Around a year ago I sat with a group of about 12 Belmont students and listened to Matthew Perryman Jones answer their questions about his journey as a singer/song-writer here in Nashville. MPJ is without a doubt one of my favorite musicians so, although I wasn’t curious on how to navigate my “musical” career, or lack thereof, I was quite interested in his story—what motivates him as an artist; what hurdles he’s had to overcome throughout his career. There’s always something to learn from someone older sharing their interpretation of what all this life stuff is about. I was all ears.
Near the end of our time, one student asked the proverbial question, “if you were to give one piece of advice, what would it be?” Matthew’s response, however, was anything but trite:
Find out what you’re afraid of and then go do it.
I’ve thought about that statement a lot over the past year or so, and in many ways, it’s become an idiom I try to live by. But there’s a deeper meaning underneath it all. It’s telling us more about who we are as people experiencing this great wonder known as life. You see, fear is one of the great motivators in all of life. It moves us to greater heights, and it sinks us to the darkest depths. It’s a “cruel taskmaster” as Martin Luther use to say about poor theology. And a motivation of fear is in fact just that, poor theology.
What are we really battling here? Failure. Defeat. Embarrassment. Rejection. Comfort. Discomfort. Loss. Another way to ponder this fear is by calling it risk. We don’t want to risk much when it comes to enjoying this gift of life. But what do we really mean by risk? It’s common to hear people speak about certain decisions as “too risky,” but more often than not what we’re really saying is “I’m afraid of failure.” More pointedly, “I’m afraid of what people will think of my failing.”
There are none exempt from fear, including me. We all spend a lot time battling our insecurities and tirelessly packaging our persona so as to convince others we’ve really got it all together. Who are we tricking, though? We’re especially not tricking ourselves — perhaps the one we fear the most. Again, fear is a cruel taskmaster constantly whispering woes into our ears.
So, do we have hope? Can fear be conquered or are we forever snared by the constant nagging of human nature and the great instability of life? I stand torn at times. We will always struggle; some more than others, some days worse than most.
But there’s more. Whether it’s doing something well in this life or yearning for the greatness of the next, we all want the fullness that so often eludes our grasp. Can you feel it in your bones — that you were made greatly and for great things? Though our fear often keeps us bound, there’s a light within that, in the words of Matthew Perryman Jones, “feels like letting go.”
There’s no magic potion that shirks the scales of fear, but we get glimpses this side of Glory. You see, we’re image bearers of one much greater than us; one who actually secures our identity himself. The dominion and rule He deemed us have in those first days are still true this day, but banes of darkness now beckon. We fight on, risking as it were, an utter demise, fearful of the day when the dark might get its way.
Dr. Dan Allender puts it this way, “There’s no getting away from the reality that fear is basic to human existence. But… resolving our fear requires us to struggle with our deepest allegiance: it all boils down not to whether we fear, but what and whom we fear.”
My friend, here’s to the day “when the sight we’ve lost has become the faith we’ve found.”