When Faith Meets Fear

Where do you get your security?

Less than a week ago, I babysat for 7 hours and started getting this uncomfortable feeling that I was wasting my time.

I’ve been babysitting/nannying pretty regularly since moving home in June, and it’s been steady work: great kids, predictable income, and a big improvement over minimum wage. I felt like it was a step in the right direction of becoming self-supporting.

Then, early this week, the Holy Spirit’s sharp elbows started to get in the way.

I made a chart, documenting where my time went each week. When I first started working, babysitting seemed like a small time investment with a big payoff. But when I finished the chart, I realized how little time I’ve actually spent writing this month. Those babysitting hours were coming directly out of my writing time.

That led to a series of small spiritual crises. In my neat, tidy little life plan, working as a babysitter/nanny would smoothly give way to a paying job as an editor, freelance writer, or ideally, Great American Novelist. However, I’m realizing that you don’t become Paid Writer until you actually write. You can’t write without time. And if your time is going to changing diapers and channel surfing through episodes of Dora the Explorer, you’re not even moving in the direction of Paid Writer.

However, beginning writers are not on anyone’s payroll. This week I was confronted with a crossroads between keeping my steady, predictable paycheck and moving in God’s direction for my life. In essence, it came down to the question, “Where do you get your security?”

File:Crossroad in winter 2.jpg

Funny enough, I found that God has a word or two to say about security this week. Isaiah 31:1:

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, 
who rely on horses, 
who trust in the multitudes of their chariots 
and in the great strength of their horsemen, 
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel 
or seek help from the Lord.” 


Choosing to ignore the uncomfortable feeling and continue babysitting would be relying on chariots and horses. “If I have an income,” goes the thinking, “I have independence, I have control over my future, and I’m secure.” Funny thinking, because anyone who’s lived through this recession would laugh at that line. Like a pipe dreamer, however, I was living by it.

Choosing to quit babysitting would mean going out on a limb for God, to follow the purpose for which He’s uniquely designed me. I don’t know how long it will take me to earn money by writing; I don’t even know if I’ll make it (financially) as a writer. I do know that I certainly won’t if I don’t take time to write. I also know that a part of me suffocates if I ignore the thing I was made to do.

I was scared. Scared to give up the known, however mediocre, for the unknown, however glorious. Even the illusion of control dies hard.

A Longfellow line I read this week helped give me clarity:

“Our faith triumphant o’er our fears.”

The breakthrough was realizing that you’re not a failure at faith if fear still gives you stomachaches. It’s good news, because the two were wrestling fiercely in me, like the famous Gollum and Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings. Paralyzed at this crossroads, I begged God to give me courage to overcome my slimy, wheedling, comfort-loving but surprisingly strong inner coward and do the right thing.

He did.

Today I gave my employer one month’s notice. As of the end of November, I will be working only at pursuits that relate to writing: revising my novel, submitting articles to magazines, freelance editing, and tutoring English. I came home grinning and feeling like the Incredible Hulk.

Faith is the hard choice. But it brings a rushing sense of purpose. Today, my security comes from the One who called me to write, and He is faithful.

So how about you? Where do you get your security? I’d love to hear your story!

What are you waiting for?

Last Sunday as I was running out the door to church, almost forgetting my shoes in the process, I paused to watch something happening through the kitchen window. A bright-orange, brand-new butterfly was perched on a branch in the sunshine. It sat perfectly still, only occasionally adjusting the position of its wings toward the sun.
I remembered raising a box kit of monarch butterflies when I was in third grade. My brother and I fed the caterpillars leaves, watched them spin chrysalides, and waited impatiently until they emerged as beautiful winged creatures. I remember observing then that butterflies can’t fly immediately after bursting out of the chrysalis. Their wings are still curled up tightly. If they try to fly right away, they fall. First they have to sit and stretch for a while, letting their wings unfurl and absorb sunlight before they can take off. Their first job is to be still.
I’m not very good at being still. I’m goal-oriented and task-oriented; I want to move, act, write, and then quantify my progress with a spreadsheet of results. But sometimes, even when I’ve worked hard, life stalls in the starting gate. For me, sometimes that’s a blog post that won’t come out right. Sometimes it’s the address that still matches my mom’s, the still-anemic bank account, another lonely Valentine’s Day, an economy that doesn’t look kindly on English majors, or a novel that still looks like raw meat. You know the feeling? God, am I going anywhere? When is my life going to start? It’s like drifting in a ship at sea with no wind to fill your sails. Sailors call it the doldrums.
That’s when I hear Him whisper: Be still and know that I am God.
When my life is zooming along busily, He often gets lost in a shuffle of papers. Sometimes He has to put my life on hold to make me stop. Breathe. Remember Him. Knowing Him is the best thing in life. A job, an apartment of my own—those are things I want, but they can wait. When my pursuit of them gets in the way of my pursuit of Him, sometimes He has to tell the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still!”
Maybe waiting is actually a form of action when I’m waiting upon the Lord. It’s not the same as twiddling my thumbs for the wind to pick up. Times of stillness can be times of growth, opportunities to know Him better, necessary for my wings to unfurl in the light of His presence. Be still and know that I am God. There will come a time for flying, but right now my labor is to wait upon Him.
I choose today to be still, in echo of the words of the prophet Isaiah: I will wait for the Lord…I will put my trust in Him.

Image credit: HaarFager at en.wikipedia