I can’t remember the last time that I used a compass. Perhaps when I was a cub scout, searching for ways to accumulate badges as if each were worth its weight in gold. Somewhere in my outdoor adventures, there was a time where I held some version of the small round device that magically, no matter where I was in the world, would point me North.
The compass needle wasn’t influenced by the obstacles that may have lain in the pathway north or how easy the path southward is.
A compass has one job, and that is to point you in the direction that it is aligned with.
Life was much simpler as a cub scout. As you grow, black and white is replaced with a whirlpool of gray and possibilities of what to pursue multiply, which is both liberating and paralyzing. If I can become anything I want to be, how do I know what I SHOULD be?
Do I follow my passion, my reason, my religion?
How do I know where all of the possibilities intersect with the gifts that lie within me?
How do I prepare for the future while respecting and appreciating the present?
Balancing and navigating these questions is the work of adulthood.
If you’ve read this far, your probably wondering, ok, well, what do you propose be a guiding principal for the decisions we’re making as we’re navigating life?
Now, I think its important that we define what kind of fear I’m referring to.
The fear I’m referring to isn’t the bone-chilling fear of being in a dark alley with a shadowy figure approaching. I’m not advocating pursuing life-threatening situations as a means to find meaning. For most of the people reading this, your fear isn’t related to survival or making sure that you evade predators, but probably more along the lines of being exposed as being inadequate, or failing at something hard, or losing someone important to you.
Also I’m not sure if I’m advocating for using fear as a guiding principle as much as a compass that points towards something true. Just because the compass points north doesn’t mean that you should be heading north. However, knowing what direction is North is helpful no matter which direction your heading in.
So, why fear? What information does fear give us? When should we listen? How do we know when to ignore it and move forward?
In my life, fear is a marker of the edge of my belief. Fear gives me a definite boundary for exactly where my faith stops. Understanding this boundary is important because often times, when we feel the tremor of fear, we do everything we can to unconsciously arrange our lives not to approach that boundary again, in the hope that we can avoid the discomfort. This is, perhaps, a mistake. In the interest of growth, it may be worth it to sit on the edge of that boundary and inspect it for what truth is it conveying?
- Am I afraid because I made something other than God my source?
- Am I afraid because I don’t want to disappoint others or myself?
- Is this fear rational or emotionally driven? Is this fear a product of worry about the future or regret about the past?
Sitting at the edge of your fear will give you INFORMATION. This information if you allow it to can inform you of the path towards growth.
This is not easy work. Easy work makes for a hard life.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”2 Timothy 1:7
Fly or fall.