The day was clear and the sun was shining; all seemed perfect for a family outing at the amusement park! To me, there was no better place in all the world to just enjoy being seven years old.
We quickly got our tickets and, with me way ahead of my brothers, sisters, and parents, we entered my “perfect world.” I ran first to the race cars, then the airplanes, the boats, the water flume – all the rides that were just my size. For one with so much enthusiasm for adventure, it was almost overload!
After about an hour, my parents led me to what they said would be the “most fun of all.” As I stared up at the monstrous creature before me, tears filled my eyes! My “perfect world” no longer seemed so perfect and my enthusiasm all but vanished.
“Come on, honey,” Daddy shouted, “You’ll love it!”
“I can’t, Daddy! I just can’t!” I cried, “It’s too big, too fast, and I’m just a little girl.”
“You can do this…But I’ll let you make that choice; wait for us here while we go,” he said as they all ran excitedly up the ramp and towards the enormous roller coaster.
I sat on the bench with my head in my hands and cried, not only because I was having to wait alone and I wanted to not be afraid but also because I knew how disappointed Daddy would be in his little girl. He knew my love for trying new things so I’m sure he was surprised when I stood resolute. I’m also sure his heart broke a little when the saw my tears falling.
But my daddy knew this moment in time was bigger than what loomed before me; he knew it was opportunity to teach and to train. And it was the way he raised us – taking those teachable moments wherever they arose.
So, when they all got off and were getting in line again, he tried once more to convince me. “You don’t have to be afraid; I’ll be right there beside you.” But I stayed firmly planted on the bench while everyone else ran back around for the second time with smiles and laughter.
As Daddy got in line for the third time, he felt a tug at his shirt. Looking down, he saw me staring up at him with a cautious smile.
“I’ll go, Daddy, if you’ll sit beside me.” I barely got the words out when it was time to board the ride.
Eyes closed tightly, hands gripping the safety bar, I snuggled close to him as the ride started off with a jolt. Up and down, faster and faster we went. Slowly my eyes opened a little at a time. It was terrifying but so much fun.
This little girl who loved adventure, climbing, and proving she could do what the big kids could do and love it, was in her element. But first I had to face my fear.
Too soon it came to an end and we had to get off. I ran to the end of the line and, with great boldness, declared, “If you don’t mind, Daddy, I think I’ll ride alone this time!”
And sitting in the very first car all by myself, eyes wide open, and with a great big grin on my face, I was off on the first of many wild roller coaster rides without my daddy.
It was just the beginning of a lifetime of “facing my fears,” one of those life lessons my dad brought home to my heart over and over again.
In fact, most of my life, if I said I was too unsure or afraid to do something, his immediate response would be, “Then you need to do it!” And when I would tell him of an experience where I had to put that encouragement into action, I could hear the smile, if I couldn’t see it through his words, “That a girl!”
In the moments when he was there at bedtime and we would be making up stories and talking about the day, in the opportunities when we would be driving in the car on a quick errand or a long trip, he would remind me that we face our fears – every time – because we don’t want fear to cast a shadow over our lives, we don’t want to miss opportunities, and we can know that, because we are His, God is with us, bigger than our fears. He would remind me that I could face the impossible because He is bigger than the impossible. He would remind me that the scary things of life can be and should be faced knowing God can be trusted to walk with us and give us the courage to do or to endure.
The roller coaster was one of the first of many “face your fears” moments in my life. But it wasn’t the biggest nor the last.
Sometimes I have risen to the occasion and sometimes my fear has caused me to “stay firmly planted on the bench.” And always, I heard and still hear my daddy’s voice, “You can do this…I’ll be right here beside you.” And, while I know my dad has not been right beside me in each of those moments, I have known his encouragement and have always known that my Abba Father, God who is my tender heavenly Daddy, is indeed right here with me.
I hear the voice of my Heavenly Father say, “Fear not…”
I’m thankful that my dad began to instill this truth of God in my heart that day and, as I grew, he brought it back to Who gave him the courage to face his fears – though it was sometimes hard to imagine that the man who pushed the limits on adrenaline pumping experiences and new challenges had any fear. His confidence began with the One who walks us through adventures and valleys, thrills and incredibly stifling places, strong, healthy bodies and those broken and racked with evidence of the curse.
And, I’m thankful that, in some of his last days here on earth before he stepped into eternity where, for those redeemed by the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, fear is extinguished forever, before the God he loved and proclaimed, I was able to spend time by his side. And I had the privilege and joy of speaking that truth to him, his once strong body and sound mind now frail, “You’ve told me all my life and I’m going to remind you now, Daddy: You don’t have to be afraid. I’m right here for now, holding your hand. And Jesus is right here with you walking you through it all. Our God has told us, ‘Fear not…’ Hold on to and keep your eyes on Him!”
He looked at me through tired but still twinkling eyes, with that winsome, crooked smile that was uniquely my Dad’s and whispered, “It’s good to know I was heard; I guess I’m getting it back now. And that is good.”
Thank you for giving it in the first place, Daddy. Thank you for pushing me to step out beyond my fears as a little girl and also as a young woman, and, in the frightening moments not to look at the circumstances. Thank you for reminding me to look at Jesus.
You have no fear any longer, Daddy; I’ll see you when God calls me home and, in that moment and in the meantime, I’ll remember not to fear.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!” Isaiah 41:10
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…for I am the Lord your God…do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Isaiah 43
“…do what is right and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Peter 3:6
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“You can grieve for me the week before I die, if I’m scared and hurting, but when I gasp that last fleeting breath and my immortal soul flees to heave, I’m going to be jumping over fire hydrants down the golden streets, and my biggest concern, if I have any will be my wife back here grieving. When I die, I will be identified with Christ’s exaltation. But right now, I’m identified with His affliction.” RC Sproul