For way too long I let fear have the last word.
I wasn’t a frightened child, nor was I an anxious one.
I was always the first to volunteer in primary school, be it in the school play or reading out loud.
But then, in high school, the bullies came along. My friends disappeared whenever trouble appeared.
I felt so alone, scared, and isolated.
Thankfully it was in the days before Social Media.
When I was a teenager they came and camped out on my drive, shouting abuse through the letterbox, instead.
My confidence started to slip away.
Fear emerged. I needed to keep myself safe.
Whenever I received public recognition things got worse.
I won a prize in school and had to go up onto the stage during assembly to receive it. Later that day I was tripped in the hallway; pushed and kicked all the way home.
So, I learned to hide.
To be quiet.
I learned never to do anything that gave me a public profile.
Then, I was safe.
Only, I wasn’t, because eventually I had to stop hiding.
I had to become an adult and live in an adult’s world. But I was so used to hiding that I couldn’t stop.
Fear held me back professionally because although I was good at my job I never wanted to interview for promotions.
It held me back in church as I was the only member of the Leadership Team who didn’t want to preach.
Shame compounded the fear.
It held me back in so many ways.
I was so afraid to speak in any formal settings, even though I had so much I wanted to say.
I learned ways of coping and dealing with things that helped in small ways, but the fear was always, always, there. Lurking. A feeling of general dis-ease.
Then, one evening, I was at gig listening to my good friend Godfrey Birtill.
He was telling a story about his song, “Do you believe?”
This song is written from God’s perspective and asks whether we truly believe what God believes about us.
It tells us that we are irreplaceable, unique, created for intimacy with God.
It tells us that God sings over us, “I say you’re simply amazing!”
Godfrey told the story of how he had been invited into a secure unit to do a gig.
When he asked why they’d invited him he was told that someone had left one of his CD’s with a patient.
This patient was a prolific self-harmer who posed a real danger to herself.
She had been playing “Do you believe?” on repeat and the results were staggering, so they’d invited Godfrey to come and play for the other patients.
I was blown away by this story.
I felt challenged!
I have been a follower of Jesus since I was thirteen and yet I had given fear the upper hand and believed lies and fiction for far too long.
I needed to change my thoughts and bring them in line with truth. Maybe it was just that simple.
I had tried the “Face-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway” approach many times in the past and it had been terrifying, but this felt different.
This was retraining my brain away from old thought patterns and, instead, choosing to meditate on the fact that the One who created me knows I am amazing.
How wonderful is that?
So, for two whole months I played “Do you believe?” on repeat play as I got ready for work.
I looked myself in the eye and sang ‘because He thinks I’m amazing’ in the mirror.
Things started to change.
Slowly. But, they definitely changed.
I started to believe I could, instead of I couldn’t.
I started to believe in myself and my abilities.
I started to see myself the way I believed God sees me.
Although I still don’t love public speaking (it’s definitely not up there in my top 3 things to do) I am no longer terrified.
I am now definitely free to pursue any job I want and actually don’t mind interviews too much.
I hate fear with a passion (for I allowed it to rob me for too long) and although I still struggle with fear from time to time, I try my best to recognise it and root it out as early as possible.
I venture to propose that the opposite of fear is not, in fact, courage.
I suggest it is, in fact, love.
As the bible states in 1 John 4 v 18 – Perfect love casts out all fear.
The only thing I did differently this time, to all the times before, was simply meditate on how much I am loved.
And I chose to believe it.
And I let love do it’s work.
[you can find Godrey’s song Do You Believe? here]