O how I have struggled with fear.
I fear so intensely at times I wonder if I'm sane or ill. This isn't just anxiety, because I wrestle with that too. This is a deep, start with your heart, grip you and shake you from the inside out type of fear. It's really annoying. So what am I afraid of?
People. The unknown. Danger.
Concerning danger, this is the less frequent. I remember a time when I went camping in the Appalachian Forest in Asheville, North Carolina with a few friends. After hiking for a while, we set up camp a few miles into the forest. For some reason I began to fear a bear would attack me that night. We had two tents, and I was in mine alone. It rained all night, and with every noise I trembled at the thought of a bear climbing into my tent and tearing me to pieces. Everything turned out alright, and I'd camp there again in a heartbeat. But the amount of fear I experienced that night left a serious impact on me. Weird stuff.
It's more in the day-to-day where I've experienced fear at its greatest strength. Oddly enough my fear of people has little to do with performing. It's the sheer wild card factor each person brings to the table. There's a part of me that lives for meeting and interacting with new people, and if the personality tests are right I'm about 51% extrovert. But sometimes on days where I feel least sure of myself, fear gets the best of me. I begin to fear the people I meet will hate me and curse me to my face, and that somehow I won't be able to explain something that comes up in conversation. This has never happened. Irrational as it is, I'll admit I've been plagued by this fear, even in the past couple of months.
I read a story a few years ago that changed how I face fear. It's something I go back to on the bad days.
In Healing of The Masculine Soul, Gordon Dalbey tells a remarkable story about a man who was plagued by a recurring dream, a nightmare "in which a ferocious lion kept chasing the man until he dropped exhausted and awoke screaming." The man was dismayed, he did not know what the dream meant. Was the lion a symbol of fear? One day the man was guided by his pastor to revisit the dream in prayer:
As they prayed, the pastor on impulse invited the man to recall the dream, even in all its fear. Hesitantly, the man agreed, and soon reported that indeed, the lion was in sight and headed his way. The pastor then instructed the man, "When the lion comes close to you, try not to run away, but instead, stand there and ask him who or what he is, and what he's doing in your life". Shifting uneasily in his chair, the man agreed, then reported what was happening. "The lion is snorting and shaking his head, standing right there in front of me... I ask him who he is... and he says, "I'm your courage and your strength. Why are you running away from me?"
- John Eldredge (Wild At Heart)