Today we have a guest author, Joycelyn Armstrong. Joycelyn is a gifted leader at West and in our community and has a powerful story regarding addressing fear.

Recently I had the proverbial match lit and was ready to throw it on my 20 year interior design career. I was tired of the anxiety I felt everyday. I wanted relief in any capacity and at any expense.

When Andrea first came to Williamson’s Chapel, I made an appointment with her to discuss my crazy idea about leaving my corporate job to go back to school and to build a design firm. I remember it being a short meeting. Andrea said something to the effect of, “ You have a gift and a calling. Why are you in my office? Go and make it happen.” She was the catalyst in the beginning and I needed her help to guide me through what I thought was going to be an imploding exit.

I texted her and she asked, “Can we talk?” I sat in my client’s driveway, quietly sobbing, “I just can’t do it anymore.” The funeral pyre I was building was a jumble of misplaced fears. Andrea quickly pointed out, in succinct Andrea fashion, “If it is just fear, we can handle that.”

My heart and mind’s reaction was, “Huh? Come again? It can’t be that simple.” Andrea pointed out that I had been through a rough year. I thought the things I had been through were God trying to get my attention to take a different path. In hindsight, I believe God was trying to get my attention to face my fears.

The words of Zach William’s song rings true, “Fear he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps…cast your fear in the fire, ‘cause fear he is a liar.” I had thought the endless march of problems was a flaw in me. I didn’t know these problems (some real, some made up) were just life. Some of the problems I created, some I had control to correct, some were just completely out of anyone’s control, and some were not even in my circus or even any of my monkees.

I have three major fears that have lied to me:

Fear of being poor. In my mid twenties I had months I had to choose food or rent.

Fear of disappointing people. See fear #1. Telling my landlord I chose food over rent did not go well.

Fear of making dumb mistakes. See fear #1 and #2.

Once I named the fears I could see them clearly. I had needlessly suffered at the hand of my own fears. Problems are going to arise everyday. MANY problems are going to arise if you are creating change and making a difference in the world.

After I sobbed in the car in my client’s driveway, I dried my tears and walked into her house. We had the most productive meeting I had had in months. The kaleidoscope clearly clicked into place, I was mentally back to work, and now the “lit match” I would instead turn to burn down my fears.

Later I thanked Andrea for her direction and we had another good discussion. I asked, “Now that I have named my fears, HOW do I tackle them?” In direct Andrea clarity, she replied, “God.” Therein lies the power that holds us all together-the Holy Spirit, the light and love of those in our midst, both past and present, all the goodness in our Universe that wants nothing more than our success, contentment, safety, and our deep knowledge that we are always being held – God. Fear is a physical construct to keep us safe. I thank fear for guiding and directing me, but fear, it is time for you to depart and be replaced with the light that allows us to literally “see” our problems clearly, to not take them personally, and to know that all of humanity is dealing with their own fears. We need to offer support and compassion to ourselves and each other because we are all wandering around in cloaks of fear, trying to survive. Survival is one thing – thriving is another and thriving happens when we look fear in the eye, and say, “I see you, but you don’t control me anymore.”

There is example after example in the Bible of people in fear. The Bible doesn’t sugar-coat anything and I love how raw and real it is. Because we, as Christians, look forward to the celebrated birth of Jesus every year, it seems appropriate to reflect on the fears we assume Mary and Joseph felt awaiting Jesus’s birth. Luke writes about the shepherds being afraid of the angels who appeared. But guess what, those shepherds overcame their fear, left the field, worshiped the new baby, and then told everyone what they saw. They are a part of history that is woven into OUR history. Fear is normal, fear has edges that we can grasp and peer over. However, the best feeling is to light the match and in Zach William’s words, “cast your fear in the fire.” Let God and God’s light, angels, messengers (Andrea), guide us ALL with compassion and courage.

Grace and Peace,