This is for you graduates. Pictures of you wearing robes and wide smiles under tasselled caps have filled our screens this month. Every day the mailbox delivers another envelope brimming with hope and an invitation to celebrate.
And each time I see you I feel a rising sense of urgency on your behalf. You need to understand that you are about to enter one of the most transitional and influential seasons of your lives.
And although I don’t do this when I see you, because that would be creepy and rather awkward, I want to grab your arm and look in your eyes and tell you to embrace the fear.
All that lies ahead for your story, all the change, growth, adventure, risk, open doors and unknown obstacles, it all arrives on the scene with a sidekick called fear. Every. Single. Time. You will eventually come to expect it.
More than cash or gift cards, I want to give you a new paradigm for understanding the presence of fear in your life.
Take it from an old lady who’s been there and done that. Go ahead and embrace the fear because it just may be your most valuable teacher. I’d even encourage you to go as far as making it your friend. It will be absolutely counter intuitive to practice such a thing. It is scary. It makes you feel wobbly and shaky. But to be brave by willingly walking beside the fear that comes pounding on your heart’s door is the first step toward living a good story.
There will be so much in your path in the next season that brings fear. Everything is new and different and change naturally drags fear along, lurking in the background like Zach Galifianakis with his bearded stare.
Your first instinct will be to run away from him and what I’m saying is to do exactly the opposite. Face him head on with direct eye contact and a hearty handshake. He will be your most unlikeliest of friends.
Learn to ask your fear good questions. Why are you here? What do you want? How can you teach me?
Throw out a welcome mat to that fluttery nauseous feeling in your gut, the increase of heartbeat and dizzy buzz in your head. Flip the light switch on and allow fear to reveal himself for what he really is. Your annoyingly consistent teacher.
Embracing fear at this stage of your life is one of the surest ways toward living the story God has planned for you. To run from your fear is to tell a “less than yourself” story. When you find yourself doing this (and you will) stop and ask Why am I running? What exactly am I afraid of?
Of course there are valid things to be afraid of. Cobras, speeding bullets, texting while driving, turning your back on God.
But most of what brings fear into your hearts is actually the very thing you need to walk toward, not run from.
Fear will prod and needle you. He is a weird teacher in that you need to believe exactly the opposite of what he whispers in your ear. He works in paradoxical ways. Cross examine his words ruthlessly. Then push past him and step into the great life that is waiting for you to own.
Rarely will you regret the times you’ve overruled the voice of fear to walk with shaky knees and trembling voice into a new experience.
But a life of regret lives in the dark basement of fear’s house.
So get on out there! Jump out of the airplane or take the road trip. Let fear guide you to major in where your passions are leading you. Volunteer in the quiet places that make your heart beat fast. Say no to the new peer pressures that await. Say yes to things that may make you stand out from the crowd. Start conversations with strangers. Resolve conflict with friends. Lean into wisdom and then go try all the new things. Trust the still small voice leading you into your future.
Fear can paralyze or propel.
It can extinguish or excite.
Fear can be your boss or your friend.
Guys, here’s the deal. You’re going to make wrong choices. You’re going to experience failure and rejection. You’re going to have to do some back tracking along the way. You will make some messes. You will probably even look foolish at times in the eyes of the world.
But so have all the great characters in stories throughout history. If you stay afraid of the inevitable you’ll be cheating yourself and the world out of your story.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Mark Twain
I know this guy named fear well. I still have to wrestle with him over silly things, but have learned to not let him boss me around. Just remember that every person drawing breath on this earth is having to wrestle with him over something as well. You’re not alone. Now go do this thing called life!