If you were to ask me what my favorite Summer Olympic sport is, I would answer without hesitation, “Gymnastics!”
Yes, gymnastics has been my favorite sport since I was a little girl and Mary Lou Retton shot through my imagination like a shooting star as she won gold in the Olympics. I had always been a flexible little thing, but suddenly I wanted to do gymnastics. My parents have always tried to look for the things that lit that little fire in our hearts and encourage us in our pursuits, but, unfortunately, there were few opportunities for gymnastics in our little town. One Summer, during that gymnastics craze, a teacher from a nearby city set up a summer clinic in our small town and my mother signed me up.
Other than my own backyard tumbling, that was about the extent of my gymnastic “career.” One day in my adult years, my mom and I had a conversation about it and she told me that if I had shown a passion for the sport, they would have pursued it further.
Fast forward to about four years ago: The opportunity presented itself for our oldest daughter to ride with a neighbor whose children were in Gymnastics. She was very excited about it, so we signed her up. For most of a year, she went to the classes. She LOVED it. …and excelled at it. She did gymnastics EVERYWHERE, including all through the house. We even have a full page in our Florida photo album of her doing flips and cartwheels on the soft beach sand.
After that year, the neighbor giving her rides moved away and we could not manage it ourselves, so we had to let it go. I was sad. In a way, she and I had shared a dream. A love of the same sport.
This year she started pole vaulting. Yikes!
Recently it occurred to me that there was one significant difference between my daughter’s approach to gymnastics and mine (and the reason I would never think to catapult myself into the air with a long stick!)
There was no physical reason that I could not do all of the flips and hand springs that my daughter could do - except for the fact that I was holding back. My body was restrained by mental bands that made it impossible to complete the flips. I could do a cartwheel on a four inch beam placed on the ground at home, but raise that beam 3 feet off of the ground in the gym, and I was immobilized by a fear of falling. I could not make myself believe that if I threw my body into the movement, I would not get hurt, so I held back.
Even as I am writing this, an old email has come to mind in which I wrote about my youngest daughter to another blogger when she was asking for suggestions for a piece of jewelry that she was designing about fear. (It took an hour of searching to track it down) but here it is:
When I read your message on Friday I did not have a suggestion and figured that both of your ideas were fine, or anything else that anyone might suggest, so I did not plan on commenting on it at all.
I watched my beautiful three-year-old girl ride the tube with a huge grin on her face as her daddy whipped her and her siblings around the lake behind the speed boat. I smiled and thought to myself, "She's Fearless." Then I thought of you.
As I lay awake last night, tossing and turning just as much as the thoughts that rolled around in my brain, I knew that I had to write and tell you.
Olivia is my "Charlotte," my "mercy child," the baby that I carried in fear after our son Caleb was stillborn. She may have been carried in fear, but SHE is Fearless.
"Push me higher." she says in the swing. Her older siblings oblige and my heart jumps into my throat as the swing goes almost as high as the support beam at the top of the swing set, the rope slacks, then gravity tries to jerk her back to the ground.
"I'll walk." she says at the store, rejecting the safety and security of the belted cart seat, confident in her ability to remain close enough to mommy, and relishing the freedom.
"Fear not" and "be not afraid" are both good sentiments - and biblical ones - but when I hear those words I picture a whimpering child cradled in a parent's comforting arms as they are being consoled with platitudes. "There are no monsters in your closet," "It was only a dream," "Don't be afraid, Mommy is here...."
But when I hear the words "She's Fearless," I picture a woman ready to jump out of a plane into a sky-dive, a woman holding her head high as she walks out of her husband's funeral to face the insecurities of the future. A woman who sells all of her belongings to move across country or around the world, or risks everything to follow her dreams. Like my eighty-year-old grandma who still goes on mission trips to Africa. SHE is also Fearless.
The word "fearless" is a word that the world has adopted, but it still means the same thing. "Without fear." Since scripture says "Perfect Love (God) casts out fear" and "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER, of love, and of a sound mind" we know that we have freedom from fear if we have God.
That is who I want to be. Not the "retiring wall-flower" that my mom said I used to be, but a woman who can speak, sing or teach scripture to a crowd. A woman who will not be afraid to do ANYTHING that God asks of me. THAT is who I want to be, who I know that you want to be (and are becoming!) - and I think that is the spirit of what you had in mind with the jewelry.
Enough of my rambling.
My little girl is eight years old now, and is barreling down my driveway in a pair of roller blades...
Looking back over my life, I feel that fear has played a major role. As a child and teenager, I held back so much that my mom saw the need to constantly push me out of my comfort zone in an attempt to build my confidence. I was entered into 4H speech contests year after year. Not only did I learn how to sew, but I needed to model the garments for a panel of judges. Cliff rappelling at Summer camp? Yep. I did it.
There have been many times in my adult years that I have been thankful for those terrifying pushes out of the safety of the nest. Facing my fears has been a good exercise to help me grow.
...But I still restrain myself with those invisible bands. Fear holds me back from chasing after dreams that God has wedged deeply into my heart. Dreams of books that I would like to write, ministries in which I would like to be involved...
I want to break free of those bands and live out my destiny...
Last night I saw the very end of a news show that my husband was watching. Two people were talking about the major life/career change that one of them had made, and the other said that that would be terrifying enough "to make grown men throw up."
This morning in my quiet time, I thought about that conversation and this blog post, and the words to a favorite song started playing in my head.
"Oh, what I would do to have the kind of faith ...to step out of my comfort zone, into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is..."
I remembered when I was a teenager talking to my mom about what it looks like in a person's life when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and she got out her Bible and showed me that the filling of the Holy Spirit is exemplified in BOLDNESS to proclaim Christ.
"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus...
'And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.'
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." Acts 4 (Read the whole chapter - you will not be sorry to spend the time!)
It occurred to me that the closer I am to God, the further I am from fear.