Do It Afraid

by Tara Livesay on May 2, 2013


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.

The real F word.
Keeps us from trusting.
Keeps us from risking.
Keeps us from healing.
Keeps us trapped. Keeps us from doing.

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.
Most of us find ways to manage what we’re fearful about, you do it  – and I do it.

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. 

What then?

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.

blog:  |  twitter (sharing with her better half): @troylivesay

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries - Maternity Center working in the area orphan prevention, Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 27 to 9 years old and has recently become a grandmother to 3 grandsons. Tara enjoys friends, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family.
  • My biggest fear is not knowing what God has in store ahead and making a wrong decision. It’s not a scared fear but a fretful fear. Even decisions have to be made the “do it afraid” way.

    • Dalaina May

      Yes and yes. Exactly where I am too!

    • AlyssaMM

      ooh, ooh, yes! THIS. I am so there. And looking back, I realize that every time I did it afraid, God worked it all out. He does that.

    • Yes, I hear that. AlyssaMM – the looking back is so helpful, isn’t it?

  • Dalaina May

    This really spoke to me today as we anticipate a change in fields. It makes no sense to be afraid because we have done this whole crazy move-to-the-other-side-of-the-world thing before, and even done it successfully. Yet, I am afraid to do it all over again. Thanks so much for this post. Do it afraid… I’m going to have to adopt that phrase!

    • Change is so hard. Hopeful that your memories of the past and God’s hand on you will propel you forward.

  • Melodie

    This was so me when I was living in Liberia working with orphan advocacy in a corrupt government. I did it, but I was so afraid. Psalm 23 talks about walking through the valley and not being afraid. Because it’s such a popular Psalm, I think we Christians forget that so much of life is about doing right despite being afraid!

    • Melodie – Working in corrupt situations cross culturally — YIKES – yes, that is a true “do it afriad” situation. Justice requires such a commitment to constant truth telling and often at a great personal risk. I am glad you can look back on what you did in Liberia and recall His faithfulness to you. Thanks for being there and for the risks you took.

  • such a good word, tara! Thanks for so beautifully expressing such a good challenge.

    same only different… when the choruses of “are we almost there yet?” harmonizing with “when will we get there?” my typical answer is: “we’ll be there when we get there.”

    i often cling to 2 Tim 1.7… it has been my life verse. in doing so, i’m not negating the presence of fear… just recognizing that presence of God does not bring fear. i do think there’s a balance, though. sometimes we can do foolish and sinful things…. afraid. so when i’m afraid, i try to discern the source of the fear, and is it really fear or is it God saying slow down… figure out if He’s present and the fear is coming from within me and a lack believing faith and trusting or is the source God’s presence missing? am i doing afraid like a kid responding to a dare to prove myself to myself and others or am i obeying, doing right and being Christlike?

    • yes! I agree – do it afraid doesn’t at all apply when God is using our lack of peace to speak to us and keep us still.

  • wow, this was so helpful. I’m living in Asia (been overseas 9 months), and it’s the hardest thing I’ve done. I’m alone here, and I dream of going “home”. I really need to focus on my successes here, and “do it afraid”, instead of focusing on cultural/language barriers, and things I mess up, or how lonely I am.

    • I’m sorry you’re lonely Elizabeth. I think that is a valid and real reason to struggle and I don’t mean to suggest that things are easy or simple when we decide to keep moving forward and doing things afraid. I pray you can give yourself so much grace and that the you’ll feel lifted up and at peace (and not lonely) very soon.

  • I LOVE it!

  • Tara – I have to thank you for this post. Since reading it last week I have internalized the phrase, more so the strong impact of the phrase. “Do it Afraid” – what a great way to live life. One of my five is a “do it afraid” girl. She has traveled all over the world by herself – only we know how fearful she is before leaving. But she does it. She goes anyway. I have learned so much from her – she is willing to “do it afraid”. Can’t thank you enough for writing this.

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Thanks Marilyn for your words … He walks with us!

    Your fear is an opportunity for advancement.
    Your sorrows are opportunity for greater Joy.
    Your adversities are nothing more then life’s way
    of strengthening you to see to it
    that you take total advantage of and
    that you indulge in the beautiful ramifications
    of your every day Happenstance of life.
    For today’s unfulfilled hearts desires and
    tomorrows distant dreams.
    They make your heart grow faint
    but when accomplished Such Joy
    The vehicle to bring utter delight to your life
    Is Pain!!!!

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  • Pat Zerr

    I lost my dear husband of 55 yrs. 2 mos. ago and the fear of living out the rest of my life without him is becoming more evident every day. It’s the every day tasks such as driving in the snow, taking care of the snow tasks. Fixing dinner for one ,sitting down to dinner for one, laying down in bed at night alone. Last night he came to me,wrapped his arms around me, I woke up, the room was lit up and I didn’t want to go back to sleep. He’s with me, always.

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