by Joanie Butman
Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it can also debilitate if not properly channeled. I have never considered myself a fearful person. In fact, I could have used a healthy dose of fear in my youth. It would have kept me out of places and away from people I had no business being in or with.
Despite my daring and often reckless behavior, there was an underlying phobia carried over from childhood. Oddly, and you will see why, it was a fear of the dark. I’m not sure what came first, my phobia or my brothers’ pranks, but their hijinks certainly exacerbated the situation.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that many people are governed by their fears much as I was by my fear of the dark. Fear manifests itself in a myriad of forms with anxiety being right up at the top of the list. Not being born with the worry gene, this is one temptation to which I am not susceptible. Recently, however, a friend pointed me to a poem that discusses a unique type of fear I never considered but certainly fell victim to for many years. No one was more surprised than I to learn that it wasn’t the dark I feared most but the light.
Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
I’m not suggesting I am brilliant, gorgeous or talented, but I have often been fearful and timid about shining God’s light for all to see. In the current social climate, I didn’t want to ‘offend’ anyone or be considered ‘one of those.’ I know, hard to imagine. More importantly, I think I shiedaway from being an ambassador for Christ because I didn’t want anyone looking to me as an example of Christ-like behavior. Frankly, most of the time that’s not what they’d see.
The older I get, the more fearful I become regarding certain things – like getting on the back of a motorcycle or going bungee jumping. I suppose that comes with maturity. I am more aware of the cost and consequences of my choices. On the other hand, the more timid I get regarding physically risky behavior, the bolder I get in stepping out of my comfort zone personally and spiritually to overcome the specific fear this poem describes. I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s claim that we are all given a spark of the Divine that resides in us, and that many of us are hesitant to fan it into a flame and let it shine with the brightness it deserves. Whatever gifts and talents we’ve been given are meant to be used to share His light with others in a way that is unique to us. The more we nurture the fire within us, the happier we will be and the brighter His light will shine through us.
Shortly after reading this poem I was having lunch with a new acquaintance and she shared her key to success as a writer, which coincidentally resonates with this poem. It is a recommendation she shares as a mentor to incoming writers at a major TV network. She advises them to “Write to the Light.” I don’t know her well, but do know she doesn’t share my faith. Intrigued, I asked her to elaborate. She was purposely ambiguous as she explained, “We have no control over those who write another way. We choose what we watch and how we write. The reason I never explain what that means is because there is no right answer. It means what each writer wants and needs it to mean.”
Here’s an example about the way I understand her statement. Our website is called Choose Wisely because my partners and I choose to “Write to the Light.”In today’s vernacular, the more popular version of that would read “Don’t Be An Idiot!” Notice how one is encouraging versus judgmental and disparaging. Sadly, the latter is exactly what seems to sell these days. Watch any reality show.
You can carry over the “Write to the Light” principle to anything you do and to life itself. Everyone has an inner light that governs their choices and subsequently their lives. Moreover, the light you’ve been given isn’t just for you. Christ wants that flame to be a light for everyone. When you let His light shine through you, those around you are encouraged to shine that much brighter themselves.
Even though initially I was fearful of people crossing the street when they saw me coming, I discovered quite the opposite. I found that when you are honoring the light within you, there is a warmth and authenticity that attracts people to you like bugs to a porch light.
It was His light I recognized in others that inspired me to pursue it for myself and not give up until I found it. Do you remember the famous diner scene in When Harry Met Sally? Simply by watching Sally ‘shine,’ without hesitating or asking any questions, the woman at the next table says, “I’ll take whatever she’s having.” Why? Because, like me, she wanted to experience the same joy.
Don’t ever underestimate the power you hold to bring light into someone’s life. No matter how small you may think your light is, “it may prove to be a great light in the life of another.”* Just yesterday morning as I was writing this I received an email from a friend and member of my bible study group. It reads, "Watching, listening and imitating you all is what has brought me to this place and I want you to know how truly grateful I am to all of you."
It's funny. The more faithfully I’ve relied on my inner light, the more that old phobia of the dark has dissipated. I don’t even think my brothers could reignite that terror the way they used to enjoy so much.
I will end with a quote from Kent Nerburn’s, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace.
Each day, a thousand times and in a thousand ways, we are all called upon to make choices that incline us toward darkness or the light. They are not all significant choices; some of them may hardly seem like choices at all. But each of them moves our heart a little further along the road towards life and light or death and darkness. If we can get someone who is filled with hate to make the smallest of choices in favor of goodness and love, we are moving their heart further from the path of darkness and further along the path of light.
Last week the surprisingly popular mini-series, The Bible, dramatically illustrated the apostles in seclusion cowering in fear following Jesus’ ascension – until the light of the Holy Spirit came upon them and gave them the courage to go out and share His light to all nations. The same power is available to us if we so choose.
What kind of light do you choose to shine into a darkened world?
*Nerburn, Kent, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace, pg. 50.