Letting Go of Fear

by | Jun 13, 2012 | Uncategorized

My hands wring sweaty clamped around the steering wheel, heart starts to race. A wet blanket of anxiety covers me as we drive over the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston. I turn to my sixteen year old and tell her to start talking to me. I need a distraction.

“I have this irrational fear honey,” I explain, “it started almost twenty years ago . . .”

“I know Mom,” she interrupts, “you’ve told me about it before.”

She reads the directions I printed out on a piece of paper so I know what to expect once we get off the bridge, even though I am following the voice of the GPS. 

As we take a left turn to exit the bridge, contagious laughter breaks the tension. Together, we kick fear to the curb.

Almost twenty years ago, fear settled over me while behind the wheel of my burgundy Toyota Celica on a small bridge in Jackson, TN. H behind me, driving the un-air-conditioned yellow moving van with all our possessions, his mother in the passenger seat.  We were making a cross-country move from Phoenix to Cleveland, TN as newlyweds, entering the world of seminary.

I swerved off the road overcome with sudden anxiety and nearly escaped a collision with the face of a rocky mountain, H missing the rear of my car by inches.  And even though God continues to move us to islands connected by bridges, I avoid driving over high overpasses, bridges, anywhere new. Until last Friday.

Kelly and I, we’ve been friends for almost twenty years. Before her wedding and the five children between us, we joined the pilgrimage of missionaries from across the world in Youth with a Mission.  It’s been five household moves since I heard her voice.

And when she calls me after reading about travel plans to Scotland on my blog, we pick up the conversation where we left it twelve years ago, on her front porch in Colorado.  She tells me she will visit Charleston in June, asks if I can meet her there for breakfast.

“Of course,” I say with trembling hands. 

 In order to see her, I have to drive over a bridge.

Love moves beyond what doesn’t make sense, transforms fear into brave. I held on to what I know is true with trembling hands that day.  God’s providence, founded upon His love for me, is greater than my fear.   

If I truly believe that He holds my life in His hands, then why am I afraid?

And I refuse to take a detour, miss out on what He has for me while fear’s deceptive voice tries to hold me hostage to safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable, they’re highly overrated.

We gather around pastries and quiche at Whisk Bakery and talk about the hills and bends in the road that brought us to this place seated around café tables. Our daughters – the same age – meet for the first time. We recall the photo snapped in their infancy, propped up together in a crib.

Kelly reminds me how I decorated her wedding cake with flowers. I forgot.

When we say goodbyes, standing under halo of blue and clouds floating down river of sky, it feels like the sun radiates His smile over us. Like I’m seeing familiar for the first time.

Murielle and I crawl back into the car along busy streets and I’m actually excited about driving over that bridge again. Freedom, it feels good.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. ~I John 4:18a

Is fear keeping you from something? It’s time to kick her to the curb.

Linking with God Bumps, WLWW, Imperfect Prose, Life in Bloom, Thought Provoking Thursday, Walk with Him Wednesday.


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  1. Danelle

    Nothing makes me take the wheel and drive straight into a fear the way that love does. Perfect Love drives out all fear. . 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh my heavens Danelle, I am so glad you mentioned that scripture. I intended to add it to this post and actually forgot it. Thank you!

