A few weeks ago, I learned how to surf. It was one of my goals for the year, and I happened to be in Australia, which seemed like as good a place as any to make it happen. So I spent a sunny Saturday morning in surf school and ultimately, I am pleased to say, conquered the board. Not as many times as the board conquered me, but that is not the point.
As triumphant as my own performance was (IMHO), the real champions of surf school were the little kids. Those kids nailed it, and they nailed it fast. They raced into the waves, with endless laughter and endless energy. And then they hopped onto their boards and rode them in with skill and style, like they had been doing this for their whole lives, not just for the morning. We older folk dismissed it as the advantage of a lower center of gravity. Which is true, but I think it was something else, too.
Those kids had no fear.
They weren’t worried about looking ridiculous, drowning, or breaking an arm, all of which weighed heavily on my insecure mind. They weren’t scared of not getting it “right” or not getting it at all or whether their wetsuits offered the most flattering silhouette. They just went with the flow.
It seems a little backwards, but sometimes I think that the older I get, the more scared I become. And I think this is because I have confronted enough fears to know that, while I can certainly do it, the result is not always in my favor. In simple terms, I know what I am getting into now and sometimes I am just flat-out, plain old don’t want to go there again.
I know that if I put my heart out on the table, I might not get a piece of it back. I know that if I tear everything down and start to rebuild it, it will hurt. I know that if I expect, I might be disappointed, and that if I ask for one thing, I might get quite another.
I know because it has happened. Sometimes I feel so tired, and I am scared to try again.
But I also know that if I leave a piece of my heart on the table it will survive. And I know that the things I rebuild will be stronger than what I had before. And I know that I can weather disappointment and that sometimes the thing I didn’t ask for is just the thing I need.
I know because that has happened. And so I gather my courage and my energy and I try again
And on the best days I know that sometimes, if I put my heart on the table, someone will take it carefully and care for it and make it stronger. And I know that sometimes, expectations are surpassed and sometimes we get just exactly what we want.
I know because that has happened. And I keep trying so I can learn that it will happen again.
Because whatever the outcome might be, the thing I know most of all is that the Lord will take me in his arms and care for me. Whether I am winning or losing, conquering or feeling conquered, riding the wave or not. This is the faith that banishes fear.
On my mirror, I have a hastily scribbled sticky note with a quote from Mark Twain: Do what you fear, and the death of fear is certain. The sentiment is right, but I have come to think the nuance is a little off. Do what you fear, and you know you can face it again. This is what it means to me. It is not that our fears go away, but rather that our fears don’t keep us away.
And, by the way, I look awesome in a wet suit.