There are two things I would have rather been doing on a Sunday afternoon: Napping and watching Netflix. We had been invited out to a party by some new friends and everything in me clenched at the thought of the effort new relationships would take. We were just getting settled in a new home far from home and hardly knew anyone. The last thing I wanted to do was work on my skill at first impressions. That took too much work because there was too much thinking on my end about how we would come across to people, what they would think, or if we would be interesting enough to get an invite back.
Sounds depressing, I know. As much as I labeled fear as introvertedness, it never gave me the purpose and identity I truly was born to claim. Fear has looked a lot of ways for me: laziness, reservation, people-pleasing, and false humility to name a few. And although I’ve lived seemingly put together, the performing, striving and grasping for perfection has left me dry and lifeless! Drinking a glass of wine before social gatherings became my go-to for a while but I eventually realized that my dependency on that only blanketed my fear. I still felt like I was forced to leave the house, that I had to put on my fearless, yet fake face. Friends, I even used positive affirmations and bible verses to suppress fear but most of the time, they made me feel good for a day and rubbed off the next.
What was I doing to make fear and anxiety stick to me? Fear had become like another layer of skin that I wasn’t able to move past.
This is my story, my redemption story. Instead of fear holding me back, God has made the opposite happen: He is using my struggle to propel me out of that prison and into a life where I put fear to shame (Isaiah 61:7). Instead of me resorting to my hermit ways, He has drawn me out into His calling with great hope. Instead of closing my mouth when there’s something to be said, He has moved me to take steps forward into uncomfortable situations with exceptional peace. Instead of my reason for socializing being something I have to do, He has purposed me to love people like something I now get to do.
So, what was I doing to make fear and anxiety stick to me? I was doing nothing. I was expecting God to carry me through and do all the work while I sat back and took no steps outside my comfort. I wasn’t putting actions behind the bible verses and I wasn’t living as if I had God’s spirit residing in my heart.
You might want to change your weight, your attitude, your finances or perspective but nothing will have lasting change unless you look at the state of your heart first.
Jesus talks about our hearts like they are soil. Some hearts have rich, toiled, soil that welcomes truth and lives from it. Then there are other hearts that are full of weeds (lies) that choke out the truth of God’s promises. Other hearts are hard and rocky (doubtful/fearful) that don’t allow the verses to take root and grow into something beautiful.
Do you feel that no matter how much you read the bible and pray, no change comes? Do your goals and dreams come and go, depending on your mood? Is living comfortably your main goal, but deep down you want more purpose?
If I were to look at the “soil” of my heart when fear directed my lifestyle, it was most likely full of weeds. I read, I studied and listened to teachings on God’s Word then, sure! But lies like, me having to perform my best in order to have value and be liked, choked out the truth of God’s promises. My grip on lies deflected the truth. During that time, I needed to allow His spirit to toil my heart soil; exposing and turning up the rocks of doubt and fear. Instead, most decisions I made were based out of a rocky and weed-infested heart! No fruit can come from a garden that hasn’t been kept…and a booming garden doesn’t come in a day!
How do we tend to our heart’s garden then? You might not like the answer, but if you care enough about implementing serious change, you’ll do it.
- See it for what it is. Our unkept hearts have been lied to, ignored, stomped on and forgotten. Our hearts are the epicenter of feelings. How we feel is a guide and our feelings are great servants pointing us to the root of our struggles and joys!
- Put someone new in charge. Whoever is King or Gardener of our heart determines our reasons and results of daily decisions. What we value most determines our heart’s master! If you value the opinions of others, that shapes your garden into only what others want to see and get out of you. When Jesus is King of our heart, he plants your identity as His son or daughter…what would happen if you allowed that seed of truth to be planted? That curiosity is what keeps me saying, “I’m all yours God…you do your thing!“
- Hand over the tools. It’s going to get uncomfortable. First of all, anything that is rooted deep into the earth is a nightmare to pull up. Instead of us trying to resolve all our human issues with pretty hands and positive self-talk, we must give Jesus the garden hoe. It’s time that we get comfortable being uncomfortable. How else does a garden make room for blossoms of fruit and immaculate color? I look back to my journey with fear and the one thing that stands out are all the small, uncomfortable times I gave God my yes. Lots of little, baby decisions that turned into big-overcoming habits!
- Water the truth. Even when I suffered or hurt and life seemed out of control, I kept choosing to go back to the truth. I listed out God’s promises and repeated them in the face of opposition. This involved turning on some worship songs on YouTube and belting my heart out in song as my RESPONSE to worry and sadness. I put sticky notes on our bathroom mirror, phone background, car dashboard, or nightstand so that I always had truth to confront the lies with.
It took time for me to see past myself, and understand that my life wasn’t really all about me. That it had less to do with my perfect-performance and more to do with what God would do if He took the stage. I hope that you can find grace and patience with yourself and gain a bit of ambitious expectancy of what God is doing and will do. You are God’s delight and His desire is for you to see the abundance that comes with allowing Him to til the soil of your heart. Your heart space is the rooting ground for His kingdom goodness to grow; where your dreams and His desires become one.
“I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father. He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest. The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you. So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine.
“I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!
“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness!”
John 15:1-11, The Passion Translation