  2. Lynn Morrissey

    That’s it, Shelly….totally it! It’s all about God’s providence, His sovereignty. If we (I should say….if I) really believe that, then I will go anywhere, do anything God asks, because He controls and cares for everything. Oh, I of little faith! I was scared witless to go to the Czech Republic last year w/ my daughter on her senior missions trip. My husband couldn’t go. And even though a dear friend went, and my daughter’s entire school choir and a host of chaperones went, I was still frightened that if I got separated from the group, I would never find my way out of a non-English-speaking country! Before the trip, God calmed me with the verse from Isaiah about how He gently leads those who are with young. He tenderly reminded me that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, would lead the chaperones who were leading the students. We would be safe in His hands. And we were! Still, I’m a slow learner, and I fear heights, bridges, flying, spiders, snakes, and yes, I fear getting lost in St. Louis! I have a GPS, too, but I still end up calling my husband for directions! I’m hopeless! But I’m glad to know that God is sovereign and that He appoints our days. We’ll stay here as long as He ordains it. And I am so grateful for precious people like you who are *unafraid* to be vulnerable and share your fears so openly. You always lend hope. If you are ever in St. Louis (your old stomping ground), let me know, and we can drive over Eads Bridge together. I’ll drive and keep my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel, and you can keep your eyes on heaven with your hands uplifted. How’s that for a fearbusting exercise?!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, you made me laugh about the Eads bridge comment Lynn. I read that out loud to my husband. Love your heart. I read a book by Mark Buchanan that is out of print now unfortunately where he talks about heaven and why we shouldn’t be afraid of dying. And it resonated about fear in all areas. It really helped me see it differently. That fear is really about control, thinking we have any. Period.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Oh Shelly, thank you! I love Mark Buchanan, and have read a # of his breathtaking books, but not this one. I think you’re referring to Things Unseen: Living in Light of Forever. It’s still in print, and I have the book, but out of my forty-million books, I haven’t taken the time to read it. I need to. Part of me shut down after my father died, and I think that this book would help me. And as a Christian, I should not fear death, but frankly, I do. There, I have said it for all the world to read. I think half the battle of overcoming fear is in exposing it, so there: I just did. Your post gives me the courage to ask God to heal this debilitating fear. Turning a very abrupt corner, please tell your husband, H, that my husband, Michael, in giving directions, sometimes will orient me based on the Mississippi River, to which I reply, “But I can’t SEE the river!” Like visualizing my relationship to the river is really going to help me navigate when I am lost in a labyrinthian maze of streets! =]

        • Redemption's Beauty

          Yes, that’s the one. The last time I tried to get one, I couldn’t. Thank you for telling me. I can’t find my copy. I have those same issues when it comes to directions and my husband giving them to me. I am a horrible navigator and so incredibly thankful for GPS!

  3. Sharon O

    Oh I can totally relate we have a few high bridges here in Portland and I accidently got on one and as you know there is no turning back once you begin. I had anxiety so high the lady beside me kept talking to me with a gentle soft voice as I white knuckled the wheel. The end could not come fast enough. Glad you felt empowered after it was over. I did not, and will not do it again.
    (We know some awesome people in Scotland if you want to meet a nice couple let me know.) He is from Scotland.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh Sharon, it makes me feel better just knowing I’m not the only one. I often struggle with guilt for feeling that way because it seems so irrational.
      We went to Scotland for our 21st anniversary in May. It was glorious.

  4. tara pohlkotte

    keep driving through, darlin’!! there is so much for you on the other side of that bridge. i just know it. proud of you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Tara, I was thinking about you today. Your not around the sphere as much any more. Miss you friend. I imagine life is full. Thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot to me. Really does.

      • lolitavalle

        Hugging you back. Thanks!

      • tara pohlkotte

        thanks for missing me 🙂 life is full and when i fill, i sit quiet, satisfied you know? i blame it on the sunshine…it calls to me 🙂

  5. lolitavalle

    You are always giving me words to live by. You don’t cease to amaze me at how you can connect to your readers innermost thoughts. I love this line:

    “Love moves beyond what doesn’t make sense, transforms fear into brave. I held on to what I know is true with trembling hands that day. God’s providence, founded upon His love for me, is greater than my fear. ”

    And say amen to this,

    “And I refuse to take a detour, miss out on what He has for me while fear’s deceptive voice tries to hold me hostage to safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable, they’re highly overrated.”

