It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. —Seneca, Roman philosopher
Many metaphysicians have defined the word fear as an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real.
I discovered a number of years ago that my fear as a public speaker was a bit different. I realized it was: Former Experience Actually Repeating.
I carried a memory in mind of a moment in my early 20s when I walked on stage at my church, guitar in hand, to sing a song I had written for the Christmas season. My moment had come! Yet nothing would come to me. I went totally blank; not a word or a note would appear. Why could I not remember what I had written?
The answer was simple, I was terrified. This experience stayed with me and created a hesitancy within me for a number of years. In ministerial training, I asked my teachers not to call on me.
The irony was, I was born to speak and share my message. All my life, I had heard this. My mom had told me, my friends confirmed, and my sixth grade teacher told my parents I was never going to amount to anything because I talked too much! Often your calling is revealed by both the accolades and the criticisms you receive.
So here I was ready for ministry and too uncomfortable to share my words with even one person, let alone a group. Yet I knew I came here to speak. Fortunately, I had some insights.
I came to recognize no one ever knew I was terrified unless I told them. For me to overcome those early days of being frightened, I just showed up like I had been doing it all my life. This took the energy out of my fear. It didn’t mean the fear had left me, but I didn’t highlight it, and no one knew.
I also remembered that when I was an athlete, I succeeded by simply being on the field and playing the game. So as a young minister, I began promoting myself as a motivational speaker to have more opportunities to “be on the field and play the game.” When we are learning a new skill, it can be overwhelming. Yet if we are determined to get out every day and practice, we ignite an internal fire that helps us face our fears.
By the time I pioneered my first church, I felt ready. My opening talk felt natural. Then fear returned when I realized I had told my new church everything I knew in my very first talk—and I had 40 more talks remaining for the year! What now?
I finally recognized the spiritual component I had been missing. I had held the false belief that I was doing this work alone. How often in our lives do we forget what God can do through us if we allow ourselves to receive? I had not included my great Creator in this divine plan of mine. I was assuming all the responsibility rather than letting go.
I have learned when I am afraid, my trust in God is little to nonexistent. Once I truly let go, I realized the very work I feared doing was what I was here to do.
What we fear is often what takes us deeper, fuels our growth, and helps us shine. I thank God for giving me the courage to embrace who I came here to be.