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When Your Fear Meets God….A Travel (through life) Blog

I travel a lot. I don’t travel fearlessly. Every time I find my bus stop in a foreign city, or check into an international flight with an international airline correctly, I am immensely relieved. Each time I make it back to my hotel or BNB at the end of a long day of navigating a strange city and maybe a foreign language, I’m always heaving a huge sigh of relief. In fact, traveling is a turbo boost of adrenalin fueled somewhat by my fear. At the end of such trips, when my feet hit US soil, and I finally cross the threshold of my house, I feel like Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) at the hilarious end of “Christmas Vacation,” after a harrowing but successful experience hosting he and his wife’s families for Christmas, when he remarks smugly to himself, “I did it!” I post a lot of pictures when I travel-pictures full of fun and good times. I suspect however, I do not do a very good job conveying to my readers all the ins and outs of my fears woven into that travel itinerary. I am pretty sure they think my fear meter is non-existent. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. My fear of all the things that could possibly go wrong when we travel, never goes away completely. But my fear of that fear has been vanquished for a long time. The inherent fear involved with traveling is not nearly enough to keep me at home. In fact, it probably keeps me on my toes. On the other hand, paralyzing fear of the unknown most certainly would ground me and confine me to a perceived safety zone.

But let’s face it. Fear of traveling isn’t nearly the mountain of fear some have to battle compared to a cancer diagnosis or a divorce, or a child who has strayed away from a positive life path. After all, when I travel I most often do so in countries who are my allies, and who usually speak English, my language, the universal language at that. Even as I sweat out the directions from one place to another, worried that I won’t make that last bus out of a remote village or even as I worry about my children who are traveling different directions from me, even these fears are minuscule compared to the trials that some have endured. Trials wherein we say “If only I had escaped this….in my life.” If only… And here is where that black cloud of fear can be debilitating.

There is an absolutely beautiful song by Casting Crowns about such fears, all of them, big, medium or small as one might measure fear. In this song, the lyrics carry a powerful punch: “There’s a place where fear has to face the God we know.” My fear has to face my God. There is power for us in that knowledge. I believe perhaps that there is a place for fear in our daily lives. It gives us antennae so to speak, so that we can avoid land mines. Healthy fear gives us “flight or fight” when we need it. And of course fear that is talked about in Deuteronomy 10:12 is certainly the kind of spiritual fear and reverence that we should exude for a Holy and loving God. “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.” But what of the fear spoken about in 2 Timothy 1:7? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” God is not the author of this fear. This fear has to face the God we know. And this is true of all our paralyzing fears, no matter what has already happened in your life, no matter if it is fear of what has happened or fear of what might happen. The song goes on to say “One more day, He will make a way. Let Him show you how, you can lay this down.” You CAN lay this down. You can keep “doing” whatever you need to be “doing,” but you CAN lay this down. Why? Because “you’re not alone.”

I just finished a senior trip with my middle daughter Halle to the south of France. We were in the Med swimming, and she insisted on swimming out toward the yellow bobber thingies which apparently the French and Italians decided was an appropriate safety boundary for leisure swimmers. I’m not sure I agreed, but being in a season where I’m now parenting young women, not children, I am directing them less and less. And so it was, I watched her sweet head bob up and down between those waves with the hugest smile on her sweet face, and what did I do? “There’s a place where fear has to face the God I know.” Rebuking my fear and turning it over to my Creator, the Only One who has already defeated my fear, doesn’t guarantee my idea of what my child’s future looks like or sadly how long that life will be. But standing up straight and telling my fear, “You have to face my God on His terms;” does ensure that the journey is fattened with eternal hope and yes even joy in the midst of uncertainty. I love that. And you can bet, I’ll still have some fear, but it will not jam pack me into a jar with the lid screwed on tightly. No, it has to face the God I know! That frees me up. You can find me in the sun with the Son shining on my face.

Areas of Influence vs. Areas of Concern


The other day I was sitting in the dental chair, waiting on my hygienist to get started when finally she asked me “Are you ready to go?” I answered, “I’m always either ready to go or ready to rumble depending on my attitude.” She just laughed, but it’s mostly true. This is a conundrum for many of us. One of my very favorite books by Stephen Covey is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In it he says this: “The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face each day fall into two areas: Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. We each have a wide range of concerns, our health, our children, problems at work, the national debt, terrorism, the weather. As we look at the list, it becomes apparent that there are some things over which we have no real control and others that we can do something about. Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of influence: They work on things they can do something (emphasis mine) about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern: things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather.”

I believe the more time we spend our time and efforts in our areas of influence, the more likely we are to live out the “Go” mentality in our lives. Whereas, the more time and energy we spend in our areas of concern, we will always be “ready to rumble,” but yet remain uninspired to “Go” or to do anything about it. Generally speaking, what is the difference between the two: Ready to Go or Ready to Rumble? Here are some simple measuring sticks:
I am aware of ways to contribute to my community and my neighbors and do so regularly.
I scroll Facebook or watch the news an inordinate amount of my day/week.
I have relationships with friends that I (personally) regularly engage or nurture.
I spend quality time with my family that doesn’t involve television, telephone, or telecommuting.
I am aware of a situation(s) or person(s) in my life who I can influence positively. I choose or choose not to impact this situation or this person.

The areas of concern that Covey mentions in his book and the ones that I have compiled here, are definitely worthy of concern. But they are NOT worthy of all of your emotional, physical, and spiritual energy. That would be a crying shame. Circumstances outside of my control, i.e. traffic (my struggle), politics, national elections (another one of mine), weather, all contribute to a sense of desperation, and an US vs. Them mindset. Sadly we get so immersed in our areas of concern, that our areas of influence (children, spouse, professional work, next door neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling, parent, or local community) absolutely shrinks until it has been all but eclipsed by our area of concern.
Take the presidential election for example. Absolutely, we should take the time to be informed about this election, and we can and should excercise our right to vote, but in the end, is this campaign an area of my influence or concern? Most people act as if it is their area of direct influence. To much focus on Clinton, Sanders, Cruz, and Trump will most likely trump the opportunity for you to contribute in positive ways in the lives of people all around you. I live in Texas folks. Not only am I not able to influence the outcome of this presidential election, it is statistically improbable that my vote will either. Areas of influence? Worrying about every detail of my future that I can’t imagine now? NOPE! Worrying about what others think about me? NOPE! Hoping the weather cooperates with my travel, wedding, or other event plans? NOPE! Consumed with guilt over my past? NOPE! Aggravated as to whether my constitutional rights will be infringed upon with the coming election? NOPE!
On the other hand, who or what do I have immediate opportunity to influence? I could serve in my church. YES! I could meet a hurting friend for coffee. YES! I can play a game of UNO with my kids. YES! I can plan a date night or date day with my spouse and completely surprise her/him. YES! I can stick a note of encouragement in my kid’s lunch box tomorrow. YES! The list is Endless, Exciting and Inexhaustible. So which is it? Are you ready to rumble or ready to roll? None of us are perfect. We all have our moments of rant. But has your occasional rant become a pattern of behavior? Has your circle of influence been superimposed by your circle of concern? I like the word superimposed because it reminds us that our circle of influence is still there; maybe we just need to side swipe the areas of concern in our life to reveal them. People need you. They need your gifts and talents. They need your presence both physically and emotionally. They need you to have margin in your schedule and in your energy reserves for them! Who’s to say that if 200 million people in this country would spend more time and effort focusing on their areas of influence, that their areas of concern wouldn’t improve dramatically. It’s something that can happen only when we are able to pluck our narcissism from the ground where it is rooted, and replace it with planting seeds of positive influence in the lives of others Go!