    Every time, from this day onwards, I will wear this banner….courage…….and I will get out of that safe chair…….when faced with thoughts of the unknown, the unsettling things, what tomorrow holds, what ifs, loosing something and the likes, that the enemy wants us to believe, which would eventually keep us at the loosing end anyway….. I move to trust in His promises, no matter what!

    Thank you, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I am standing up with a big smile, arms extended to give you a bear hug. Can you feel it? You are such an inspiration. Thank you.

  6. debra elramey (@elramey)

    Yeah, fear. Mine is heights. Now – crazy I know – but I dread stepping aboard an escalator.
    Oh, and the fast lane! I take the back roads every time if possible. That way I get to see the scenery. But am I rationalizing?
    Anyway, I admire your courage, and you inspire me my friend.
    You’re gifted that way.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I have a heighth thing too Debra. My son is still really afraid of heights. We had lunch on the top of tall building in Atlanta a few years ago for Easter and we had to ride the inside elevator because we were to afraid to ride the one on the outside of the building. It makes my hands sweat just thinking about it. I guess that is the next hurdle!

  7. Fran Rashbrook

    What a fantastic photo of you and Kelly with your gorgeous girls! It was a real ‘aaaah’ moment to see you all together. Friendship across the years is precious indeed.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was a lovely but too short visit. So thankful for those friendships cultivated all those years ago. I think it would be a little too perfect to have the Rashbrooks, Millers and Johnstons all in the same room some day! Love you Fran.

  8. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    Every Sunday, my family used to drive to my grandparents’ farm and had to cross a bridge spanning the Allegheny River in order to do so. I think I held my breath during each and every crossing.

    As if that would have helped.

    Many others have picked up on it, but this is a beautiful line: Love moves beyond what doesn’t make sense, transforms fear into brave.

    So glad you were brave. This sounds life a lovely, life-giving reunion.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I was so determined to get past it to see my friend. And maybe we just need that push from the people we love to get to freedom. Of course, she didn’t even know she was pushing at the time!

  9. Jennifer@GDWJ

    My daughter had a pretty intense fear of bridges for a couple years. We were up in the Twin Cities the day the bridge gave way. We’ve had to cross a lot of bridges since then, and each one has her feeling more and more secure.

    So glad you overcame your fear to live life to the full.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I have to admit, I’m sort of blown away by how many people have a fear of bridges. I really thought I was in the minority. And I agree, the more you cross them, the more fear wanes. I had to drive over a very high bridge when we lived in NC. It helped me let go every time I had to do it.

  10. Jillie

    Have to say…I’ve enjoyed the exchange between you, Shelly, and Lynn. I feel like I’m reading a letter addressed to someone else…which of course I am. ‘Cept it’s allowed here. 🙂 I myself do not drive and you dear ladies have solidified in my mind just WHY I don’t! I tell others I hate the sight of blood…especially my own. 🙂 I had parents who instilled many fears in my mind. My biggest is driving, accompanied by being a passenger, but I just know I can’t let that dominate me. Otherwise, I’d never go anywhere. I’m also afraid of lightning and thunderstorms. Heights. And what the future holds for me. Oh, and tornadoes. But I’m working on these things by remembering that He who holds the future, holds me in the palm of His mighty hand. Love you Shelly and Lynn. You both bring so very much to my life by your honesty, wisdom and faith.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think what you are saying is that most of what we fear is in our mind. The way we choose to think. And I would hate for you to feel like you couldn’t drive after reading this. God wants you, no He needs you, out in the world among His people offering what only you can give Jillie. You have something to share with the world beyond your walls. I know this, I do.

  11. Paula

    Wow, and I thought I had enough anxiety for everyone! Yep, bridges, multi-laned interstates thru curves and mountains, and “being next to huge semis”…………..taking deep breaths and feeling your anxiety as I read this morning. What I NEED to hear is the FAITH that takes me to the other side. Thanks, Shelly.It is mind over matter, or I should say “faith over matter”. Wonderful words this morning. Love you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, all that too Paula. We are made of the same fabric you and I. We can’t help it! 🙂 And I’m thankful for His love that led us where we are today.

