Eyes wide open in disbelieving astonishment, mouth slightly ajar…I must've painted a perfect picture of a man without a clue. I stood near the back of the group, an unrecognized reaction to the horrifying display of torture that confronted me. To say that I was fearful would be an understatement.
"What am I thinking? What could I possibly hope to accomplish here?" With barely minutes passing since my arrival, I was already well on the way to convincing myself that I didn't belong here, shouldn't be here…..that my very life was in danger of going into something from my wildest fears. All of my life, I had avoided situations that would put me into the position of fulfilling that sage's prediction of my future… fearfully staying behind safe, established boundaries under the protective view of those who knew me better than I knew myself.
Now I was here, not of my own volition, but by what had seemed at the time a lark; one of those safe bets that I could take and at least say, "I tried".
"If you feel that you've come here in error," the voice echoed through the surrounding landscape, answering my own fearful questions as if I had spoken aloud, "you may raise your hand at anytime and you will be allowed to leave." For some reason, my hands would not listen to my commands, the internal battle for my will bouncing between desire to please and fear of failure.
"God, what could possibly come of this?" My cries rang out to the sky, as I glanced up. "I don't have anything to prove and You, well… I know what You wanted me to learn, so we can just call it a day before anyone gets hurt, namely me!"
Slowly through the day, one by one, the members of my small group went forward with exaggerated confidence and completed the course. Wave after fearful wave of excuses, pleas, and bargaining sessions with myself and God kept me from raising my hand to quit or volunteer.
"Jim." God spoke in my heart, as the second to last person in the group stepped up to get suited up. "Are you here for Me or yourself?"
"You." I mumbled, my head finally bowed in submission.
"Do you trust Me to know you?" My father's gentle voice seemed to prod me in playful jest, causing me to react with resentful words.
"Of course, I always have proven that!"
"Will you go forward for Me? Because I have asked you to?" A simple question to an already fearful proposition.
"Yes." My voice cracked with the fearful expectation that I would fail, as I always had, as I always was expected to.
"Then GO." The voice of the Father boomed in my heart and I quickly raised my head to see the Sergeant waving me to the prep area.
I went on to complete the eight station test for the On-Call Firefighter position, despite the overwhelming fear of failure and a body exhausted by the physical exertion.
As I was stumbling away to my vehicle to drive home, the Sergeant called out, "I don't know what you were praying for, but it worked. You did well."
I stopped and looked back at the Sergeant, and said in a proud and weary voice, "In Lamentations chapter 3, verse 57, it says 'You come near me when I called You and You said, 'Do not fear!'. That is what I prayed, Sergeant Murphy, that God would hear my fear and draw near."
I turned around and limped back to my car, thanking the God of the Heavens the lesson He taught me that day. I don't have to fear anything my Father calls me to do, because in my weakness, in that fear of failure, lies my Father's strength.
All I have to do is step out in fearful expectation to feel it.
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