SHAWNA COLEING

Christian romantic suspense

OVERCOMING FEAR

fear

I never would have dreamed up the life I am currently living (on the other side of the world). In fact, it probably would have made me sick to my stomach if someone had told me what my life would be like. My expectation growing up was that I would always live in my hometown, never really traveling anywhere (unless it was with mom and dad). And I was happy with that. Secure.

It all started in second grade when I suddenly became too terrified to leave the house, but didn’t know why. I can still vividly remember walking down the steps into the garage, when fear grabbed hold of me. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make myself walk out the door. So I did the only thing my eight-year-old brain could think of…I hid behind some boxes, hoping mom wouldn’t notice. But of course my mom did notice because moms usually notice stuff like that.

The fear that gripped me that day wasn’t about to let go. And even though I made it back to school in a couple of days, I was often the girl that couldn’t stay at sleepovers (my anxiety outweighed my embarrassment). I was afraid of the world and I was quite happy to have nothing to do with it…sort of…

As the years passed, I would often sit on the fort my dad built in our backyard, gazing over the cornfield and dreaming of an extraordinary life…but that was for other people – people who weren’t afraid to take risks … people who lived for adventure – and I was definitely not one of those people, even though I wished I was. I resigned myself to a life of daydreaming while living an ordinary reality.

This continued for the most part until I had to leave for college, although by that time I had gone on a two-week holiday with my best friend to visit her sister (I began that trip apprehensively but was pleased and relieved that it went great). However, college was different. College meant months away from home. It was unknown territory, but off I went…and hey, as it turned out, I did ok and I even began toying with the idea of spending a semester studying in Los Angeles.

But by the time I was in my third year at college, God found his own way to turn up the heat – to show me that fear was more afraid of me than I was of it. Little did I know that the plan He had for my life looked nothing like the reality I had decided on … and the dreams of adventure that He had planted in a little girl many years before were about to be unveiled.

I can’t tell you whether the morning was warm or cold, how much sleep I had the night before, or what I had for breakfast, but I do remember it was the day when everything changed.

Like every other day, I pulled opened the door of the townhouse I was living in to head off to class. But this particular morning when I opened the door, there was a sheet of paper stuck to it. It was an inquiry to see if anyone was interested in being part of a short-term missions trip to Nigeria in a few months. 

I ignored it, of course (’cause I don’t do that sort of thing). Then this crazy thought popped into my head…I could do that if I wanted … In other words, I had the free will to make that decision … not that I would … but I could if I wanted … which I don’t … because I’m not one of those people that does that sort of thing.

The more I tried to push the thought aside, the more insistent it became. It would not leave my head all morning and was a mildly annoying distraction. Finally, I gave in and told God that if that piece of paper was still stuck on the door when I got back home, I’d send an email and get more information … I made sure He understood I was not saying I’d go, I was just willing to find out more.

That afternoon, as I stepped off the path and began walking towards my house, my eyes were glued to the door. The paper was gone. But the thing that surprised me the most was my disappointment. As terrified as I was at the idea of traveling to an African country, I found that I was also excited by the idea.

But as I walked inside, despondent and wondering what to do next, I spotted the letter on the kitchen table. For me, that was close enough to the door. A relief of a new kind (accompanied by a mix of fear and excitement) flooded my soul. What was happening! I started asking all my friends to pray for me because I thought that maybe, just maybe, I was meant to go on this trip…

Long story short (or shorter) I went on that 2 1/2 week trip and loved it. I came home with memories of baboons stealing sandwiches, chocolate fan milk, and a Nigerian worship leader that looked like DJ Jazzy Jeff from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. God showed me that it was the feeling of fear itself I had been afraid of the whole time and my eyes and heart were opened to the idea that I was indeed brave enough to live life outside the box I had created for myself.

After that initial trip, things changed dramatically for me. The next year (my last year of college) I spent a semester studying, not in Los Angeles (as I had first been considering), but London. This was followed after graduation by a year in Australia … which, because I met my husband (another story for another time) I now call home.