  12. Dea Moore

    I love this! Keep taking fear head on my friend. Such beauty here.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m in the drivers seat and determined Dea. So thankful for you – you just have no idea how much.

  13. janaecharlotte

    Isn’t it wonderful to see all the ways we can be guided through situations?! There is such an abundance and flow to this life. xo

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, every day something new to learn around each corner. Thanks for passing by Janae.

  14. Annie Danielson

    Amen and Amen! Love to you, Shelly! So great to see all of your lovely faces XO

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Annie, it was so fun to read your story in Guidepost and get a glimpse of where life has taken you. We still have such fond memories of living in Trinidad and hanging out with you in those early years before kids. Your kids are gorgeous btw. Thanks so much for stopping by, what a treat in the middle of my day!

  15. Susan Stilwell

    Hi Shelly, I’m hopping over from GDWJ. I meant to hop sooner, but all in God’s time 🙂
    It’s amazing the bridges God takes us across, and what’s even more amazing are the blessings He has for us on the other side.

    Like shopping on King St, or lunching at SNOB! And that Ravenel Bridge, gurll – we vacation on IOP every summer and my family cringes when I drop us on the MP side and run over into town! Love your photos – I’m obsessed with that bridge!!

    Sweet blessings and hugs from VA,

    • Redemption's Beauty

      How fun that you know these places. IOP is lovely and we go back and forth to MP often for shopping and to see friends. I took those photos of the bridge with my phone! They put my DSLR to same I think. So glad you stopped by. Thanks so much for leaving a commment, enjoyed visiting with you.

  16. Alecia

    Yikes! I hate bridges as well and the only way to get over them is to keep eyes straight ahead, otherwise you get flustered at what might be waiting for you if you go down. I have other fears some rational and others not so much, but not letting them take over and keep moving ahead is my goal.
    Blessings to you for overcoming your fear looks like you had a great time because of it.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yep, I had my eyes focussed straight ahead the entire time. I think its why we broke out into laughter, I was so tense.

  17. brian miller

    i am glad that you have found that freedom…and just think on what that fear would have kept you from…it sounds like a lovely time…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was what pushed me past the fear, knowing what I would miss if I didn’t.

  18. Beth

    Before reading your post this morning, I had an early morning counseling appointment (I’m a counselor), and I was discussing this very thing, using that same verse with my client, only she’s facing fears in moving forward in a relationship. In fact, I had the same sentiment about how we never really lose the fear in life and relationships, but that love helps us to triumph over the fear. I love your post and feel like we certainly had a “same heartbeat” moment today, Shelly. So glad that you are allowing God’s love to help you triumph over your longstanding fear. (BTW, I’ve always had a fear of bridges too and don’t have a good reason like yours!) 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Wow Beth, love that. It is awesome the way God speaks to us and then confirms it through His people. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. It blesses me more than you know. And I can’t get over how many people have a fear of crossing bridges. Just knowing that makes me more brave somehow.

  19. simplystriving

    Oh, you hit me right between the eyes. I’m fine on bridges (although I missed the Mississippi River Bridge collapse in Minnesota by minutes) it’s driving at night that puts me in a fearful stupor. Because of one life-defining evening. . . which I will blog about some day.

    “Safe and comfortable, they’re highly overrated.” I’m going to take this with me and dwell on it awhile. Because I know it to be true…and yet…

    thank you, friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I guess we all have those “things” in our lives that keep us on our knees Nikki. Good reminders of our need of Him when we think we have it all under control. 🙂

  20. Christina

    I have many fears:) This is timely for me as I have bridges to cross in my life. I need to let the fears go and let God work through me. Because if there’s a bridge He wants me to cross, He will help me to cross it. Thanks for this!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m hearing this in your posts, these bridges you mention. Hope some day you’ll shed some light on them. Hope your having fun while away from home.

