“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Early this summer, my mom came and stayed with me for a week. We had a great time together, except for this one point -- she doesn’t understand why my family continues to live in Overland Park. I grew up in a small town outside of Wichita, and in my parents' eyes, this is the best place to live -- small enough where you know most everyone, a sense of community, safe. She thinks Overland Park is big and scary.
During my mom’s stay, I took her to a lot of cool places, places that make Overland Park feel like home to me. We went to the New Theater to see Buddy Holly. We shopped. We took Ally to Tae Kwon Do. We had lunch at Andres bakery with a friend and her mother. We drove by Olathe East and St. Andrew. As we were driving down 127th Street, my mom saw a couple of women walking. She was amazed that they were out walking by themselves. It was maybe 7:00 p.m., and they were on a well-traveled street. Yet she was afraid for them. The truth is, I was raised by fearful women. My mom is afraid of flying. My grandma was afraid of staying by herself with her kids. She was so afraid she’d sit up all night with a butcher’s knife in her lap. While I am not trying to make fun of my mom and grandma, I have vowed not to be fearful of everything as an adult.
And yet, I do know a little something about fear, as we all do. We all have our everyday fears -- I am afraid of oversleeping and being late for work, not living up to the standards I set for myself, and being a bad parent and wife. I’m afraid of loneliness and not being accepted. I’m afraid that I’m not a good teacher. These fears are normal and can sometimes push us to be our best selves. Debilitating fear, however, can ruin our lives. We have to find a way to push through fear and anxiety.
Three years ago, when my daughter became ill, real fear became my constant companion. I was immensely afraid of what would happen to her, to me, to my family. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make it through this challenging time or be the mom that she needed me to be. I didn’t think I could live a life filled with uncertainty. These fears were real and heavy. And they could have taken me down. Some days these fears DO get the best of me.
And yet, I’m sick of fear. I’m tired of the media over-dramatizing things to keep us afraid. I’m tired of being worried to go out alone because I’m a female. I’m tired of fearing what our President will do next. I’m tired of reading all of the scary headlines in the paper and letting them bog me down. I’m tired of hiding out and protecting my heart because the world is portrayed as an unsafe place. Mostly, I’m tired of this culture of fear. The truth is we’re all afraid at times. Bad things can happen to anyone anywhere, and safety is an illusion. Fear or no fear, we need to do life anyway. We can be mindful and cautious, but I don’t think we should quit living because we are afraid to go out into the world.
Instead of giving into fear, I’m now trying to lean in to the challenges in my life, to fix the things I can fix and maintain hope about the things I can’t control. I aspire to find joy in each day instead of making myself sick over what the future may or may not hold, to enjoy life and take one day at a time. I’m not saying I’ve got this down. Trust me, there have been plenty of days filled with anxiety and sadness, days when I feel certain that fear’s got the best of me. But my goal is to beat this thing called fear and build a beautiful life despite the challenges the world has thrown at me.