It seems that as I age, anxious thoughts creep into my life like extra pounds; it just gets harder to keep them away. I have always struggled some with anxiety, but now, as an almost 40-year-old mom of three, the number of things to worry about increases daily.
I have been in bed, right at that wonderful point of falling asleep, only to imagine myself driving over a bridge in my minivan with my children, having an accident and plunging into a river. Suddenly my eyes are open, my heart is pounding, and I am imagining every detail of how we would not be able to make it out of our sinking van, with water rushing in. I have also visualized our family waiting for our luggage at the baggage claim in Mexico City. I picture our youngest daughter straying just a little, then screaming as someone grabs her and runs, too fast for us to catch. Those moments feel so real, and I lay in bed paralyzed with fear, afraid of possible catastrophic events beyond my control.
That question lingered in my thoughts long after Sunday morning. I began to imagine what my life would look like if I could live the next month without fear. What if I could go to this conference, just be myself, meet people, learn all I could learn, and not pressure myself with unrealistic expectations. What if I could trust that my daughters would be fine on the last day of school without me? What if I could get on that airplane, and just enjoy the wonder of flying the friendly skies? And what if I could relax and enjoy every moment of our trip to Mexico instead of fearing the worst?
I think the bigger question is this: What if I could live life to the fullest, experiencing each moment with freedom from fear?
I am making progress. I still feel those anxious thoughts creeping in, but I am becoming ruthless in my intolerance of them. I had a great time at the conference, a fantastic trip to Mexico with my family, and even the flying was ok (with a little medicinal help from my doctor.) I sat next to my youngest daughter who wanted a window seat. I tried to see the experience from her innocent, trusting perspective.
We finished our summer with a trip to Spring Hill family camp in Evart, Michigan. I joined my family in putting on a harness and a helmet and flying over the lake on a zipline. Part way up the enormously tall tower, even though my daughters were not the least bit nervous about jumping off the platform and zipping down a cable over the lake, I was terrified. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I could actually sit on that platform and jump off. In that moment, I had to make a decision. Did I really want to miss out because I was afraid? Because I might not like how it would feel? For me, this experience was not as much about a couple of seconds of thrill-seeking; it was more about the way I want to live my life.
In the coming months, I have some new adventures ahead of me. this week we are getting a puppy. In one month, all of my kids will be in full-day school. For the first time in thirteen years, I will have time on my hands – time to pursue my interests and follow where God is leading me. And starting in October, I have opportunities to begin speaking to groups of moms, and for me, public speaking feels a lot like climbing that tower and sitting on that platform. Part of me wants to get down. Take off my harness and helmet and just watch other people do it. But another part of me – a bigger part of me – wants to take the plunge. I want to fully live, and I want to experience all that God has for me. I believe that He is going to amaze and surprise me. I believe that the work He is doing inside me is much bigger than any work I am doing.
So what about you? What would the next month or the next year of your life look like if you lived it without fear? Can you sense God nudging you up any towers or out on any platforms? Are you being stretched or pushed out of your comfort zone? The best part about following through and taking those steps of faith - the most amazing part about jumping - is experiencing how secure you are in His hands.