  21. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    This post blesses me today… lately, with one stress or another… I keep battling those fears and anxieties that seem to come out of nowhere and grip me physically and seem so hard to stop. I can stop it in my mind, but that adrenaline rush that comes (like when someone cuts you off and you narrowly miss bumping into them) has been plaguing me and making my heart race too much. I can also relate to your story just on the level of driving (my fear is more of freeways these days). Your story lifts me up as I meditate on that verse about perfect love and keep declaring His peace… Yes, it’s time to kick it to the curb! 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Pam, my heart goes out to you. Praying for peace and assurance that He is with you. Let’s kick fear to the curb together, leave her in our dust!

  22. jewelz57

    I came to your blog from the link on Emily’s blog. I too have had a great fear of driving over bridges.. especially when my husband is driving and looking out over the waters at all the boats! 🙂 I wanted to tell you that my daughter and son-in-law and 8 month old grandbaby are currently in Germany with YWAM on staff. My oldest daughter did a DTS in 2008 and plans to head back to staff soon.

    I enjoyed being here and reading your story… a beautiful story!

    It’s great to meet you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So nice of you to stop by from Emily’s. I truly value our experience with YWAM. We still use so much of what we learned in those early years in our leadership today. I hope my daughter might do a DTS after highschool. I know how much it can impact a life. Thanks for leaving a link to your site, I hope to pop over later.

  23. Brandee Shafer

    I’m so glad you faced your fear, also that it was so very worth it. I love the smiling-faces-filled photo!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Brandee. I could’ve stayed at home but I would’ve missed out on such a sweet reunion.

  24. Emily Wierenga

    wow, that first photo made me gasp! i understand your fears, i do. i am afraid of heights. so i get it. but i also understand the necessity to step out onto that bridge, to face our fears, which you did so boldly and beautifully. and red looks stunning on you, friend!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Can you believe I took that photo with my phone? I can’t. Thanks for the compliment, I seem to get them whenever I wear red. Must be my color. Loved your post, I’m still thinking about it.

  25. HopeUnbroken

    okay, winding up for the kick right now. . . . 🙂
    blessings to you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You made me laugh Steph. I’m visualizing it now, we’re doing it together. Thank you.

  26. kd sullivan

    I have this same fear! Not quite as bad as you’ve had it…never pulled over, but heart races, mouth goes dry, etc. So glad you’ve conquered it! I may have to conquer my fear of flying soon…waiting to see what my final arrangements might be…This post will help me, thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m praying for you about that upcoming flight. Believing for some new freedom.

  27. Jenni

    I love your style of writing! Thanks for sharing your story…

  28. elizabethfstewart

    I love that perfect love casts out fear!

  29. tereasamansfield

    This is a wonderful picture of choosing love over fear. It’s amazing what God will lead us to and always at the right time. I am glad you conquered your fear and were ready to face it again. That is great!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Tereasa. Love seems to be foundational for most everything in life. It’s so simple but took me an awful long time to figure out for some reason.

      • tereasamansfield

        That is so right. We have a child that gets very upset very quickly. Nothing works to calm him down but absolute, unmistakable, unconditional love. He is upset by irrational fears. Rationale does not work. Only quiet, peaceful love.

        • Redemption's Beauty

          Same here for my boy especially. They are both so different, which just affirms that God makes us uniquely wonderful.

  30. Sylvia R

    I like what Christina said: “If there’s a bridge He wants me to cross, He’ll help me cross it.” That, and that alone is what got through things I feared. And yep, that’s love, isn’t it?

  31. Pangeline Edwards

    What a wonderful post and with the perfect ending, because at the end of it all perfect love casts out all fears. Sometimes we are afraid to share our stories but it is our stories that allow others to see that they are not allow in their struggles. It took me a while but I did Kick Fear to the Curb and was led to write a book about it. Just reading your post had made me realize that I am on the right track. Your pictures are wonderful.

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