Keep it in/Keep them out

“Frozen” is a popular animated movie that’s out right now. It’s popular with children and adults that see it. The movie is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the battle between good and evil, “The Snow Queen”.

In “Frozen” the older sister, Princess Elsa, has the power (or curse) to freeze anything she touches. In an effort to protect Elsa and her younger sister, Elsa’s parents lock her away from everyone. They tell her she must “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” She has a secret. She doesn’t want anyone to know about her icy touch. She hides and shuts herself off from the very people who love her. As a result she never learns to control this power, but instead it controls Princess Elsa. Through a series of events, Elsa’s icy power is revealed and she runs away. As she sings about finally being free to be herself she uses the phrase “The cold never bothered me anyway” to dismiss the loneliness of her life.

Wow. Can you relate to this story? Not with Elsa’s icy touch, but with the power of the hidden, being controlled by the very secret we keep. I can. I want to be accepted. I want to fit in with the people around me. In order to do that, I try to be perfect. I want to be an individual, but I don’t want to be too different. (Can you say oxymoron?) I don’t admit to emotions I might be feeling, hiding the less than perfect parts of my life. I go with the flow because it’s easier. And, acceptable.

What would happen if I actually said what I wanted to say? What if I was honest with myself and with those around me and didn’t hide any longer? Would my life be different? It might be. I might have to learn to live the light instead of creeping around in the shadows. I might lose the ‘friends’ who prefer the people pleaser to the real me. I might learn that I’m valuable just the way I am.

I’m not advocating losing all of the filters we use in life. I don’t need to discuss/reveal everything to everyone I meet. But, when I shape my life to suit the people around me, to avoid offending anyone, to be acceptable at any expense, that’s when I need to take a look at what’s going on inside of me. Sometimes, it’s easier to slam the door on openness than to expose the vulnerable parts we protect so jealously.

Eventually, Princess Elsa learns she can’t hide from her fears. Viewed through the lens of love her terrible secret isn’t so bad. We just have to take the chance, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Sure, there will be days, weeks and maybe months of pain and hurt. But, there will be moments of love and pure joy too. We just have to step out and take a chance.

Fear

When I was a child, I would watch my mother test the iron with her finger. Maybe you know the move: 1) lick your finger 2) lightly and quickly touch the ironing plate to see if its hot. One day, I decided to “test the iron.” I licked my finger and stuck it to the bottom of the iron. Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t picked up on the “light and quick” touch. And the iron was HOT. I ended up with a big blister on my index finger and a fear being burned by the iron.

There are lots of things in life we avoid because of the pain they have caused us in the past. Whether it’s a burned finger, an embarrassing moment or a broken heart, painful memories stick with us and may cause us to use caution in the future. In many cases it’s good to avoid something. I certainly avoid burning myself. I learned that lesson well. But there are other things that I probably shouldn’t avoid. I learned to ride a bicycle when I was six. I fell a few times before I learned how to balance and pedal all at the same time. It was tempting to stop trying to ride my bike after my first fall. But, instead of avoiding the bicycle, I decided to avoid the falling part. However, when I tried out a skateboard and ended up with road rash from sliding across the pavement, I decided to avoid skateboards completely. My life didn’t need skateboards to be complete.

One of the my biggest fears has to do with love. Specifically in loving others. Like most of us, I’ve put my trust in the wrong person at one time or another. I’ve allowed my emotions to rule over my good sense and fallen head-over-heels “in love” with a jerk or two in my lifetime. I’ve shared too much with a “friend” and then discovered that we were really just acquaintances. I’ve pinned all my hopes on another person’s word only to see everything come crashing down around me. As a result, it’s harder for me to trust. Harder for me to love.

After my husband died, I promised myself that I would never allow anyone to get close enough to cause that kind of pain in my life ever again. We had fought for our marriage and learned the value of trust and love. Love didn’t protect me from the pain of his death. In fact, it was that very love that caused the deepest pain. When he died, a large piece of me died too. And I was determined to avoid caring about or trusting anyone else. And life was really lonely and sad.

Although I could justify my avoidance in my own mind, I knew it was not right. I kept reading the scriptures like Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Over time, I realized that I had to stop avoiding trust and love. It didn’t matter if I got hurt along the way, my example is Christ and He died because he loved me.

I may never have another chance at the kind of love/relationship I shared with Terry. Honestly, that makes me a bit sad. But, I will be forever thankful that I loved and was loved enough to break my heart so completely. Not everyone gets that chance. I will continue to look for ways to show trust and love to others around me and to honor the love the God has given to me.

Fear

Fear. We all suffer from it. We all deny it. Too often, fear dictates the decisions and choices made throughout life’s journey. Fear may be judged rational or irrational, but it is still fear.

