Why We Should Face Our Fears

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By the end of the introduction, tears sat full and salty in my eyes.

“Come outside now, it’s getting dark.”

I had waited my whole life for that invitation.

I loved the author for offering it to me with a kind confidence – an invitation not to escape the darkness, but to willingly step into it. Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, ‘Learning to Walk in the Dark’ brought such freedom to my soul.

Over the past few years I have ventured into places others may have warned against, but those words welcome me through their foreboding thresholds. She confirmed what I had long suspected, that there is an offering in even the most offensive of places. There are treasures that can only be found in the shadows. There is a world full of wonders we anxiously lock away and I am ready to swing wide the gates.

I spent last night talking with a group of college girls about fear. Some held theirs knowingly in their hands, others had to dig around to unearth the surface of them, and still others kept them locked away in the cellar of their souls. I could relate to all of them.

Last week it was my mother I engaged in the conversation. She walked terrified through childhood afraid of things like being washed down the drain of the kitchen sink. As she grew into an adult her fears grew too, leading her to believe that maybe death would be the only road to a peace that life could not offer. She bravely resurrected her past demons in an attempt to help me address similar struggles in my own daughter. Recently I have seen simple worries give way to debilitating anxiety in her 8-year-old world. As I considered the fears of both my mother and my daughter I was reminded – I carry my own. Though the source is different, the course is nearly always the same.

Some of you know what I mean.

What is the source of your fear? What thing {or things} would you rather not discuss because it either pokes a hole for worry to drip through or slices right through the dam holding back the vast waters of anxiety?

I began to wonder today as I sat on the front porch swing, gently rocking myself awake, what if we reached out and grabbed the hand of whatever is looming in the darkness? What if we were brave enough to touch that gray, wrinkled witch hand with the jagged yellow fingernails wriggling in our direction? What if instead of shoving her behind a locked door, I felt my way up her arms, along her slender shoulders, onto her warm neck and allowed my fingers to explore the soft lines of her face. Might I find something unexpected? Might her mouth be turned ever so slightly up in a smile that says, “Ah yes, you’ve finally found me.” Might there be untold beauty and truth and grace and even peace on the other side of those witch hands, on the other side of the source of our fear?

It’s cloudy here today. Not dark enough to turn on a light and not bright enough to wear sunglasses. It’s the perfect day to begin considering what might happen if we became equally comfortable in the darkness and the light. What might our blind eyes begin to see? What freedom might we find on the other side of fear?

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Elizabeth Maxon
Elizabeth Maxon is wife to Joey and homeschooling/working mama to Lucy & Oliver.  She lives on the edge of the woods in her hometown of Clemson – which also happens to be her favorite place on earth.   She can routinely be found avoiding housework by reading books, writing stories, tending to her garden, and gathering friends and family.  She is the author of Onederland: A Mother’s Story of Finding Hope in Hard Places and begin - a crash course in spiritual disciplines.  Find her @elizabethmaxon or elizabethmaxon.com
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