. Someone has been down a road with a debilitating cross on His back as He pushed into real life. Knowing this, I won’t feel so alone and scared. Then I can maybe see how He made it—and not just made it but made it safely home—and how He makes sense out of everything, even the little things, the pains and threats of to-day.It is not so much that I don’t have to be struggling as it is just that I have to get after Jesus and bring Him into my struggle with me. Doing this—it is called chasing brave.
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Kelly Balarie has lived her subject matter. Her faith was built as she battled through an eating disorder, depression, serious health concerns, company failures, family tragedies, job losses, and times without income. Throughout it all, Kelly has looked past the pain to pursue God’s always-unfolding plan. Kelly is a featured blogger at Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com. Her work has been featured on Relevant, (in)courage.me, and Today’s Christian Woman. She lives with her husband and two toddlers near the sun-soaked shores of the East Coast.
Purchase your copy of Fighting Fear at: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/fear-fighting/381501