Recently while driving through Central Louisiana’s rural communities, I began thinking about fear and how fear can stifle, stagnate and suffocate progressive movements in our lives. As you may know, Louisiana is a Red State in every sense of the word and it loudly screams red in some of the state’s rural communities. Yet, these are many of the communities that I must navigate to provide pastoral and emotional care to those who are dying.
Though I haven’t had any direct problems relating to racism, I have had several patients declare that they did not want a female chaplain. Mind you the rural communities are also strongholds for Southern Baptist and Pentecostal churches and belief systems. So even if I’m able to get in the home the first time at times my bald head and red lipstick either result in a decline of chaplaincy services or cold shoulders as patients and their families do not fully participate in the visits. It’s like I do what I have to do and get out of the home.
Why am I telling you all of this? I do so because I have learned to become a non-anxious pastoral presence despite my fears. Fear is a God-given emotion that is designed to alert us of impending danger or harm. Yet, I do not believe that God has given us the spirit of fear. Instead, we acknowledge the impending danger, make the adjustments and move forward. That is to say that we move forward despite the fear.
I think about how much I would not have accomplished or dreams that would not become reality had I allowed fear to suffocate me. I would not have travelled abroad to China, Russia or Israel if I had allowed fear to grip me. Again, I’m not saying that I did not fear the unknowns of being abroad. I had two options: forge ahead and experience new worlds and wonders or allow fear to kill my desire to travel abroad. I chose to forge ahead and not allow fear to snuff out what was within.
Fear is the number one reason why women do not chase their dreams or do the work their soul must have. It is fear of rejection, fear of nonacceptance and fear of self. I’m well aware that women and black women in particular live with the burden of having to go over and beyond in proving their abilities and capabilities. So we live with the idea that if we just get one more certification, one more academic degree and one more skill we will be equipped and worthy to get the job, to walk in certain spaces or to gain recognition. I am a witness that even with all of my academic degrees, training, certifications, skills and experiences, many people will not see my worth. I have learned to declare my own value and determine my own worth. That does not mean that when I walk in certain spaces I am not afraid. It just means that I walk in those spaces knowing who I am and how honored others should be when I am in the room.
So what is it that you fear? Is fear stifling, straining or suffocating your hopes, dreams, aspirations and vocations? Are you doing the work that your soul must have? Are you ready to forge ahead despite the fear. These are valid questions that require valid answers. I invite you to sit with each of them. Decide if you will be among those who died without doing what God has called you to or will you be among those who die taking nothing with you.