In high school I dedicated a large portion of my time to a game called Bible Bowl. In this universe hundreds of kids across the country memorized entire books of the Bible each year and came together each month and all summer for tournaments to challenge each other’s memorization of Scripture. I had always been an initially shy kid, and I was no different as I entered this world. I happily took a secondary role – less pressure, less spotlight, less chance of failing in front of my world.
But then the person to whom I played a secondary role graduated, and I was thrust into the spotlight: the place with all the pressure, on whom everything was riding, where the stakes were the highest. And I didn’t know how to handle it. For an entire year, before a day of games, I would inevitably throw-up out of nerves. At first I tried to fight it. Hoped it wouldn’t overcome me today. But eventually it became my sacred ritual. I welcomed it, wanted to get it out of the way so I could go about my day of gameplay. I felt as though I was purging myself of all the nerves so I could face a position I deeply feared. Loved, but feared.
This went on for months. And then one day I just decided to stop. I decided I was done throwing up every morning before a tournament. I decided I didn’t need to do that anymore, so I didn’t.
How child-like! How annoyingly simple!
And though it seems patronizingly simplified and easy in hindsight, what really happened in this decision was I put my fear in its place. I said enough. I woke up to the fact that I was so done with being controlled by that habit. And in fact, thank you Jesus, I never threw up before a game again.
It sounds simple enough – easy even! So why do I have such a hard time doing this in my adult life still? Why are habits so hard, if not harder, to break ten years later? I think of everything from a temper that flares when things don’t go the way we want, to an addiction that we feel trapped in, to anything and everything else in our lives that we allow our fear to control. Fear that I will be taken advantage of, fear of failure, fear that I will feel all those hurts that I don’t want to feel, fear of being rejected, fear that depression will win, fear that they will leave, fear that God isn’t as good people say he is…Etc. Start taking stock and you will see how fear can grip us in ways we don’t even realize if we close our eyes and cover our ears and lalala – acting like this isn’t a battle we must fight!
In this one instance, I put a physical response to an emotional irrationality away from me. I decided it didn’t have power over me anymore, at least not in that way. But the thing is, I want to do this in the things in my life that are more consequential than throwing up before a game. I want this to be the way I deal with fear in every aspect of my life, especially the ones that are actually high stakes – things like marriage, calling, ministry, evangelism, relationship, etc.
Some battles are easier, like my example here. Some are earth-shaking and seem impossible. But regardless, we have a mighty God who frees beside us in them all. He’s already made the way to freedom, we just have to run to Him to walk in it.
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
What fear responses do you need to put away from yourself today? What habits need to be put in their place? To say that there’s no way you could have freedom from whatever it is in your life – that is a lie from the enemy who has come to steal your life, kill your joy, and destroy your witness. By Jesus’ powerful name and his finished work on the cross, you have the choice of whether or not fear controls you and how you live. So, is it in fear? Or are you ready to square your shoulders and remind yourself, by the grace of God, enough.
Starting today, I pick faith. I pick freedom.
*Photo via YouVersion, Roger Coles