Thursday, August 23, 2012

Traveling the Path of Fear and Faith

The thing about paths is that they always lead somewhere. The scary thing about paths is not knowing what kind of journey they'll take me on. The exciting thing about paths is that they always come with an adventure attached ... well, as long as you view life as an adventure ... and I do.
Seeing the end of the path from the beginning is not my promise. Some paths come wrapped in a dream I've longed to take on and fulfill. Others may appear to be cloaked by a cloud of fear trying to disguise itself as the unknown. But in the end, the decision--to put one foot in front of the other and walk--rests squarely on my shoulders. Do I walk by faith or in fear?

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 [NKJV]
In a blog I read today "10 Things You've Got to Know about Fear", written by Ann Voskamp, there were two points she made with which I really resonated, because one spoke about the path from where I've come (point 5) and the other speaks to the path on which I'm heading (point 6).
“5. We must do that which we know we cannot — to prove that it’s our God who cannot fail.”
I started walking this edict out last year (about this very time) when God asked if I would commit to a year-long women’s group, Titus 2, at my church. One of my longtime fears has revolved around women and engaging in groups of women because I've had a long running relationship with the enemy of comparison due to rejection by the "populars" when I was in elementary and middle school. So my soul questions: Will I fit in? Will I be judged if I don’t dress like they do? Will there already be impenetrable cliques? Will there be whispering and gossip and competition? Will I come out with deeper doubts and greater trust issues, or will my wounds be washed clean by the unknown journey that God is asking me to take with Him?
There were many obstacles in my heart when God asked me to pursue Titus 2, but I did it anyway. I was scared to death, but I trusted in the One who asked me.

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You." Psalm 56:3 [ESV]

I had enough faith to know that my God would never ask me to do something just so He could throw salt on my open wound. He's in the business of healing not harming, and healing comes in many different forms. Some healing is immediate, but some requires a journey where each choice to step out with God brings truth, which replaces lies, which brings freedom, which heals our wounds day-by-day, and in my case, interaction-by-interaction.
When group started, I wanted nothing more than to find a good "reason", i.e. excuse, to dart and not return after the first week ... and the next, and probably even the next. But once I triumphed (through shear commitment to God alone) past the first few weeks and made it to small group introductions, I found myself settling in and cheering God for putting me in a group with leaders I could relate to. I'm not much of a girly-girl, so having two very down-to-earth, strong and steady women as leaders cemented the deal that I would definitely stay the course for the year. 
Upon completion of my first year, my fear of women is almost gone (I'm still fighting a battle or two with that pesky enemy of comparison), and my rear view mirror is full of goodness: I've gained many new friends, I understand the hearts of women like never before, I've received exceptional teaching from exceptional women walking out their destinies, I've found acceptance and love without condition, and I've been encouraged to pursue even greater paths by having purpose, vision and character spoken into me through "words in season". 
“6. Travel in the direction of your fears — to let God direct your life.”
Now, as I step into my second year with Titus 2, I'm walking into that room not just as a participant but also as a small group leader. Did fear begin speaking once I was approached to be a part of leadership? Yep. And to be honest, multiple times I thought about backing out because fear loves to pursue me, taunting me with the "what if's?". But God kept speaking directly to those places in me that built me up and gave me the courage to keep moving forward, and when I chose to listen to Him, fear had no choice but to stop bullying me.
By hearing and obeying God, and being empowered by the very women I was afraid of just a year ago, I am traveling directly on the path where fear hides; and by simply making the choice to walk, and not let fear grind me to a halt, I am conquering fear and building faith one day, one decision, one footstep at a time. 
God doesn't expect us not to feel fear, He only asks that we trust Him enough to obey when He speaks. Fear can't reside where Faith reigns!
"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV]