Do you ever feel tied down by fear? That your fears, however serious or illogical, have you shackled to the ground? Do you ever fear that your fears aren’t so much yours as you are theirs?
I do. Every other hour of every passing day.
I don’t remember when I first noticed how fearful I was. Maybe when I remembered my 11-year-old self staying awake at night worrying about her future livelihood and living situation (how do you find an apartment? how do you pay for it? how do you even make money?). Maybe when my innumerable dreams started to look possible, nearly doable.
My fears have controlled me a lot in the past year. Immobilized me. Clamped my feet to the ground and duct-taped my mouth shut.
A year ago, I realized that I’d never imagined or pictured myself at 20 years old. As a person who’s always looked to the future and seen myself in it, this realization scared the bejeebers out of me.
Why have I never imagined myself at 20? What does it mean that I haven’t?
My logical, vocal self brushed these questions off: “Meredith. Stop being ridiculous.”
My inner, fear-filled self decided it was because I would never turn 20.
Last summer, my main initiative was to get my driver’s license. I’d driven 7 times the previous summer and I was determined to more than quadruple that, pass my driver’s test, and return to school a college junior with the ability to drive.
Learning how to drive wasn’t easy for me. I’m convinced if you put any beginning driver in a manual Ford with a sticky clutch, a loose shift stick, and brakes that don’t engage until your foot’s on the floor, you’re not going to have pretty results. Add that my dad — who’s not the greatest communicator or the most patient coach — starting me off by explaining the car as a something-ton missile with a heavy projection and the ability to destroy, and the likelihood of this scared pup calmly entering a test is pretty slim.
On top of that, put my conviction that I’m not going to make it to age 20, and what do you get?
A 19-year-old who’s convinced that not only is she in her last year of life, but she’s going to leave this world in a car crash.
Welcome to my mindset less than a year ago when I failed my first driver’s test. And my second one.
Was I governed by fear? You bet I was.
Sure, the car was a piece of junk — I will always confirm that fact — and the testers were basically awful, but the main factor was I was a bundle of nerves. And I was a bundle of nerves, because I was scared to death.
Needless to say, I made it to my 20th birthday, I’m still living, and the third time I took my driving test — over Spring Break this past March — I passed, but don’t get so caught up in what has happened now that you miss my point.
Without a driver’s license, I felt unprepared for life as an adult. And rightly so. Unless you live in a major metropolis (meaning D.C., New York, or Chicago) or have the moolah for a car service (I don’t), you can’t be independent without a license. I needed a license. I needed to be able to drive.
But I was tied to my fear. My fear that I wouldn’t make it to 20 because I’d die in a car crash kept me from accomplishing something I needed to accomplish.
Don’t let your fears do that to you.
Don’t let your fears take your ability to accomplish something, to do something great and necessary, and nail it under the floorboards it’s shackled you to. Don’t let your fears put the shackles in place. Whatever fear you have, use it to drive you to accomplish exactly what you’re afraid of.
Since my 20th birthday and the ultimate realization that not only did fear control me, but my fear was irrational, I’ve begun recognizing when my fears start to clamp my arms to my sides. And before they have my elbows locked in, I wrench free and tell myself, “No. I’m not going to be controlled by fear.”
In these moments, I often think of 2 Timothy 1:7:
God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Fear may exist. But it has no place in my life. And it has no place in yours. So don’t leave room for fear. Say no to shackles.