Friday, October 4, 2013

You are not your fear

I'm obsessed with all things French.

Seriously. Obsessed. Love their chocolate. Love the fact that they eat their chocolate for breakfast (and lunch, and afternoon espresso hour, and dinner). Love their culture and their fashion. But most of all, I love their language.

My husband has slowly begun to recognize this. Last night, for instance, we watched a documentary that featured a sub-titled French speaker. During the other parts of the film, I was on my phone, checking Twitter, blah blah. Doing all those "I'm kind of here but also somewhere else"-type things. But when she spoke? My head snapped up, and I was there.

"Now I know how to get your attention," husband said. "I just have to speak to you in French."

He was kidding, but let's be honest. It would probably work. To me, everything (I love you, you're beautiful) sounds better en fran├žais (je t'aime, tu es belle).

Beautiful, non? But here's my favorite phrase of all:

"J'ai peur."

In English, we translate those words to mean "I am afraid"—a line I couldn't be more familiar with.

Yes, as previously established, the English substitute for "j'ai peur" is "I am afraid." But literally translated, "j'ai peur" means "I have fear"—not I am fear, or I am afraid.

Eze, France

This revelation was massive for me. Never struggled with fear, worry, or anxiety? Think of the concept in these terms, then. "I am a writer. I am a doctor. I am ranked first in my class."

The difference between being and having: If I am a writer, and for whatever reason, I'm no longer able to write, my identity will take a blow. I might begin to question my worth. I may cease to see my value. I might forget my purpose. If I am afraid, then fear is a part of who I am—which certainly presents a huge challenge to my identity, since Christ repeatedly commands His children, "Do not be afraid."

It comes to this. Our identity is found in Christ—not in our struggles, our status, our job titles, our accomplishments, or even our victories—so we can never be shaken. We'll never find ourselves by looking in the mirror, but we'll always find ourselves by looking at Him.

Eze, France

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:14-15

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20

In the fifth grade, fear hit again. Only this time, I wasn’t just afraid. I was panic-stricken. I have memories of wailing for my mom to take me back home once I got to school. Even at the age of 10, screaming from the backseat, I was shaken to the bone by the feeling that I’d jumped out of my mind with no way of getting back in.

Aside from these bouts with irrational anxiety, my childhood was beautiful, slow, and pure. By the grace of God, I grew up in true innocence—unaware of evil and kept completely from darkness, even in my teens. So when the final tidal wave of anxiety came, it nearly destroyed me.

By age 17, as the newly-elected varsity cheerleading captain, I was confident that I had both of my feet planted firmly on the top of the world. And then, suddenly, they weren't. What had once been a fun “extra” in life—that is, cheerleading—quickly became the stuff of nightmares. Emails were sent about me. I was accused of being un-Christian, unfair, not who I seemed to be, a mean girl, a bully…a rumor even spread that I had vandalized someone’s house. At the end of the year, a lawsuit was filed against my high school. The media picked up the story. I lost about 10 pounds due to stress. I quit the team. I graduated.

Unfortunately, the madness of that year continued to haunt me.

To escape it, I “ran away” to attend college in California. By the time I got there, though, I was numb. My character had been called into question; I'd been labeled a liar, a fake, and a fraud every day for the last year…what if I was?

That seemingly innocent question exploded in the form of the most powerful, all-encompassing sense of darkness I have ever faced. Rather than fighting against the real accusations that had flooded me for a year, I simply swallowed them until they transmuted into that same, familiar, irrational fear. The result? Over the course of my freshman year of college, I felt as though I could not see two inches in front of my face. Outwardly, I was functioning. Inwardly, anxiety had descended like a physical weight. I wore it on and in my chest—thick and heavy, poisonous and suffocating. This time, the trigger was the same, but different. I wasn’t afraid of throwing up, but I was afraid of being twisted somehow. Dark, horrific images flooded my mind. I was gripped with panic, digging and digging and digging inwardly to prove that I wasn’t just a pretender. That I was healthy and whole—the same person I had always been.

My identity was not only in crisis. It seemed utterly and completely obliterated, and I felt as though I was nothing more than a black mark. At that time, I related to no Bible verse more than this:

Psalm 55:3-5

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”

During this time, "I am afraid" was the primary utterance of my mouth; the first confession I made every single morning. Although the Lord began to do a deeply healing work in my life the summer after my freshman year of college, it wasn't until I went to live and work in France two years later that the Lord highlighted "j'ai peur" to me.

What a huge, significant difference this makes! From childhood, I had been claiming fear as a part of who I am with the words "I am afraid." When in reality, I've only ever had it—which means that, in Christ, I have the ability to lay it down at any time. Excuse me, what?!

The truth is, we "are" none of these things. We are children of God; servants of the King; saved; redeemed; transformed; called by a new name; immeasurably valuable; deeply loved; chosen; secure. We have struggles; fears; concerns; jobs; positions; ambitions; ranks; goals; accolades; recognition.

And so, if I simply have these things? Well, let's just say that I might be "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him." 1 John 3:1

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6:19

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
. . .

More on battling anxiety + depression here

More on finding healing here


  1. I read this 3 times.. and it's so moving. Karley.. it's that old thing I always say.. don't judge GOOD or BAD about anyone you don't know. You have no idea what is behind those eyes... in the psychic of the mind. Love and hugs to you for posting it and being so honest.. you will help so many people with this.. and I am proud and honored to know you karley with a K.

    1. Thank you so much, Yvonne, for your encouragement! I am humbled. And you are so right—what a great reminder to extend grace, rather than judgement.

  2. Positively one of the most beautiful things you have ever written. Bravery and vulnerability in a perfect union. So proud of you beautiful.

    1. Thank you so, so much my friend. Blessed by your words and support.


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