Staring Fear in the Face

I am not a risk taker.

I am Conservative Guy.  I am Mr. Play it Safe.

It’s to the point that I won’t even try new foods.  The other night someone offered me some asparagus.  I have no idea if I’ve ever had asparagus and I promise you I couldn’t tell you what asparagus tastes like.  I said, “No thanks, I don’t like asparagus.”

Not true.  To dislike something you have to try it first.

When I go to the grocery store I buy the same products every single time.  I even have my routine down.  It begins with the soap and contact lens cleaner, moves on to bread, frozen dinner section, cereal aisle, produce, beverages, meat, see you later.  There is never a variation.

Okay, sometimes I do it backwards, but that’s only if I’m feeling dangerous.

Food is only one example.  Growing up, all I ever wanted was to become a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.  I watched my ‘Boys every Sunday and dreamed of someday catching passes on the Texas Stadium turf.

My first chance to play real football came in seventh grade.  The gear was sweet.  I had never worn actual shoulder pads or buttoned up the chinstrap on my own helmet.  I took it all home, put on the uniform and went straight to the mirror.

I expected to see a future hall of famer, a combination of raw athleticism, lightning quick speed, and the best hands in the state.  What was staring back at me was a harsh dose of reality.  Five-foot-two, barely a hundred pounds, skinny as the gold rimmed wiring around my enormous glasses.

I’m positive I was the only player on our team who would be attempting to wear corrective spectacles under his helmet.

One day of practice was all it took.  I’m at a new school with no friends, I’m the smallest kid out here and I’m pretty sure my jockstrap is on backwards.

“Two lines fellas,” snarled the coach.  “This is where we gonna separate the men from the boys!”  Not having any idea what the two lines were for, I shuffled into one and tried to fix my equipment.  My helmet was too big and kept banging my glasses into my nose.  My shoulder pads weighed more than I did, and the knee pads in my oversize pants were down near my ankles.  Clearly, they were all out of extra small uniforms.

Coach pointed at each line and said, “These are the ball-carriers, and these are the tacklers.  I want you to run at each other and we gonna do some hittin’ today boys!”

Cue the terror.

I watched in horror as boys flung themselves at each other, popped right up and got in line to do it all over again.  “What do I do?” I thought.  “I can’t run away – that will be too obvious.  Maybe I can fake an illness or my own death.”

Too late.  I was at the front of the line, the ball-carrier line.  I didn’t know junior high kids could have rabies, but I could have sworn the kid across from me was foaming at the mouth.

I started running.  As we got closer, I tried to step to the side to weaken the deathblow I was about to be dealt.  It didn’t matter.  His arms wrapped around me, and my feet lifted off the ground as he stuck his facemask right into my gut.  I closed my eyes as he drove me toward the earth.

My desire to play football stopped shortly before the blood stopped pouring from my nose.  I called the coach the next day and quit.  I didn’t want to risk it anymore.  Risk getting hurt, laughed at, humiliated, or risk being told I wasn’t good enough.  I never gave football a real try, and it’s something I regret to this day.

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus says that living a life for Him and sharing the good news is a lot like lining up to get hit.  Too often I only look at witnessing as a risk, and I fail to see the reward.  I can think of countless opportunities I’ve passed up.  Whether in a conversation about church, or social issues, or even everyday stuff, I feel reluctant to mention God.  I may turn someone off.  I may not say the right words.  Maybe I’ll get some kind of weird look, or even worse, what if I ruin a friendship or relationship with someone I care about?

No, it all seems too risky.  I’ll try to be a good example instead.  I won’t get drunk at that party, I’ll try not to swear or talk behind someone’s back.  I’ll try to stand out with my actions, and maybe someone will be forced to talk to me about why I’m acting different than the rest of crowd.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I believe my Christian example and my actions and my attitude can be powerful tools for Christ.  I never want to stop living a life worthy of the calling of Jesus.  But when I purposely avoid confrontation that means I am not willing to take a risk for Jesus.

I know that one of the reasons for my existence is to further the cause of Christ and grow His kingdom.  How can I do that if I’m never willing to step outside of my comfort zone?  How can I do that if I never take advantage of the opportunities that are put in front of me?

In the business world, companies often make decisions based on a risk-reward philosophy.  Do the rewards of this deal outweigh the risks?  If the answer is yes, the company moves forward with the decision or transaction.  As a Christian, I already have my answer.

Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven.” When I read that verse, I think to myself, “what do I have to lose?”  I might get laughed at, I might be thought foolish or close-minded, but so what?  The heavenly reward for standing up for Jesus and sharing His love, far outweighs the earthly risks.

A few years ago, my brother and I went on a whitewater rafting trip through the mountains of Idaho.  Before the trip, our guides briefed us on the dangers of navigating the river.  I didn’t think too much of it, until we came face to face with our first huge rapid; a giant bowl of rushing water.

"It was as if the river was opening its mouth..."

It was as if the river was opening its mouth to chow down on another set of tourists.  A trap which rafts entered but did not exit.

As we neared the rapid, I realized we weren’t going around the danger to find an easier route.  Our guide told us all to paddle hard and directed us straight at the swirling wall of water.  The raft went over the lip of the bowl and I saw nothing but water on all sides of me.  A massive rush of water washed over the entire raft and then spit us out on the other side.  It was all over in a matter of seconds.

It makes me think of the times I have been brave enough to share Christ with someone.  It’s just like my experience on the river.  There is no dancing around the confrontation – it has to be a straight forward, determined approach.  It’s exhilarating, it’s scary, but it’s always worth it.

After reading these verses, I have a new resolve.  I will take more risks, I will put myself out there for my Savior, and I will not care about the consequences.  I know God will grant me the strength and the courage to boldly carry out His plans and use me as an awesome weapon for His kingdom.  And, I know He will do the same for you.


Editor’s Note:  This post was originally published August 4th – we’re resubmitting it for our new, larger audience as part of our “Throwback Wenesday” series.



2 thoughts on “Staring Fear in the Face”

  1. I know where you are coming from. I remember that when I was first telling folk about my faith that I was absolutely terrified, as if it was going to be me they were rejecting instead of Christ. But one day I was leading a small group of three, and all three accepted Christ at the same time. The rush of adrenaline and excitement was huge – rafting doesn’t even come into it!

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