Paper Tigers

I can’t help the part of me that requires definition. I like labels. I crave order. I need a clear yes or no. I long for security and absolutes. These things keep life predictable and from getting too messy.

I had a conversation with my father several weeks ago as I was struggling with a decision that would affect my future. After conferring with him for 15 minutes or so he said, “Anna, you like black and white. You always have. Since you were just a little girl, you are most confident when there are clear lines. Sometimes God just requires faith and you have to be okay with not knowing how it’s going to turn out.” Since that talk, I’ve wrestled with the idea of what faith would look like and struggled with the risk it requires. Faith feels dangerous.

I have been in danger many times. I stared down a gun. My eating disorder threatened me with three months to live. I was raped. A man followed me in his car on an early morning jog and I had to call the police. (He is currently in jail for murder). I’ve been in trouble…deep, deep trouble I can’t name here. I know what danger feels like all too well.

Sometimes that familiar intense, panicky, foreboding feeling washes over me when I think about the future. When I lie awake nights staring into the blank darkness, Yo-Yo Ma softly filling the void, I can find myself spinning in my head about future possibilities… I’m ashamed to admit most roads in my mind end in heartache. How do I step out in faith if I can’t trust my own heart? How can I trust His? I WANT to be obedient, yet I’m afraid I’m going to mess it all up. I’m afraid I won’t make the right choices. “Red pill or blue pill?”

This can feel at times, paralyzing. Evil is often efficient at shutting me down with fear. Faith is dangerous to Evil.

There is certain risk in stepping out in faith. Really, there are risks in every decision we make. Ecclesiastes 10:8 says, “When you work in a quarry, stones might fall and crush you! When you chop wood, there is danger with each stroke of your ax! Such are the risks of life” (NLT) There we have it, even the Bible says we are always in inherent danger.

However, when Jesus came He taught us “Fear not.” “Do not be afraid.” I read an article by Rick McDaniel in which he says, “Fear keeps us from loving deeply, keeps us from giving freely and keeps us from dreaming wildly.” There is so much truth in that! When Jesus told us to love the Lord with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves, He predicated that with teaching us to Fear Not. There is risk in loving with all of our hearts. There is risk in giving freely. There is risk in dreaming wildly. My heart sings imagining what it could look like if I only I stepped out in faith and stopped being afraid of heartbreak.

When I was nine years old, I made it a habit to walk up and down the street in front of my house, strutting in the sun with the wind blowing through the trees, my cassette Walkman (remember those?) clipped to my shorts, listening to Jaci Velasquez’s “Heavenly Place” album on repeat. I’d imagine myself a fierce, strong and deeply connected woman of faith and integrity. I wanted to glorify Jesus with all my heart. I can still feel that longing, the calling to BE that woman deep in my gut, like a fiber that has been a woven part of my heart my entire life. There was a song I would rewind and play over and over again titled “Paper Tigers.” The steady hum of the lyrics came to me as I reflected on this month’s theme.

Night brings creepy things and I hide away
False fears disappear in the light of day
The sun is rising, I’m realizing
The only thing to fear is fear itself
Now I am certain that my beast of burden
Isn’t worth a worry
They are only paper tigers following me
In the wild imagination of the make believe
And there’s a fighter, a survivor, arising in me
I’m not afraid of paper tigers

I don’t want to be a woman who hides away from faith and runs to her own ability to manage chaos. I am here by the grace of God.

When I think about the danger I’ve faced I try not dwell on the innocence lost. I have sorrowed over that and now, instead I want it to empower me as proof that no matter what has lies ahead, I will not face it alone; I will not face it in my own strength. I’m working my way out of my sterilized and ordered world and I am finding God is so much greater, full of more goodness, and is so much more GOD in a messy and uncertain present and future.

We hand over power to the bad things that have happened and could happen to us when we allow them determine our course of action. I was reminded this month that when Christ died on the cross His sacrifice delivered us from all of the darkness that threatens to swallow us alive; He’s got us. He’s got me. I can trust His heart for me. I will face danger, I will face the future, without fear and I will not let it keep me from loving deeply, giving freely, and dreaming wildly. Aren’t worry and anxieties just paper tigers?

Anna’s father went to be with Jesus on Saturday morning October 17th. (A week after she had written and submitted this post). She is holding tight to his words of encouragement about faith and not fearing the future.

IMG_0400 2Anna Hull lives in San Antonio, TX. A graduate of Schreiner University with a B.A. in Religion & Political Science, Anna is passionate about finding Jesus in every day life. She enjoys unexpected adventure, making genuine connections with others, and finding beauty in chaos.