When Fear is Knocking…

“When fear knocks, hope goes to answer and faith is at the door.”

I work with adults trying to earn their GED/HSE (many of whom struggle with some sort of disability) or adults learning English as a second language. One student in particular has gone through a lifetime of trauma that has left her struggling to get back on her feet but has also left her with a lot of wisdom. While we were finishing up a poetry lesson, she began talking about her journey and sharing things she does to stay grounded and get through each day and this quote was one thing she brought up, after hearing it recently at a Bible study:

When Fear knocks, Hope goes to answer and Faith is at the door.”

Ever since then, it has completely consumed my mind.

When Fear knocks, Hope goes to answer and Faith is at the door.”

We all feel fear – that’s undeniable. But the level of fear we each go through is different and particular to every person and every situation. Sometimes fear is simply knocking on your door, giving you the opportunity to answer and send it away. But other times it’s whispering through the walls, making its presence known but refusing to be found. Or, maybe it’s stomping on the ceilings, causing the pounding in your head to match the pounding on the roof while always staying just out of reach. Regardless of where the fear is or what it’s doing, it’s there. So, what can you do?

Do you fight it?

Do you send your dog to the door to scare it away?

Do you drill nails in the wall to shut it up?

Do you hit the ceiling with a broom to knock it off?

How do you get rid of fear?

Easy – you use Hope.

There are a lot of things I’m afraid of. I’m afraid about relationships falling through. I’m afraid of jobs not working out. I’m even afraid of completely ridiculous things that have literally no explanation, like hyenas. Regardless of what I’m afraid of, the fear is there. And I’d be willing to bet that you have your own fears, too (some more rational than others). Sometimes the fear can be overwhelming – I know the fear is irrational but for some reason I can’t seem to shake it. But then I remember my trusty friend: Hope.

Hope doesn’t care about rationality because Hope itself isn’t always rational.

Twice a week I work with one student in teaching him English. When I first met him, he was incredibly shy and lacked confidence in his knowledge. Most of the time I asked him a question, he answered, “I don’t know,” and waited for me to give him the answer because he was afraid of being wrong. But lately, I will ask him a question and he’ll say, “I don’t know, but okay,” and tries because he hopes he is right. And ladies and gentlemen, that is the answer to defeating fear.

You don’t have to know. You don’t have to understand. You just have to fight one unknowing and irrational thing (fear) with another, better unknowing and irrational thing (hope).

Faith itself is scary, but don’t let it disguise itself as something that it’s not. Send Hope to the door and watch as what you thought was Fear transforms itself into something positive – something scary but for all the right reasons: Faith.

The Moment My Life Changed

I remember specific moments where my life had changed. The minute I bought that plane ticket to go halfway across the world; the time I chased a dream despite the many obstacles in my way; the moment I kissed that boy knowing the only two possible outcomes were happiness or heartache. I knew. In every moment I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that life would never go according to plan, and no matter how much you try to bribe your way into a better outcome, the dice have already been rolled and there’s nothing you can do but play the cards you have. I knew that they were course-altering moments and if I were in a movie, they would be the scenes that can be identified by a change in music, forcing the audience to feel one way or another. I knew.

I knew that in all the emotions I could have felt in every moment that my life had changed, the only one that pounded its way across my head, knocking into my skull time and time again to make itself known, was fear. It wasn’t the type of fear that held me back – binded at the wrists and ready to succumb to the innevitable outcome that I had no choice but to follow. Nor was it the fear that boiled my blood and left adrenaline coursing through my veins like a drug that couldn’t be stopped. It was a different kind of fear. It was fear that caused my heart to pound just a beat too fast and my mind to quiet like the world around me as it focused only on the moment I was in. It was the feeling you get when you explore a new place on your own – afraid of what could happen but curious and thrilled at the possibilities ahead. It was the moment on the track just before the gun is shot; the intensity of the musician as the conductor lifts their arms; the readiness of the actor as the curtains open in front of them. In every moment there was fear, but it was the fear of the beginning that puts everything else into action. I knew.

I knew that this fear, while not blinding or adrenaline-inducing, was one I would come to know and love because it meant my life was moving forward. While I never knew if that direction was one that would end in a triumphant roar of the audience or a defeated fall on my knees, what I did know is that I would be better off because of it. The victory would inspire me to go even further while the defeat would teach me to hold my head a little higher.

I have learned not to be afraid of being afraid – an irony that took me more time to learn than I’d like to admit. My mind has been trained into understanding that the greatest type of fear is the one you feel just moments before a change; moments before you push past the comfort zone you once set for yourself and fly into a new territory that has been waiting to be explored by you. Because the only two reasons that you can be uncomfortable with where your life is at is because you’re either staying in your comfort zone where you don’t belong, or you’re pushing past it where you’re not used to. And I would rather feel the fear of moving forward than experience the loss of standing still, and this is something I know.

