It seems that making New Year’s resolutions is passé, and the trend du jour is to define one’s attitude toward the year in a single word. As it turns out, there’s an entire book and website devoted to this concept. I guess I’m late to the party (but not fashionably).
I’m not fully on board with the idea that one word can change a life (except perhaps the name Jesus), but I like the notion of looking into the future hopefully. So I spent some time today thinking about what I hope for in the year to come.
For a word person, narrowing hope down to a single symbol is no easy task. Still, I picked one: fearless.
I started with courage. Bravery in the face of adversity. Living well when you don’t feel like it. Choosing the road less traveled. Pulling on the Spandex Spidey suit when the bullies come to town. Perseverance with a smile.
But then I got stuck, because courage largely exists because of fear. Courage represents a certain kind of strength that I admire and often need, but I want to learn how to live above fear. I’m tired of spending so many hours of my day fretting. What if my child never gets well? What if this relationship can’t be mended? What if there’s not enough money? What if I’m wrong about EVERYTHING? What if, what if … even while Jesus whispers “Be anxious for nothing” from the depths of my heart.
What if I had a kind of courage that was motivated by love instead of fear? What if fear was not the driving force in my personal story?
Is this humanly possible? Some will say no. The human race survives because of fear. Otherwise we would have been wiped out a gazillion years ago by the prehistoric tigers when we tried to scratch their cute ears.
Okay, so maybe I’m looking for a both/and kind of fearlessness. I have no plans to drive my car at top speeds into a brick wall, as Jeff Bridges’ character heartstoppingly (and somehow poignantly) did in the 1993 film Fearless. But I just wonder a new kind of what if.
- What if I stop fearing the consequences of having less control over my own life than I want, and instead believe that Christ’s loving strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)?
- What if I always bring my best efforts to the table because I’ve learned how to love the people I serve, and not because I fear failure or their disapproval?
- What if I obey Jesus’ teachings because I love him and believe he loves me, and not because I’m afraid I’ll be damned if I screw up?
This is only the beginning of a long list, a hunch that fearless courage would give me a new perspective on the world, on the people who share it with me, on the God who loves us all.
When my son was born my mother told me she’d been praying for him, that he would grow up to be fearless. I think I joked, Oh no, please, not the X-Games in his future! But I see in him the kind of fearlessness she was speaking of: Freedom from the nail-biting dread of anxiety. Joy. And though he is only five, I see the joy of that freedom in him already, and I look to him for his childlike example.
What kind of fear would you like to give up this year?
Photo credit Alice Popkorn