“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.
“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
– From The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve never really been one to talk about fear; honestly, I pledge to that. I have always been somewhat incapable of fear, because I have never been impressed under any circumstances that have driven me to resort to being afraid. Sometimes it is something I hear talked about, but have never really related to. I have always encouraged my family and friends to “not be afraid, for the Lord our God is with us.” I suppose it was so easy to say because I never had to do it myself.
This past week, for those of you who do not know me very well, I turned sixteen.
*blows horn and confetti canons go off*
There seemed to be, on that day a new pen that started writing in my brain. A different kind of penmanship started writing the words of my story—the story that God is writing. And yet, why did I start to feel stranger than ever before? God was doing something in me, and I could not understand what it was. I felt…well, that’s just it: different.
I noticed it on the morning of my birthday at breakfast. The tears in my mother’s eyes, the sentimental and heart-felt note from my good old’ G Pops, and my dad’s smiling, thoughtful face. My sister leaned closer to me, and my brothers, oblivious as they were to the coming-of-age, seemed so dear and sweet to me.
Sooner than later, I realized. I was growing up.
I know, I’m not more than five feet and three inches tall, but in my mind, soul, and strength, I have grown. I never realized it until I saw myself that day. And I don’t mean my physical stature; that hasn’t changed much at all since I was ten (just kidding; it has changed a little 😉 ). I mean what I saw when I looked into my heart. My emotions, my philosophies, my ideas and theologies. It was all new, all brand new.
I see my abilities all there before me: I drive, I go off to the movies with friends on free days, I take college courses, and I have assumed an air of affable ability to conduct myself as a young woman. Mom was the one who initially pointed it out to me with glossy eyes and happy voice. It was all new, all there, and all strange.
And suddenly, I felt that thing I said I had never felt before: fear.
Shall we say that I have spent more than one night staying up with the light off praying and meditating on the Lord about my life. I know things are changing, but what if they change wrong? O God, take me where you want! Don’t leave me here alone; show me where to go! What am I to do if things go wrong?
In truth, I feel, at times, a lot like David in the wilderness. I read a Psalm straight from the Lord last night that explained the innermost feelings of my currently tender and fragile heart:
Hurry with your answer, God! I’m nearly at the end of my rope. Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me! That would be certain death. If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you. Save me from my enemies, God—you’re my only hope! Teach me how to live to please you, because you’re my God. Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland.
– Psalm 143:10, from the MSG
David’s words are my war cry. He utters the exact same thoughts that circle around in my mind most of the time. I feel like I do have enemies all around me; although few of them are actually people, many of them are lies, thoughts, doubts, and fears.
As most of you know, this summer I’m heading to the UK to study literature and creative writing at Oxford University for two whole weeks. In my mind, I hear the voices cry out: “All alone, on dorm, in Britain, for two weeks. You. Alone. You’ll be surrounded by frightening, menacing, and professionally atheistic professors, and pretty soon, because of your feeble-minded stupidity, you’ll be one of them. Just wait.” My eyes widen, and I fight back, “No, no, no. That will not happen! O God, you know! Search me and know me! Lead me where I must go!”
The enemies surround me; here they come, like a stampede of cattle on a summer day. Flooding my mind, destroying those plants, that life, and everything in their path. The hopes, the joy, the freedom. The enemies, the few who are human and who I know stand there, wait for me. Lying in wait to jump upon me when I fall. Waiting in malicious bliss for me to end up in a position God would never have willed for me to be in.
To say I have never felt fear like this before is a gross understatement.
College is just around the corner. My high school graduation ceremony is in May. My speculative/fantasy fiction novel (yes, I’m writing a novel that WILL be published legitimately) is a huge stepping stone. My heart beats against my chest every day anticipating worst case scenarios for all of my milestones that are coming full speed at me, like a bullet train.
What if? Oh, God, what if?
I fear, like Éowyn. I fear being the typical American teen. The one who never did anything or never made a difference. Oftentimes, I wonder what people will say of me at my funeral. A melancholy, suggestion, yes. One that I often consider, to be sure. I feel like most everyone gives up on their dreams of doing something great at or around the age of fourteen. Dreams of changing the world are forever cast out, and we chart our course that best fits the flow of our culture and society. Éowyn and I share the fear of being put into that cage of never doing anything amazing. It’s a common female complex, and it’s also a very male complex, too.
And yet, there is truth in the middle of all those lies. Those lies are lies.
We always tend to call bad stuff that we think up “lies.” Sometimes, I get to the point where I start to think that highly probable and bad opportunities are “lies.” We just stick a label on them hoping that they won’t happen.
When we call something a lie, as Christians, we are powerfully declaring that horrid thought, doubt, and stronghold a falsehood not worthy of our attention or worry. Is it possible that our worst fears can occur? Most certainly. But looking at it through the eyes of a Christian, and a daughter of Christ, I can turn my eyes to the cross, where all fears were vanquished and destroyed by the Son of God Himself, and declare the snarling whispers of the devil “lies.” Fear is a liar.
If anyone has heard that song recently, please comment below or like this post. This song has taught me so much.
Writing this post has just put me into a kind of reverie. I am, as I type, starting to ponder and dwell on everything that I’ve let the devil spoon-feed me. “You’re not a good enough Christian.” “You’ll never be who you were supposed to be.” “You will end up in a teenage crisis with your parents.” “You will walk away from the Lord.”
And all the while, as that devil pounds those forgeries into my mind like a blacksmith at his hammer and anvil, all I need to know is that those lies are indeed truly “lies.” Newsflash: We call them lies, because they aren’t true!
The fear that sucks out my joy, leaving me cold and frightened, like that dementor on the train, will have no power over me. Lord, my accuser comes! Tell him to begone and remind him of the precious blood that has redeemed me and filled me with new life. Tell him to return to his hell full of fire and death where he belongs! Tell him that I am yours, and I shall never be touched.
My fear has no place in my future life. Fear is a liar.
I love the Erin Hanson quote: “What if I fail? But, darling, what if you fly?”
I know that no one can be sure of the future, and nothing is ever certain, but with Jesus on my side, I have nothing to fear. I can fly, and I will: sky high.
“Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don’t trouble yourself to answer…I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you…I see at intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were it but free, it would soar cloud-high.”
– Mr. Edward Rochester, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
Why stay in my cage when a whole sky needs exploring? Take me, Lord; lead me on the paths you have, and I will strengthen myself to follow.
P.S. My old friends Harry, Ron, and Hermoine have once again joined the discussion of protagonists in my mind’s eye, so be sure to stick around as you’ll be hearing from them pretty soon. 🙂
P.P.S. Here’s that song I was telling you all about…be sure to listen to it…it will drive out all fear.