When Fear Takes Over

by | Apr 14, 2013 | Uncategorized

As I wander in a fog off the heels of our first prom weekend, I’m preparing to speak this week at Jumping Tandem: The Retreat and visit England shortly after. This post is a visit to England almost a year ago and resonates through the conglomeration that is my current reality. Yep, fear is an unwelcome relative. I’m sharing it again, in hope that it will resonate with you too, whether you read it the first time, or with new eyes today. I look forward to sharing new thoughts on Wonderstruck this Wednesday. 

Arms wrap around shoulders and cheeks touch goodbye one last time before I crawl into the passenger seat next to H. “Go ahead and cry now, you know you want to,” he says as we back out of the driveway, young arms waving wildly on the front lawn. And I do, I want to cry . . . every time.

An anniversary trip to Europe sings joy until the suitcases of reality load in the trunk and we pull away from secure and predictable. Anxiety reminds of what I hold on to that needs letting go.

Because I can sink into the couch of a well-planned schedule – the way they like their eggs cooked,  sandwiches made, the laundry folded – and miss His pulling back the welcome curtain to the world that doesn’t look like us.

Finding security in control of the small and predictable in the everyday, it tricks me into thinking I have any control at all.

Until we touch down on English soil, walk through customs into a world of taking seats on the opposite side of experience. It’s then that fear, the invisible third person in the car, joins me as a passenger to driving on the other side of the road. We clench together stiff along the narrow, winding journey of beautiful change.

Fear whispers questions in my ear about what might happen. What if we have an accident, if he inadvertently pulls into the right lane when it should be the left? Or if we lose control driving at high speeds. What then?

And if fear sits beside me, freedom smiles next to H looking at me puzzled. Because freedom rooted in generations walking out their faith doesn’t speak the language of fear.


Fear is my unwelcome relative, part of the family tree for generations that shows up unexpectedly to parties I host for risk and adventure. He weezles his way into crowded thoughts, plants doubt when no one is looking, then spreads out safe and secure like a picnic with a basket full of excuses.

And the only way to release him from lurking around in the kitchen of cooked up dreams is to send courage in to tell him to go home.

Courage is the humble guest that sees clear through crowded rooms of fear. He understands the purpose in risk and adventure, sacrifices Himself to get there for love.

I choose to follow Courage careening narrow along stone walls flanking green quilts dotted woolly white.  Walk over fear to the other side of predictable along cobblestone streets and underground stares.  He knows where He is going, the way to get there. And the path looks a lot like love.

The act of courage calls forth infallibly that deeper part of ourselves that supports and sustains us. ~Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Does fear keep you from fulfilling dreams? From experiencing adventure?


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  1. Lynn Morrissey

    Hi Shelly,
    I bought a journal today that is all about adventure. I will read the quotes to see if there are any on “taking courage.” No doubt there must be, because all adventures involve risk, and risks demand courage or we would never take them. How’s that for a circutious sentence, as winding as those British byways and country roads? And yes, they most certainly are narrow! But it dawns on me, Shelly, that there is nothing narrow about risk and adventure or courage for that matter. It’s fear that narrows and constricts the heart and lungs until one can barely breathe. Courage (of course, meaning “with heart”) opens the heart wide like a sunrise to take in breathtaking new vistas, expanisively wide horizons. True, the way to God is a narrow road, but once we travel it with Him, it leads to ever-widening, panoramic landscapes, ever-broadening dreams of His making. I really appreciate this post, because I can be so prone to fear of new things. I had some of those same qualms about my first trip to England. But just today, we were talking over brunch about the possibility of going there a fourth time–maybe this summer. Now that would be a dream come true! I need to remember how much I love England now as I approach the unknown narrowness of other unexplored dreams. I’m cowering in the corners of my mind about something right now. I need to let God pry me lose and set me on His dream-road, with a knapsack of courage for company!
    Wow, I’m so excited you get to go again to the land of Byron and Shakespeare! CAn’t wait to hear all about it!

    • Shelly Miller

      Lynn, praying as He pries you lose from what holds on to fear. Love your thoughts about the narrowness of fear in comparison to courage which is wide open and free. Such wisdom.

      • lynn morrissey

        Oh Shelly…….maybe he is starting to pry them loose. JT is a catalyst…..though it spurs me on to new dreams and fears…..but God is in them. Love you, and LOVED MEETING YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, it’s I again. Oh no! 🙂 Can you briefly tell us new readers why you ventured to England in the first place? Just curious.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s always about work for H as an Anglican priest. He has meetings with many there and then we take a few extra days for adventure. Just turns out that both times have been the week of our anniversary.

  3. Elizabeth Stewart

    Shelly, I’m so excited to hear you speak at Jumping Tandem! What a joy to finally meet you face to face!

    Yes, I too always have a feeling of anxiety when we first leave home for a trip. I never understood why until you wrote the words here…”Finding security in control of the small and predictable in the everyday, it tricks me into thinking I have any control at all.”

    Thank you for the revelation.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m getting ready to do it again in a few weeks Elizabeth and reading this was a good reminder. Even your own words can be a place of peace. Look forward to meeting you too!

  4. Jillie

    Oh Shelly, this is just wonderful. To see again some of your photos taken in England last time you went. THAT was when you were recommended to me by Lynn, and I’ve been reading you ever since. Your English photos and stories just drew me in. Just like today. How wonderful that you are flying off again for England’s shores. Cannot wait to read all about it. It’s easier for me to tell you not to let any fear hold you back–this from one who almost always buckles under fearful thoughts.
    You will be great at Jumping Tandem! Wish I could be there.

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad Lynn brought you here Jillie. I remember your comments about those photos and your dreams of going there. I’ll be thinking about you this time, taking you there with me in spirit.

      Wish you could be at Jumping Tandem too. Appreciate your prayers this weekend.

  5. floyd

    Great post, Shelly. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have to deal with that dreaded monster that is more bark than bite. He is a bully and we know how to deal with bullies, we just don’t like to. Over the past five years of so God has brought me to a place of a better understanding of fear. I’ve studied more verses on that subject in the Bible than all others in that same time.

    Fear is irreverent on our parts. It shows our reverence to the world in which our Father holds in the palm of His hands. How can we revere the world that has to answer to Him? God causes or allows all things. We’re to revere our Father, not the world who needs His permission…

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