In one word, a primary theme for me in 2011 was fear and overcoming mine. Perhaps there are some for whom fear is not much of an issue. I don’t seem to know too many of them. And I’m not one myself. Fear has always been a deep struggle for me. It’s probably good, as someone has counted, that the word to “fear not” occurs 365 times in the Bible. I need at least that many reminders.
As 2011 began, a counselor with whom I’ve been working towards greater emotional freedom and wholeness gave me an assignment: make ten cold calls related to my ministry. I was to call ten pastors, Christian leaders, whoever, and share with them what I do and, in a sense, offer my services. For many of my friends in business, especially sales, this is something they might well do daily. But it was a new and, honestly, terrifying idea.
This assignment exposed the roots of some of my deepest fears about being valued (or rejected). It exposed my anxieties about being an imposition or irritation to someone else who didn’t know me. I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time. It caused my self-doubts and low confidence to be exposed. I agreed to make these calls by the end of January. It took me all the way until the last few days of the month to make the last of the ten.
What did I learn? You probably won’t be surprised.
- The bad experience I imagine is far worse than anything that actually happens. Even those who weren’t interested in what I had to say were kind about it. (I was talking to pastors, after all).
- Some new opportunities arose. One of those calls resulted in an opportunity to lead a retreat for a church in Washington that I would otherwise not have.
- Overcoming fear wasn’t a one-time deal. Over the course of the year, I overcame fear related to finally submitting a book proposal. It was accepted, resulting in a book contract. I made a consulting proposal that opened a door to work with a Christian organization on developing a contemplative planning process with their leadership. Not every fear that I pushed through had such dramatic results, but some did.
- Overcoming one fear doesn’t make the others automatically go away. Getting the “yes” for my book proposal surfaced a new fear: Can I actually pull this off? Layers of an onion, I guess.
I need the Lord to keep reminding me to “fear not” because fear continues to be a very present challenge. I’d love to go around feeling courageous and carefree all the time. I don’t. But I keep discovering that moving through these fears is becoming a doorway into a deeper experience of the love and grace of God for me.
Join the Conversation
What fear do you find resurfacing in your life or ministry along the journey?
How is the Lord inviting you to join Him in pressing through it into some new experience of His love and grace?
Alan Fadling serves as Executive Director of The Leadership Institute in Orange, CA, training Christian leaders to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. He serves as a frequent speaker and consultant and is the author of An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013). He is a certified spiritual director living in Mission Viejo, California, with his wife Gem, and their three sons.