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.


(Get it?)

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.


  1. wendy

    March 27, 2010

    Frances, to use your own phrase, with this post, you nailed it.

    I totally get where you’re coming from.

    And I love that you went surfing.

  2. m&m

    March 27, 2010

    Nailed it, indeed.

    This will go down as one of my all-time favorite posts at Segullah. Thank you.

  3. Katie

    March 27, 2010

    Wow. Beautifully written. I needed that today – thanks 🙂

  4. dalene

    March 28, 2010

    great post. thanks!

  5. Melissa M.

    March 28, 2010

    Loved this post, Frances. And I think it’s marvelous that you tackled surfing in Australia, one of my very favorite places in the world. =)

  6. Linda

    March 28, 2010

    I am proud of you. I am afraid that the older I get the more I worry about breaking something. That something would be some part of my body. I went to the snow with the grandkids this last winter and they were sledding down the hill. It looked so fun and I was so tired of being a sideline grandma that I grabbed a sled and took a turn. I admit it was a smaller hill but I loved it and I heard cries of “Look at Grandma” I think I surprised everyone, especially me.

  7. ErinAnn

    March 28, 2010

    Frances — What happenen to your other post about the Priesthood?

  8. Selwyn

    March 29, 2010

    First, I loved that you wrote you “just happened” to be in Australia. Sounds fun, to “just happen” to be on another continent!

    Fear has been like a soundtrack for major parts of my life – but I’ve learnt to just ignore the noise as I work through it to whatever the goal is. It doesn’t always work, but choosing to see it as ‘just noise’ helps me get past it.

    I would love to learn to surf – but I think I’m scared of what I’d look like in a wetsuit! 🙂

  9. Sage

    March 29, 2010

    Wow! I loved how you put together your ideas. Your list of how your experiences have taught you was beautifully aligned–how your heart on the table had different results. I love that you found the power of faith in light of your fears and of the conflicting outcomes.

    Great post! Thanks.

  10. Mojo

    March 29, 2010

    Frances, you rock the casbah! That was fantastic. You hit the nail right on the head.

    Life is about becoming as a child. Although many parents would disagree, a child listens and is teachable. How often do we ourselves cast off what we truly need because we are too stubborn or scared to listen and learn?

    Great job.

  11. Suvi

    March 30, 2010

    well said, lady, well said.

    One of my favorite lines from a book comes from “the Blue Castle” by L.M. Montgomery– “Fear is the original sin. Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that someone is afraid of something.” This line inspires the protagonist to leave behind her spinster life and propose to a ruffian and go live on an island (and all sorts of other good stuff). In any case, fear keeps us from growing into our best selves and from facing so much.

    yes, you can face those fears. Over and over again and you shall overcome them with grace. (even standing on a surfboard).

  12. Becca A.

    March 31, 2010

    I really love and completely agree with your conclusion about the Twain quote. Thank you.

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