Fear not; Ugh, fine

“I read your last post.”

I always get a little nervous when conversations in real life start with these words, because I’m never quite sure where they’re going to go. There was a time when these words were a catalyst to conversations that often dragged me and my faith journey through the mud. People who knew me, who had for many years trusted me as a youth leader and a Bible teacher, were speaking hatefully and spewing venom. Retrospectively, I know that those conversations happened with people in the middle of their own wounding, their own questions, with their own thoughts about church and God and friendships unraveling at the edges. But, of course, that’s easy to see looking back. At the time, it made writing hard and blogging scary, and I think I’m still unpacking pieces of that and digging deep, more often than not, to hit publish.

Every time I sit down to write, it is an act of courage. And I’m learning to be brave.

And with that, I’m learning that most people aren’t jerks. Most people are looking to vent their own questions, or frustrations, or hopes. They want to share their own stories about how they see God moving in their world, in church or otherwise. They want to tell me the things that their friends have said to them that have mattered, and that have helped them stay buoyant when they felt like they were drowning.

These days when people say to me “I read your last post,” they are looking for the conversation. They aren’t actually all that interested in dragging me through the mud. They just want to talk to someone about church and God and dating and friendship and whatever thoughts are rolling around in their head about all of it. Most people, I think, are desperate to simply feel less alone.

Writing lets that happen, and I think that’s my favorite thing about being a writer.

Every time that I show up and have a little courage and say something real, I have the opportunity to connect with someone who is struggling through, or excited about, or pushing up against the same things that are making me just a little bit crazy. And so now, what I’m finding is that when someone says, “I read your latest post,” I take a breath and prepare myself for some real talk, and whether that’s good or bad is kind of irrelevant. The point, I think, is that it’s real.

Last week, I met my friend Katie for lunch on the day after my last post went live. She started with those words – “I read your latest post” – and I took a big breath and I waited to hear what followed.

“You didn’t go where I thought you were going to. You started saying how you missed your person and I wasn’t expecting you to say that you were taking a break from dating. “

I laughed a bit and I told my friend that I wasn’t expecting it either, but that I had been praying a lot about this area of my life and that it felt like the right next thing to do. I told her that there are a lot of fears in dating for me, and that it felt like those fears had dictated more of my love life than they should have. I told her that I picked guys who were safe, in the sense that I knew they probably weren’t good long-term matches, and I told her that in the end I dated because it was fun to be taken out for a meal or a baseball game or a movie, but that I wasn’t dating hoping that someone would stick around and be a husband.

“I guess I didn’t know that,” my friend Katie said. “I didn’t know you weren’t looking for your person.”

I confessed that I didn’t know that either, not until recently, not until I started thinking seriously about wanting to be married and not until I started looking at my fears. And I said that the pause in dating was just some space for me to figure out what I want and to grow up in some ways that I need to in order to get that.

My friend Katie said she understood, then we talked a few minutes more about dating, but mostly we talked about the ways that God is growing us up.

In my world, that can be summed up in two words – “Fear not.” And probably – “It sucks.”

I’m not sure yet all the ways that God is going to drill this lesson into my life, but right now, in the last week, I know that it’s happening in my writing life and it’s happening in my dating life. And I know that what I’m supposed to do is trudge forward anyway, in obedience, believing that what the Bible tells me about God is true:

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

And:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

And:

“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.’” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

So, here’s two more words – Ugh. Fine.

As much as I don’t want to do this particular work, as much as I’m going to balk and fight and flail, I do want to be someone who trusts God from the depths of who I am. Because I learned back when people were being nasty and dragging me through the mud that I really believe that God is good and is in the business of wanting good for His people. And if I really believe that, then why shouldn’t I also believe that He’s going to make good out of the fear?

“Fear not.”

Ugh. Fine.

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