It seems to have become more and more popular in recent years for teenagers to take a gap year, to go and explore the world a bit, to travel and perhaps break up the years of education with a time of self-discovery and adventure. My daughter is on her second one and I truly don’t worry about her. If she was to make poor choices I might worry, but I don’t see any reason to be fearful right now. When I was in my late teens I remember being excited at the thought of doing Camp America (BUNAC as it was known back then). As I shared this idea with my family I was bombarded with many ‘what ifs’; ‘what if you don’t like it?”; ‘what if there’s no one to meet you at the airport?’. There were so many ‘what ifs’ presented to me that my enthusiasm to go was pretty much wiped out.
Those ‘what ifs’ of life are the things that lead us to inaction. Fear destroys our ability to witness, to partner with God in any work at all, and our fears play into the hands of the devil. God calls us into action (most of the time), calling us to step out into new places, to try out a new voice, to witness to his power and love and to shine for him, but the devil is just waiting to feed our fears. The voice of doubt and fear that leads us into inaction is just what he wants. I visualise him waiting to pounce so that we don’t witness, so that we don’t take risks and – sadly – so that we don’t shine at all in this world where there is much darkness.
Walter Bruegemann explains the effect of inaction like this; “the truth is that frightened people will never turn the world, because they use too much energy on protection of self” (Brueggemann, A way other than our own: Devotions for Lent). The fears and ‘what ifs’ of life can overtake our willingness to sojourn with God and we are immobilised, frozen and prevented from being effective in the world. We will be like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, paralysed and frozen. It’s not the life that we are called to. Rather, we are called by a God who transforms and changes lives and situations and he wants us to be part of that dynamic work, changing the world, challenging injustice and defending the weak.
When Joshua is called by God to take over the work that Moses started, of taking his people across the River Jordan and into the Promised Land, God says to him “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). God is with us. We don’t need to be afraid when we do the work he calls us to.
We need to move the rock that is the biggest; the rock of fear. We are called to shine and to transform lives and we can’t do that if we are paralysed by ‘what if’s’. Resist them and know that God is with you wherever you go.
Prayer or Reflection
Lord God, help me to move the rock of fear, to push away the ‘what ifs’ and to be willing to trust you in the adventure that I am called into. I don’t want to be full of fear Lord, so help me to trust in that promise that you will be with me wherever I go. Amen.