A few months ago, I had the opportunity to face a giant in my life – fear of water. This fear comes from 3 major occasions in my history that were near-death experiences – all in water. As a child, I almost drowned in a swimming pool; as a young adult, I was in a canoe that capsized in a large, very cold reservoir; and as a woman in my 30’s, I was caught in a riptide in the ocean. Obviously, these three way points in my life ended well – I am here writing about it! But, living through each of these intense experiences left me with fear that grew to such large proportions that even the sight of a body of water makes my stomach clench and my heart start to pound. Over the past 13 years, I have been holding this giant at bay – and tolerating the chains of fear that bound me.
As a mission trip leader, I often have to accompany my teams on a free day excursion to the beach…which, of course, means I have to encounter the ocean. I can say it has become a little more tolerable with each occurrence, but I still feel defeated and crippled by the intense fear each time. This giant is so big that I have been deceived into thinking it would always be a part of my life…and well, that’s just the way it is.
Do you have something in your history that you’re allowing to define your future? How easy it can become to fall asleep to the giants in our lives – they are sometimes so huge that the belief it would take to face and defeat them feels insurmountable. I found myself denying its existence until something made me come face to face with it occasionally. Then, I would jump into survival mode and would do whatever it took to get through the terrifying experience. But, we were not created to live in denial, or just to survive…we were created to thrive and win!
My daughter and son-in-law went on a cruise for their honeymoon and came back with glowing reports of their amazing experience. They were now fans of cruising, and wanted everyone to have the same wonderful experience – including me! They told me of all their favorite memories and how delightful it was on the ship – they did everything they could think of to convince me that I should go on a cruise; “You would love it!” My consistent answer was always, “Yes, but …there’s water.” In fact, I really couldn’t hear (or didn’t allow myself to hear) all the fabulous things they were telling me because the giant had been awakened and was screaming in my head, “WATER!!!” I would dismiss their suggestions and pleas to try it, knowing in my heart it was impossible because I had to live with this giant in my life that would never let me free to experience such a lovely thing. What a lie I had accepted and agreed with!
I knew in my heart that to partner with fear was only killing me. I could see it so clearly in others’ lives, and how often I had reached out a hand to help pull them out of their painful and debilitating pits of despair into which fear had trapped them. I found myself so filled with compassion for their seemingly impossible situations because I understood exactly how it felt to be imprisoned by fear. Working so hard to free others, while liberating and life-changing for them, was my way of not facing my own giant. You would think that seeing the Lord deliver my friends from this monster over and over, belief for my own freedom would grow. But…fear is a liar. Constantly whispering (and sometimes shouting) “Your problem is too big for deliverance. Just put up with it. Nothing can change this one – it’s definitely too big.” How was I able to share with others that Jesus brings freedom to the captives, but never agree that meant for me, too?!
My daughter and son-in-law came up with a plan. It was brilliant, really. They wanted me to experience a cruise so much that they offered to take me on one for my birthday. When they asked, “If we book it, will you go?”, I found myself saying, “Yes.” What?!! Why did I agree to something so ridiculous? All the ridicule from my enemy came rushing in, reminding me over and over it would be impossible. But this time, I heard the Lover of my soul whisper, “Am I bigger than your giant? Should we try it and see?”
As the months and weeks and days passed by, bringing our departure date closer and closer, I would vacillate between confidence and defeat. “Let’s face it!”
“You’ll never be able to set foot on the boat.”
Maybe you, too, have been on this swing.
I heard no end to encouraging comments from my friends as this crazy plan was made known to them. I had quite a cheering squad! While I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of love and exhortation from my community, the giant was still waging war in my mind.
Yes, the day finally came. My kids had planned an even bigger surprise as they invited my bestie, Marci, to join in the adventure. She met us at the gate in the airport, as we were waiting to make our way to Florida to the ship. What a huge shock and an even bigger comfort! I truly had a cheering squad with me as we traveled to the beautiful tropical climes that have lots of…water.
Getting on that boat was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. My cheering squad was urging me, caring for me, almost dragging me to the place where I would have to truly face my giant – no more running away or distracting myself. It was time to be done with the lie.
With shaky knees and knots in my stomach, we made our way down the gangway, and soon I was on a vessel that was floating in water!
Somehow, truly by the grace of God and the support of my family and best friend, I made it through setting sail on the sea and surviving my first night in a cabin deep in the middle of this gigantic ship.
Sleep was not really a part of the equation, but soon the clock told me it was morning and time to face my first day at sea. As we made our way up to Deck 11 to the bright sunshine and brisk sea breeze, I was overcome with paralyzing fear. This giant seemed to have grown over the years I was trying so hard to ignore it. I was overwhelmed with its ability to control my physical body. My spirit and my companions were repeatedly telling me, “It’s ok. You’re ok.” But the yelling in my head as so loud!
A few weeks ago, I heard this quote:
‘Your heart speaks a language your head does not understand.
Your head speaks a language your heart does not understand.
Your head shouts while your heart whispers.’
Holy Spirit steadily reminded me of who I am – not a slave to fear, but a child of God. Jesus said to me, “Am I bigger than your giant?” A divine determination rose up within my cowardly heart at that moment and gave me the courage to face the giant!
Oh, He is so good!
This is from my journal on that day:
“I am sitting on the upper deck of a cruise ship! How did I get here? Fear is a HUGE MONSTER – but I am digging deep into who HE [Jesus] says I am and facing it. Somehow, at this moment, with my stomach in knots, I am looking at the endless waters and with HIM I am bigger than fear! Hallelujah!!!
There is water and sky for as far as I can see, and as the sun warms my skin and the tropical gentle breeze cools it – I am rejoicing that He makes me win! My favorite band is playing in my ears, and I am terrified and peaceful. How is this possible? Because of You, my Dear. I refuse to give in to the panic that we are holding at bay. I feel like a Warrior Princess holding up my shield and pointing my sword in a threatening pose at the monster – and behind me is the GIANT OF FIERCE LOVE – and together we are defeating fear — WE WIN!!! There is a fierce peace so deep, so strong, so rich – I can believe in it. It is bigger than the monster threatening me. How can peace be bigger than fear? I don’t know. It just is. It’s a Sweet Chaos.”
This was a Red-Letter day for me! I will never be the same. Will I feel fearful again? Yeah, I will. In fact, I had to continually face it for the rest of the week on that boat. But I am partners with the Champion Who defeated fear once and for all over 2,000 years ago – so He is teaching my heart to believe that I am free because He is the Overcomer.
Is your giant sometimes sleeping, but often yelling at you? Grab a hold of the Overcomer’s hand, believe He will deliver you – and tell that giant he is defeated. Let’s no longer give permission to the enemy – you belong to the VICTOR!