There is an old saying, about a ship and a harbor. It goes something like:
A ship is safe in the harbor,
but that isn’t what it’s designed for
Safety. Security. Calm waters. I think we all appreciate, and even prefer, those idyllic havens. I certainly do! And only recently has God begun to show me just how much those safe havens are costing me.
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship, created for good works, that God prepared for us to do (emphasis added). He has work for me to do…work that requires leaving my safe harbor and venturing into the great unknown. Only it doesn’t seem that great, at least not from my view. A desire for safety makes leaving a safe harbor less than appealing. And in our culture, it is generally discouraged as well.
Yet, my heart longs to be a faithful servant, and to be used to bring glory to my Lord and Savior. Competing desires. Confusing desires. A desire to be safe, and a desire to engage beyond my level of safety. But engaging beyond my level of safety requires vulnerability. And vulnerability is scary…very scary.
You see, an overwhelming fear of failure has controlled many decisions in my adult life. Some may find that surprising, but it is true. If success is not assured, or at least very likely, I am very risk averse. Very, very risk averse.
The same is true if the path forward is not very, very clear.
So, to have the Lord “calling me out upon the water,” as the song goes, is very, very scary. It has forced me to look deep into my heart and ask myself the question, what would my life look like if I wasn’t afraid to fail.
The wording of that question is very important. As is what I am not asking. No mitigation of risk in that question. It isn’t “What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” That isn’t what I’m wrestling with. The struggle is, what would I do differently if I wasn’t afraid…afraid to fail…afraid to make a mistake…afraid to be exposed as the fake that deep inside somewhere a voice whispers I am? What would I do if I wasn’t controlled by my fear?
At this point, that question remains unanswered. God is still working on my heart. He is convicting me of my sin (anything not of faith is sin, Rom 14:23) and gracious working to pry my fingers from the idols of false security I’ve been holding onto.
God has given us some amazing examples in Scripture, examples of men and women who faced fear and refused to be controlled by it. One of the most encouraging examples, for me, are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendnigo before Nebuchadnezzar and his golden statue.
Don’t tell me those men were not afraid. They had to be! What normal human being won’t be afraid when faced with certain death. And might I hightlight that King Nebuchadnezzar probably chose the fiery furnace because of the intimidation factor? Yet, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were so confident in the Lord and committed to serving Him that they didn’t care.
Whether God protected them or not, they were going to honor Him. Wow.
It is so easy to take for granted the courage of Bible heroes, insulated and removed from the situations as we are. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I wonder if that hasn’t happened, to a degree, with this amazing story; we’ve become so familiar with it that the reality of the situation is lost on us. We’re not watching the flames dance through the opening in the furnace. We haven’t seen a king execute anyone recently. We have no context for the very real danger and threat faced by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendnigo.
Even Jesus, before his final hours, wrestled…not with fear, but with the reality of what He would face. And yet, every single one of these men, and many more heroes and heroines we’re not so familiar with (thinking of Hebrews 11 and the Hall of Faith), faced fear with courage, more confident in the One they worshipped than in their own perception of reality.
How incredible is that!?
That is the kind of faith I want. Not the kind that only take chances when there is a fairly high certainty of success. No…I want the kind of faith that takes a step of obedience, even in the face of fear and doubt and confusion and…not being confident of the outcome; stepping out even if I might (or probably will) fail…that’s the kind of faith I want…faith that can help me to (in the words of Winston Churchill) move from failure to failure with no loss of momentum.
No loss of momentum…