Where Fear Has No Home

I thought I knew how to come and go as I pleased.

To load up the car, drive the tree-lined drive to two lane roads toward the behemoth interstates. I don’t. Or at least didn’ until I forced myself to do so this Memorial Day weekend. In March, I bought my ticket to a writing retreat in which I knew only the other attendees by their avatars on Twitter, years of blog posts, and that awkward moment when I friended a few of them on Facebook and hoped that they accepted. They did. IMG_0134

For three months, I scrolled through the #RRforWriters tweets and mapped out travel plans from the safety of my desk surrounded by all of crazy but comforting knick-knacks(doesn’t every writer have a Jane Austen action figure with a mini-poseable Shakespeare kneeling at her feet?).

But then the day before I was to fly out of RDU toward Michigan, I felt the old panic rising upward, fear tingling away whispering this was a bad idea. I’m an introvert. I’m fairly certain if Dante wrote about the circles of Hell for introverts meeting new people that one has only known through the internet would be in there somewhere. My mind grasped for excuses to stay where I was comfortable. Where I could be safely at home.

Home on five acres surrounded by pine trees, towering dead oaks, and blackberry vines. Where I can click the red circle on my browser to get rid of unnecessary blogger drama, to escape to my porch where I notoriously overwater my petunias, to tend my herbs–sage, thyme, lavender, rosemary. Where I feel both trapped and secure, where I have the power to keep all who’ve hurt me away.

Sometimes, we confuse what is supposedly stable, safe, and secure with what lurks beneath in the shadows. Our fear. 

Perhaps, fear doesn’t always look like the bogeyman under our beds. For me, fear wears Sunday dress clothes and carries a Bible, sits in the pew next to me, and waits until I offend to unleash its fury. These emotional scars came from those who claim to love the same Jesus I do, and yet, there are such deep hurts that I’m not sure will ever fully heal. Being around other believers causes me to panic, but the only I way I know to deal with this terror is to silence myself, push others far away. I’ve spent years bouncing from church to church, stayed seated when the old panic bubbled up, kept other believers far away so I could lick my wounds. Now, emotional callouses, hard and numb.

Fear took away my ability to be in community with other believers because I let it.

But I signed up for a Christian writing retreat anyway. Out of sheer bravery, doubtful.  Over-confidence in my own abilities, more likely. How hard could it be to sip some wine, talk about writing, meander about during free time writing poetry, endure the spirituality portion? Again, I tried to keep other believers at distance, walls built up from years of brick laying, plaster the everything’s okay smile on, no one would know the difference. Except for the Holy Spirit. And probably, everyone there.

During Vespers, we sat in silence. Sometimes, we stared at the flicking of the candle flame. In the silence, I felt these simple words–love, peace, and seen. While I had never been to Michigan before or this retreat center, this place became a new kind of home. Where I was loved, where I was seen, where I could break down the emotional walls for a much needed period of rest.

 

 

Remember

Today, I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo and Five Minute Fridays.

The Rules:

  • Write for 5 minutes…no more or less.
  • Don’t worry about editing…simply write.
Today’s theme: Remember
Start:
Wet ground and cool breezes greet me today. How appropriate that today I remember. Why? Today is my last day as a 20 something. Tomorrow, I shall cross that thin line into another decade. While some may joke about being 29 forever, I will be perfectly content to leave my 20’s in memories. Memories, I can pick and choose to relish. Memories, I can pick and choose to forget.
I remember my last decade as being driven by fear. Well, it’s more sinister sister–stability and her twin safety. I chose a Christian college, too fearful to attend a secular one(and not allowed). I would lose my faith.
I remember choosing to be a Christian school teacher, too fearful again to venture out beyond the Christian bubble. Foregoing grad school(only for three years, I did go), I thought I would be safer in a community of Christian teachers. I wasn’t. My faith ripped out at the seams, destroyed. I didn’t want to put it back together. For me, my 20’s were more about living in fear, masking this fear as God’s provision and wisdom.
I remember meeting my Redneck Romeo and called him boring for the majority of our first date. Why, yes, out loud. Yes, social skills were not my strong suit. But I overcame my fears and now I’m blessed. I remember meeting my stepchildren, and their overflowing talkativeness meant I simply had to listen. Another blessed remembrance.
I remember starting this blog as a last ditch effort to tether myself to a faith community. Slowly, I found kindred spirits who had been torn apart my the church, and they helped rebuild me(check my blog roll for these lovely ladies). We call ourselves #coffeeclub. I remember opening my heart to them and they opened their hearts to mine.
Stop.

Hide and Seek

Do you remember playing hide and seek?

Perhaps, the warm, summer sun filtered through the trees as you ran hid underneath bushes, behind fences. Maybe, the piles of Autumn leaves served as a blanket to cover up as the seeker ran by chasing someone else. A silly game, hide and seek, but our childhood games train us to be adults.

Overwhelmed by the amount of hiding choices, I usually was found first. My feet stuck out from under the bed, or my bright purple shirt gave me away crouching in the deep green bush next to the house. Some games, I sat on the red plastic swing in the backyard just so I would be found first. Hiding felt pointless. I didn’t want to shield, cover up, or camouflage myself—I simply wanted to stay found.

But soon I realized that hide/seek translated into my adult life too.

Adult hide/ seek doesn’t involve crouching behind couches or under bushes. To play adult hide/seek, I stay out in the open room, fully visible yet utterly hidden. I hide behind the walls of agreeableness, the walls of self-silencing, the walls of political correctness. The right words tumble out of my mouth depending on the people around me. Sometimes, we discuss social justice, and I can let my ire show for the devastation the Western world has caused. Many times, I sit silently listening to the anti-woman rhetoric of the church or a poorly laid out argument against equality. I seethe inside but say nothing. Even here, I check every post, hoping I don’t offend. Not out of grace, but out of fear. I don’t want an inbox full hate emails.

I am a social chameleon.

But hiding never empowers me, nor will it ever empower you. Hiding fuels my fears, doubts, my interior dialogue of “I can’t.” Fear expands into every crevice of my soul. Pushing out any room for grace, but worst of all, fear disposes of love. I refuse to hide anymore. Instead, I choose to love to show grace—the only way to replace fear. Rather than pandering to those around me, I choose to speak the truth with love despite the possibility of rejection.

 

How are you playing hide and seek?