More than ten years ago I got to watch my oldest son Isaac take his first steps. He was 11 months old at the time.
Considering we lived in two different countries at that point in time, it was great timing on his part.
I was in Port au Prince visiting him toward the end of his adoption process. I made that particular trip solo, meaning we spent a lot of time hanging out in a hotel room watching TV in French. I was introducing him to Cheez-It crackers and other fine American cuisine when he stood up and showed me that without a ton of effort, he could stand unassisted and balance himself fairly well.
He crawled over to the wall and stood up against it. He sat back down. He did this over and over again. After he stood he would look to me for applause as he wobbled and grinned, staying near the wall. No matter what I did to try to entice him to take a step, he stood in place. He was eleven months old and just as he is now, he was quite cautious. This boy is not into risk-taking.
By the second day in our hotel room, he stood with his back against the wall toying with the idea of stepping away from the wall that balanced him. He would take one step with one hand on the wall; he would laugh nervously at me while I motioned for him to keep coming. He would put his arms up for balance and stand a couple of inches away from the wall. For hours a day we played that game. Over and over I’d tell him to try it. Over and over he’d laugh and step back to rest his diapered butt on the wall. After a few days of coaxing and giggling and fear, he took his hand off the wall and took five unbalanced and uncoordinated steps into my arms.
When he got to me he made the most peculiar laughing and crying combination sound. He was so afraid to let go of the solid wall behind him, that when he found out he had survived the risk, he was simultaneously more afraid and more confident.
He trusted my arms but He didn’t trust the process of getting to me very much. It took Isaac many hours to attempt the five steps from the wall into my arms a second time.
He’d overcome his fear once, but subsequent attempts weren’t any less frightening.
It tells us lies :
You are not good enough. It will be too hard for you. You will fail. It will be too painful. You cannot do it. You are alone.
Sometimes our heads trick us into thinking that our previous tries and our previous success doesn’t mean anything.
Sometimes we forget that our Heavenly Papa stands nearby ready to help.
We conquer our fear, and then our fear conquers us.
I am not afraid of failing at my duties as a mom and wife – until I am.
I am not afraid that my kids will someday have an accident in Haiti that cannot be treated, until I am.
I am not afraid of failure in my studies to become a midwife – until I am.
I am not afraid my husband, Troy, will die someday in a scary hold-up, until I am.
I am not afraid of facing incredible poverty that tears my heart out, frustrates me, and leaves me confused and screaming, “Where are you God?!?!” – until I am.
So what do I do with all this fear?
Truthfully, it lies quiet, dormant, and well managed most of the time … except when it doesn’t.
I can talk sense to it. I can say things to it like “Fear is not of God.” and “You’re doing fine. God is with you. You’ve done it before. You’ve got this!” The fear can be pushed back, sometimes prayed away, other times ignored…. But on occasion the human, broken mess that is Tara Livesay cannot keep it all at bay.
Not unlike my son Isaac as he took those first steps, I trust the strength of my Father’s arms but sometimes I don’t trust the process of getting to Him.
My good friend Beth shared her favorite quote with me early in our friendship. “Do it afraid“, she said.
Like Isaac on his second attempt to leave the solid safety of the wall, knowing too much and knowing too little, do it afraid.
I’ve heard it said, “practice makes perfect”. I’m too much of a realist to believe that to be true in this instance. Practicing doing scary things doesn’t really make me perfect at it. I’m still afraid sometimes. I don’t know how to stop being afraid completely and consistently. I’m not finding ‘perfection’ as I continually practice facing both my rational and irrational fears.
I only know that sometimes – I have to do it afraid.
We all do.
~ ~ ~ ~
Is fear something you struggle with? What helps you face those fears, what helps you “do it afriad”?
Tara Livesay works as a midwife apprentice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with Heartline Ministries.