Getting Past the Fear

I have never had a fear that I haven’t done my best to face. When I was afraid of heights, I jumped from a cliff into waters that engulfed me and washed me from the tremble I felt before the leap. I climbed a mountain and veered over the edge, looking from a thousand feet at the ground below. I soared in planes above the clouds and watched out the window for hours until the sun set and there was noting left to see.

When I was afraid of speaking in public, I voluntarily took part in speech competitions and public speaking classes. I went out of my way to present first in classrooms and introduce myself to new crowds of people, forgetting to the best of my ability the lump in my throat that urged me not to speak.

When I was afraid to love, I loved deeper and harder than I had thought possible. I opened my heart and let the love pour out because I knew no good would come from holding it back and a life without experiencing love was not one I wanted to live, despite my fear.

And while I understood the sense of fear that came with each fall, stutter, and heartache, I also experienced the liberation that came with facing the very things I had never before thought to endure. There was freedom with each word I spoke. Freedom with each jump I made. Freedom with each beat of my heart.

I wonder, then, what I am so scared of now. If I am a repeated champion of facing what I fear most, what is there left to fear? If I know that in the moment my legs may shake and my heart may beat a little faster but I will ultimately stand tall and firm, what is there to worry about?

I believe life revolves around the conquering of the very things that try to hold us back. We must live with a trust that there is something just beyond our fears; our worries; our doubts. We trust that the water will break our fall and that the view will be worth the climb. Our attitude in day-to-day life should be the same. Even when the rain is pouring down and you can’t see a break in the clouds lasting long enough for your bones to dry, you trust that the storm will end eventually and the warmth from the sun is only so far away.

I’m starting to learn how the only way to combat fear of even the most natural of things like uncertainty is to simply trust.

Facing fear isn’t about bravery or strength, it’s about trust.

There is freedom and peace in the fall, but first you must get past the fear of the jump and trust in the landing.

Do You Deserve the Love you Accept From Yourself?

Growing up I had always been afraid of heights. I remember having panick attacks on roller coasters and clinging to my best friend on a ferris wheel because the idea of being so high up and having so far to fall terrified me. There was no sense of “freedom” being up so high, it was just pure fear. At some point, though, I decided that I hated being afraid of something so trivial. So, I did what I could to tackle that fear. I rode more roller coasters. I climbed to higher heights. I tried to expose myself to the very thing that scared me so much so that I no longer felt afraid. Or rather, so that the fear didn’t mean nearly as much to me as the thrill.

I did the same thing with love.

Throughout this year, I began to analyze myself more deeply and learned a lot about my fear of love and where it came from. I learned that the amount of failed relationships that had surrounded my life had paralyzed me to the idea of love and caused me to (subconsciously) live in fear of relationships. So, just like with my fear of heights, I decided to dive headfirst into love.

I met a few people here and there and explored the posibility of love with each one, but it never felt right – none of them felt like the perfect match. Then, I unexpectedly fell in love with a man who wasn’t, by any means, perfect. His hobbies were more like obsessions; his temper was strong but shortlived; his opinions were nothing shy of (overly) passionate. But none of that mattered to me because I still saw perfection even in all of that. I saw his crinkly smile and felt the way it made my heart skip. I heard his laugh (which was more like a giggle) and couldn’t help but feel laughter bubble up within myself. I listened to the way he talked about things that mattered to him and I felt something that made cliche’s seem normal and love songs make sense. I knew I was in trouble, but with everything he did and said, I fell a little more.

I wish I could say there was a happy ending to the relationship and, because of him, I learned that there was nothing to be afraid of, but that’s not the case. Instead, I learned why I was afraid to love – I learned how much it could hurt if it didn’t last – and added that to my current knowledge of where the fear came from.

I’m not going to give any of the gory details on how the relationship ended because I don’t want blame to be pointed in any one direction. (I may write something that focuses on the relationship later on, but for now, this is a little more about me.) I believe wholeheartedly that the failure came from both ends – we each had things we needed to work on and that’s simply why we couldn’t be together right now. But when I look back on the relationship, I’m able to see how, in my opinion, we were doomed from the beginning; he never knew how to love me and I never know how to accept love from him – it doesn’t mean the love wasn’t there, it just means we were on a track that would eventually run short.

While I’ve never felt a pain worse than heartbreak and I think I definitely have quite a bit of healing to do, I’m glad I got the time that I did with a man who has such a great heart so I could learn what it’s like to love and allow myself to learn more of who I am. My last post was about my own mental health struggles, and being in love with someone else was exactly what I needed for me to realize how little love I had for myself. Each time I got upset about something he did or didn’t do or the appreciation I did or didn’t feel had little to do with him, but a lot to do with me. It was a realization that was hard to accept, but I’m glad I know it now.

