I am the only woman in my family who drives, and it wasn’t until I turned twenty-four that I found the courage to get behind the wheel.
(Feel free to laugh, I won’t hold a grudge.)
I can tell you the exact moment I began to fear navigating a vehicle. I must have been five or six, and my father was attempting to teach my mother how to drive. My sister and I sat in the back, excited at the prospect of soon having two parents to chauffeur us around. My father drove to a back road out in rural Maryland, got out of the driver’s seat and handed the wheel over to my mother. She must have driven all of twenty feet when she realized there were train tracks approaching. Immediately she hit the brakes and refused to move. My father assured her there was no train in sight, no threat to us crossing, and yet she quickly climbed out and asked my father to drive us back home.
That was the first and last time I ever saw my mother behind the wheel.
Would I say I blame my mother’s cowardice (God bless her heart) for how long it took me to actually drive on my own? I do believe that the fears and anxieties of those closest to us have the power to shape the trajectory of our lives while we are young, but there comes a point where we must decide for ourselves whether or not something truly scares us, and whether or not it ought to. Yes, my mother stopping at those train tracks out of fear may have etched a warning on driving in my mind, but I have stopped at several other train tracks all on my own, and all of my own accord.
And I’m sure so have you.
Opportunity knocks, and initially, we are excited. God gives us the vision and it is magnificent. And we are elated at the thought of pursuing the things that ignite our souls. Yet as we venture down these paths we meet obstacles – train tracks if you will – that seem threatening and stop us from venturing forward. There is no immediate danger in sight, and yet somehow just the possibility of it deters us from pushing on. We don’t know if anyone will want to read what we write or hear what we have to say. We don’t know if our skill will be worth anyone paying for, or if our experience will be enough to make us employable. We don’t know where we will find the money to begin. So we abandon our dreams at the tracks and opt for safer alternatives – ones where we are not responsible for our own outcomes and we can blame others for what goes wrong.
You see, fear is very much the invisible train on the proverbial train track that lies between where you are now and where God wants to take you.
I was talking with my friend the other day about an amazing opportunity she had to do advertising for a very well-known brand. I expressed how excited I was for her, but she didn’t seem nearly as enthusiastic. ‘It’s a big deal, but I don’t want to do it. I’m excited, but there’s this anxiety in the pit of my stomach telling me that I can’t.’ Even though I was surprised at her response, because she is one of the single most dedicated and talented people I know, I was more than familiar with the feeling she described.
See, it’s one thing to fear failure; but the more silent and deadly fear is the fear of success. Failure is easy. Part of us expects failure – that is why we so often stop short. But success? It is something we never actually prepare ourselves for. Because if we do succeed, then our excuses are out the window. We will have to rise to the challenge and do our very best from then on. We will have to exceed everything we have done up till then. If we finish the draft, we will have to publish the book. If we write the speech, we will have to deliver it. If we quit our jobs and launch the business, we will have to put in the work to sustain it. In all these cases, the former we know we might be able to do, but the latter will require our very best. The problem is we don’t know what our very best is, and a part of us doesn’t actually think we’re capable of achieving it. So in pursuing our dreams we risk not just failure and disappointment, but also success and having to exceed our own expectations of ourselves.
Thing is, I have never seen a creation on God’s green earth that was scared to do what it was created to. I’ve never seen a beaver scared to build a dam, or a snake scared of biting. I’ve never seen a fish not swim because it was scared of currents, or a rooster not crow because it was scared of how bad it might sound. And I’ve never seen a flower scared to bloom. So how is it that we are so scared to do the very things God has planned from the beginning of time for us to do? Why do we seem to think that we are inadequate?
At the end of the day, our problem isn’t really that we are inadequate. That is our advantage. Our problem is that we don’t realize that our inadequacies are the very things that qualify us for the visions in the first place.
People will tell you that fear is meant to be overcome – that it’s something you do away with before you pursue your dreams. Not true. I still clutch at the steering wheel whenever I make a sharp turn, and I pray every time I get in the driver’s seat. See, fear is not meant to be overcome. Fear will always be present – especially at the point of great breakthrough. It’s no coincidence that God keeps reminding us not to fear – because fear will always be found on the path to your dreams. The difference is whether you succumb to it, or push through it. You must learn to meet fear head on. Your desire to see your dream fulfilled must outweigh your fear of not achieving it. The risk of not doing it – not doing everything God put you here to do – should scare you even more.
Remember: the dream will always be bigger than you. It will always be bigger than you because it is not about you. And because it is not about you, it is not dependent on you being the most brilliant or the most skilled. The dream God has given you will always be about bringing Him glory, helping others, and providing for you – in that order. The moment you get it out of your head that it’s your show, the sooner you’ll get to your destination.
You might be afraid of what might be waiting for you on the train tracks, but God isn’t. Scootch over and let Him have the wheel. If you do, I promise you-you’ll be in for the ride of your life.