I have a phobia (a PC word for fear) of phones. Not talking on them, but calling others on the phone. I don’t know why. For as long as I can remember, dialing a number to call someone on the phone made my stomach hurt and my hands sweat. I love to talk on the phone. As long as I’m on the receiving end of the call, I can talk for hours. Part of my fear is getting a wrong number. Part of it is disturbing the other person. But, mostly its an irrational fear that the person on the other end is just being polite and doesn’t really want to talk to me and is making bored/annoyed faces on the other end of the line. I’m sure there have been many lost opportunities in relationships because I avoid making those phone calls. This carries over into my life today. I can TEXT anyone. And, I still avoid actual phone calls.

Although it is not often addressed as a fear, most people avoid failure. As I was growing up, I was very careful to only attempt things that I was pretty certain would be a success. I made every band for which I ever auditioned. I didn’t play sports because I didn’t think I would be good enough. I probably missed out on some fun experiences because I didn’t want to fail or look silly.

One big fear that I see in almost everyone is fear of the pain caused by rejection. We all want to be liked. We pursue love and acceptance throughout our lives. The fear of being rejected can inhibit and greatly hinder interactions with others. We build walls to protect ourselves. We may allow others into our sanctuary, but even then we restrict how far they may go. Very few people have ever made it behind my walls. Unfortunately, some of the people I invited to peek behind my walls were not good choices. They left damage in their wake. And, as a result, I’m more guarded than ever.

The only way to avoid being rejected or being hurt or failing is to never allow the opportunity to exist. Life can be incredibly lonely and boring if you do this. Some of the deepest hurts I’ve ever experienced were from the same source as some of my greatest joys. To eliminate the hurt and pain inflicted by others, you often must forego the joy and happiness also. The trade-off isn’t equal and it’s not worth it. I have to conquer my fears. I must move forward and take risks in order to live my life fully. I will not always succeed and fear will still exist, but. . .

I must try!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

My Fence

My fence marks the boundaries. It keeps my dogs in and their dogs out. It protects me from prying eyes. It’s hides imperfections. It keeps me safe from intruders.

My fence takes lots of work. Boards get knocked out or break. The main posts rot and fall. The cross boards sag and fail. Trees grow and push it out of alignment. High winds knock down entire sections, exposing my secrets to the world.

Others peer thru the cracks and gaps to see what is behind my fence. It’s both frightening and exhilarating. Is it safe to let others behind my fence? Will they understand what they see? Will they accept the imperfect life that lives behind the 6′ wall? Or will they walk away and leave it lonelier than before?

My fence is vulnerable. My fence can be isolating. My fence ensnares me and keeps me prisoner. And yet, I fear losing that very fence. It is my security, my captor, my guard.

Who will dare to look behind the fence?

Fear

I’m not a big roller coaster fan. Or a drop from the sky fan. Or anything that simulates the possibility of falling to my death. I like to keep my feet firmly planted and safe on the ground. Along those same lines, I don’t enjoy horror movies or spook houses. I do not enjoy that “thrill” that comes from fear. I’ll take silly over scary any day!

I have a fear of heights. I don’t sleep during thunder storms. When I hear about a wreck on the freeway or see a fire truck racing off, I call my kids just to be sure they’re ok. I don’t see any reason to put wheels on or under my feet. That’s just preparing to fall. Likewise, ice was meant for tea not sliding around on. I never learned to water ski. No matter how often my dad told me he would come back and get me, I would forget to let go of the rope when I fell. I spent a lot of time coughing up lake water one summer.

But, I think more than anything else, I fear not being “good enough” and thus an imposition. This fear permeates every minute of my day. It’s the reason I avoid making phone calls. What if I interrupt something? It keeps me from meeting people. What if they don’t like me? It keeps me from connecting to others any deeper than a surface level. That way, they’ll never know that I’m inferior in some way. On the flip side, it keeps me safe. I don’t have to worry about being rejected, because I rarely get close enough for it to hurt. This fear of not being good enough keeps the walls up around me. You may be able to see me, but you will have a hard time getting to me.

Grief has a way of demolishing all those walls. It removes the filters because you just don’t care what anyone thinks any more. But, I’ve realized that grief will also build newer walls much faster and they are often thicker. Solitude is safe. Loneliness is a small price to pay to avoid that searing pain, again. But, God did not intend for me to hide away in fear of what might happen.

There are lots of verses about fear. Here are a few:

1. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
2. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matt 10:31 NIV
3. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT
4. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Psalm 91:4-8 NLT
5. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalm 112:7 NLT
There are many, many more. And they help. Until, once again, I begin to believe that I need to measure up to the expectations of the people around me.

I know that Christ died for my sins and I will never be good enough to deserve that. I am blessed by that grace. I accept that. It’s the irrational fears of day to day life that take me to my knees. It’s a daily struggle to let go and trust.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” Really? What about you?