At the amusement park, after we’ve parked the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .
Only one of my kids still needs to be measured. My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.
My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors. Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.
Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart. That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.
This is thrilling to him. He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.
But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”
He’s taller than he is brave.
I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same. He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.
Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four). We are timid about these things, more likely to enjoy the small swings, the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.
We’re not born brave. We’re not naturally bold. Courage isn’t part of our DNA.
(I’m still not a thrill-seeker. At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)
I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.
But in life, fear can be so much more crippling than this: stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep. It’s not about preference—rides or no rides. It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.
Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing. What I really need to do is just do it. Just take the step. Just have the conversation. Just sign up or just step down. Whatever God is asking me to do, I need to do in obedience. Faith over fear. Trust over timidity.
Still I waiver so often.
Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.
Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.
In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:
Fear sinks us: When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).
Fear knocks us down: When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees. But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).
Fear hides our treasures and gifts: The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.” His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).
Fear puts us behind closed doors: After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB).
“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).
I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now. Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.
Isaiah the prophet said:
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.
Or maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs: “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”
It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.