When I was a little girl, I was terrified of fireworks. While there is a part of me that wants to defend my position because fireworks were notoriously unsafe in the 1980’s, but somewhere in my head, I know that I was just scared. I would spend the 4th of July with my head buried in my mom’s shoulder just praying for it to be over. I would squeeze my eyes shut tightly and just breathe my way through. I was terrified of the noises. I hated being caught off guard, and shaken by loud explosions. I never knew what was coming or how loud it would be, so I just avoided (as much as my mom’s shoulder could help me avoid) the entire situation. I was afraid.
There came a moment during my freshman year in high school where kids from my church youth group were going to see fireworks downtown on the 4th of July and I was invited to go. I hated the fact that even at the ripe old age of 14, the noises still bothered me. What would they say if I jumped? How would I react if I just couldn’t handle it? What if it was a mistake to go? What would they say if they knew that this otherwise strong almost unshakable teenager was afraid?
I can’t help but wonder how many things we miss out on in life because we are afraid. Fear. It stops us from being who we are and prevents us from fully exploring our purpose. An incredibly smart young man I know said once, “The Bible is the only self-help book you will ever need” and yet our fear prevents us from living out the instructions in it. It’s hard to love your neighbor…hard to not judge…hard to save sex for marriage…hard to trust in God’s promises…and hard (on some days) not to murder. It’s hard because we are afraid that we are not strong enough. We’re afraid because we cannot implement all of these instructions without God to help us. We’re afraid that we will disappoint God in our ability to do the things He asked. We are afraid. The Bible commands us repeatedly to not be afraid, but we are.
Something happened on that day when I was asked to go see fireworks. The noises still scared me, and I hated the unpredictability and constant anticipation that there was a “big boom” coming, but on that day…I saw something spectacular. That day, after confronting my fear, I saw for the first time a beautiful display in the sky. I saw the purpose of the noise. The purpose of uncertainty. The purpose of confronting my fear. I saw that while the noises still made me jump and still scared me, that the beauty in sky was worth it. Fear robbed me of the joy for far too long. So today, what am I still afraid of?