Opening my heart up as much as I did when falling in love with him and then having it broken in the end was the only way for me to see inside of my heart and take a deeper look at what was in there. All of my insecurities, loneliness, and struggles were finally making themselves evident and it’s because of the appearance of those things that I couldn’t have a successful relationship with anyone even if I wanted to. I would always end up either pushing that person away or putting too much pressure on them, something that wouldn’t be healthy for either of us.

But maybe that’s what falling in love is all about. Maybe it’s about learning what’s in your own heart and then acting accordingly. It’s easy to hide from things until you start exposing yourself to someone else. Shallow relationships will never get you there, but deep relationships will force you to expose some of the most vulnerable parts of yourself, and that’s part of what makes them hard but so worth it.

I learned that I could give all the love I have to someone else, and I think I did that to the best of my ability, but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t know how to love myself. After all, how can I truly accept love from others if I can’t even accept it from myself?

“We accept the love we think we deserve,” right? I would encourage you to truly ask yourself what kind of love you think you deserve…

Does it align with the love you’re showing others?

Does it align with the love you’re showing yourself?

Jump.

A few years ago, when I was a senior in high school, some friends and I were sitting around the living room of my friend’s house on a hot July day trying to figure out what to do. We bounced ideas off each other, but everything was either too far, too expensive, or not exciting enough. Then one of my friends had an idea. In a heartbeat, we all agreed, packed our things, and hopped in the car.

45 minutes later we showed up to Clifty Falls, a site known best by the local teenagers for, you guessed it, cliff jumping.

We all stood around at the top of the falls for a minute looking at the drop and talking to some other kids who were there.

“How high do you think it is?” asked one of my friends.

“30 feet or so,” agreed another friend and I. It had to have been at least 2-3 stories. It may not sound like much, but would you ever jump out of the third floor of a building? Probably not.

Without thinking, one of my friends walked back, took his shirt off, got a running start, and jumped, all within a few seconds. We were shocked. 

Next thing I know my other friends and I are all hyping each other up, preparing for the jump. 

One friend goes.

Then another.

Then there’s me.

“I can’t do it. I’ll just watch you guys, it’s fine,” I insisted. There was no way I was doing that. What if I land wrong and end up like the guy in A Walk to Remember? What if I don’t jump out far enough? What if I trip and fall off instead and end up breaking my neck or something? Nope. Not going to happen. 

At this point other kids started noticing my apprehension to the jump. One person came up to me and started trying to calm my nerves.

“The thing about the jump,” he said, “is that you can’t think about it. If you think, you’ll end up panicking like you are now. Just clear your head.”

Okay, I thought, don’t think.

BUT I’M ABOUT TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF – HOW DO I NOT THINK ABOUT THAT????!!!????

I was, to say the least, terrified.

Should I mention that up until this point, I’ve always been afraid of heights? Yeah, this wasn’t my brightest idea. But I love a good thrill, so somehow it balanced out.

I had made up my mind – I wasn’t going to jump.

“Maybe next time,” I said. But for today, I was okay with just hanging back and spending time with my friends that didn’t involve falling to my death.

I started to walk away from the ledge, ready to sit down and accept the fact that I wasn’t going to do it. Then, all of a sudden, I turned around and started running. And when the time came, I jumped.

Without thinking. 

I don’t remember what I thought during the fall. If anything, I felt peace. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t worried, I was just falling. In seconds I hit the water but I kept falling until I wasn’t. I made my way to the top, took a huge breath, and I just screamed. I threw my hands up and screamed an exhilarating, toe curling scream that can only be sparked by the rush of adrenaline and absolute bliss. I looked up and my friends were up top cheering for me, and even some of the kids who were encouraging me to jump were looking down at me. I have never felt a feeling like that before, and I have never felt that way since. 

Were my parents beyond angry at me for going cliff jumping? They sure were. Would I do it again? Definitely not. Do I regret it? Not in the slightest.

I learned an important lesson that day; I learned about the power of not thinking.

The thing about decisions is that they’re rarely hard to make, but they’re almost always hard to do. More often than not we know exactly what needs to be done. Maybe it’s something we know is right, but it’s hard. Maybe it’s a decision that seems the least likely to work, but it’s the only one that feels right. Maybe it’s something that seems incredibly stupid and the odds are probably stacked against you (like jumping off a cliff), but it will lead to the greatest outcomes.

Nobody likes making decisions, whether they’re minor like choosing where to eat or major and can lead to large life changes. But I think the reason a lot of decisions can be so hard and take so much time to make is because we spend an incredible amount of time thinking about them, when it’s possible that the thing we need to do most is just not think.

Take a few steps back.

Run.

And jump.

You’ll find peace in the fall and bliss in the landing.