Fear

He stopped making decisions, and let decision make him.

Sitting alone, he pondered. His thoughts have been unsteady all day. Despite a work meeting and making another decision that had simply needed to be made, he could not keep himself still. A feeling within him surged yet again.

He wished he were dead.

Don’t be mistaken, he didn’t wish to kill himself, but he didn’t want to be alive either. He felt pretty well dead, anyway. He really found no interest in anything. All he really wanted to do was die. It was sad, that nothing in the whole world really interested him, but it was the truth, he thought. What is everything but striving at air? Grasping for something and so consistently catching nothing. Feeling he had nothing to show for all the fighting he had done, it seemed to be the only truth he needed.

Many things floating through his head, he dismissed them all as utterly unimportant. In his mind there was nothing as important as seeking God, and even that truth ringing throughout his head did nothing to help him want to live. Should he focus on games, fun, merriment? Food, service, or work? Is there anything that truly satisfies to soul? Is something out there that will finally give him some measure of reason to do anything, other than just taking a next step?

Ultimately, his entire life was just taking the next step, as long as he can remember. For a while those steps had been chosen for him, for longer than he would have liked. His mother had controlled a few too many of his decisions as he grew older, until he broke away by moving out unexpectedly. But even then, she tried, and too often he let her in, unsure of himself because he had never made decisions before. That, too, had lasted too long.

Moving out was a next step, brought about not of his own accord but of another, a good friend now, one who makes decisions and does things. But he didn’t make that step, it was made for him. It was the next move. The only next move. After that, a new place to live, a new job, a new way of dating, a new way of everything. He had very little control. He didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know who he wanted to be.

Going back to school was simply a next step. He didn’t actually have a step planned after school, he just applied to a local college and away he went, caring little for what would happen after. He picked a major that was just on his mind at the time, and changed it in the first semester. He told the counselor helping him choose his new major, “I transferred credits, which major will get me a degree the fastest?” It was just another step.

He stopped making decisions, and let decisions make him. Graduating, he chose work not based on any desire within him, but applied where he think he ought, doing what he think he ought to please people he thought depended on him. He said what should be said, and did what should be done. He didn’t act for himself, he very nearly gives up any given day, but he is there. God uses him. “It’s good work,” he says, “God is moving.”

Laying in bed, curled into a ball, he ruminates on how fear makes all his decisions for him, wonders what his life would be like if he had courage. He considered writing a song about courage, he would write about Joshua. “Take heart, Joshua, lift up your eyes. The Lord is with you, the Lord is with you.”

There were no chords for the song, it was a dirge to his own courage, not celebration of Joshua’s.

Knowing that fear holds no place, he chides himself for letting fear ruin his life, and wonders if he can take hold and make a decision. Can he change things now? How much can he change, how much should he? How much would he? He imagined he wouldn’t change anything, not yet. Not yet. He was still too afraid. Too tired. Too… everything. He couldn’t change anything, the conversations needed… he couldn’t have those conversations.

He could barely have conversations at all some days.

There was no fear about pulling up the depths of his soul, however. He had no issues in sharing deeply, and vulnerably. It was the only place he felt any modicum of strength, any amount of courage. He was confident in one thing if nothing else, being open, being vulnerable, being real. It was a thing to be valued, being real. He knew that too few people were in touch with themselves enough to even be real, and even those who were didn’t often share. For him, it was the only place of confidence in all the world.

When he first began truly dating, and really flirting in any effective way, most of his humor was self-deprecating. His only confidence was in putting himself down. It worked, but when girls actually liked him and stuck around, he was flabbergasted. Having been honest about himself, he figured they must be blind, or dumb, or broken like him. “Most still leave eventually,” he thought dryly, “whether weeks or months, most still leave eventually.” Nobody wants a man who is quite so unsure of himself.

Fear is a terrible friend, and there are no two ways about it. His life would never be what it needed to be, what it could be, what it should be, while as afraid as he was. But, when all you have known is fear, what does it look like to take courage? Thinking briefly, he imagined he knew how the Israelites messed up so much on their way to the promised land. 400 years of bondage and suddenly they are going to be brave? He didn’t really think so. It took a generation not born to bondage to experience the freedom necessary to build courage.

He wondered if he may still take courage, take heart, and make decisions. What decisions would he make? Fear had already driven desire from his heart. How can you decide what to do when desire has left you? What do you do with a flame that is nearly extinguished? How do you fan it back to life? What fuel will help ignite, and not smother, the hardly flickering smolder? Even on the inside, he felt small, bowed down, hump backed, hunched, and unable to consider it.

He thought he might pray, but dismissed it. What would he say that he hadn’t said before? He feels terrible. He wants to die. He doesn’t like where he is because he didn’t make the decisions to be here. He feels like life just happens to him. He isn’t a victim, but, in some ways he still is. In some ways, in many ways, he is an 8 year old little boy being screamed at because he made a silly mistake that 8 year old boys might make. He tripped and broke something, was playing a little too rough and accidentally bumped into someone, he made a decision, but it proved to be a poor one. He was in trouble because he simply was. Those lessons sunk deep, he learned them well. “Don’t make mistakes,” the first, and “decisions you make are mistakes.” A wicked one-two punch deeply embedded into his psyche. How do you escape that?

Considering sleep, he pensively wondered how he might finish his thoughts. Decisions still make him, and yet he has a made a few in the past few days to begin taking some control back. He knew others needed to be made, and he knew he would make them, but also wondered if a short time after making them, would he feel that they made him? How will he know when he no longer makes decisions because of fear, but in strength? What will show him that he has shaken the shadow of his past and emerged a new man? In Christ he is that, yet he still operates in fear, he knows, the neurology of his brain hardwired to expect his own failure. When will the rewiring get to a place of confidence?

It truly was time to sleep, the only place he truly enjoyed when he felt this terrible.

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