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Monday, January 23, 2006

"Don't let your fear destroy you"

What an odd title, don't'cha think?

But it got your attention, didn't it?

Several years ago I was encouraged by my boyfriend at the time to take the local firefighter test (full time professional dept. of a large city). It was something I have to admit I had thought about ever since I was a little girl, but never thought I would really do. I did not see myself as athletically gifted, although I had discovered throughout the years that I DID have natural athletic abilities in several sports which were unfortunately, not discovered until adulthood. But I never had the confidance.

I knew what the job was about, I knew the issues women face, and I knew the lesbian agenda ruled all in this department. And I didn't want to deal with that hostility. I knew the inside scoop, and it frightened me. I knew going in that the work environment was hostile from every angle; but then again, so was much of what I had ever done.

I was ripe for a challenge, and with a strong supporter, and his friends, I tested the water...I went to a practice session sponsored by the Women's Association. And although the test kicked my in-shape rear end harder than it had ever been kicked, I bought a T-shirt, and I was committed.

I began training in earnest. I went down to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and I ran stair circuits: down the stairs, across the bottom, up a larger and longer set, and with my legs burning and my lungs groaning, I forced myself to "jog it out" across the top, run down, across, back up...etc.,. I lifted weights and rejoiced in adding more weight, and I began to really see results. It was amazing.

I prayed a lot, still a non-practicing Catholic, but I never stopped believing in God, and I was occasionally attending Mass, asking for help as I underwent this physical trial.

In the beginning, I wasn't sure I wanted the "prize", which was The Job (that's how we refer to it). And I faltered. I felt my own previous lack of confidance, I was once again the little girl who was last to be chosen for a team...and I wondered what I was doing.

Childhood cruelty lasts beyond childhood, friends. Even when it's overcome and "gone", the memories are still haunting. Always last to be chosen as a child...now trying to become a firefighter. A FEMALE firefighter. Riiiiight.

So I just prayed, and one day, I questioned what I was trying to do and I strongly considered quitting. What was I training for? What was I trying to do? I was terrified of climbing ladders, had no idea why, but it was a HUGE part of the job!

I remembered as a child being shown into a partially burned home, the home of a neighbor. A child had started the fire by playing with matches. When it got out of control he threw the matchbook under the bed and the rest is history. Everyone survived, but what was left of the house was black with soot, acrid to the lungs and terrifying from the outside.

I still remember watching the fire trucks go by in our rural neighborhood, a very unusual sight, and I remember the darkening summer evening sky, the huge summer storm, and Mom making us pray the rosary for whoever was in trouble. As soon as it was done she left and drove through the neighborhood to see what she could do for whomever had just lost their home. My brother and I just watched the storm and learned the details later on.

A few days later Mom got the key and led us into the house. I didn't want to go in. It was dark. It was scary. It was black, it was wet. The floor was still drenched with water, the air acrid, making me cough, making my eyes water. I began to cry.

Mom showed us this as a lesson, and it terrified me. I never was prone to playing with matches, and after that, there was NO chance whatsoever.

Fast forward to my training for the fire dept. You understand some of the fear I had, much was ridiculous, some was ludicrous and mysterious phobia but very real to me, much was still from childhood fear. So I prayed and I considered just dropping it entirely.

One day, early on in this process, I began to drift off for a much needed afternoon nap. Just as I fell alseep, I heard a loud, harsh voice directly in my ear:

DON'T LET YOUR FEAR DESTROY YOU

I awoke at once, terrified, looking around. No one was there. I questioned the source..a dream? A demonic attack? An angel?

I considered everything, and what it came down to was this: I knew who was the author of fear: Satan. I was being held back and considering dropping this entire thing not because of lack of qualification, but FEAR. When I went to training sessions, I was doing well and other women, women who were accomplished athletes, were asking ME for advice. Another woman, one with experience in this, offered to help me even more and we trained together, sharing our goal and choosing to work together. Even so, I was afraid that I was not good enough. I was afraid of success, I was afraid of rejection, I was afraid of failure. No matter where I turned, fear of some sort gripped me. I realized that I had been given a very important message; one that deserved serious consideration. Was I letting my fear destroy me?

The voice still scared me...that one sentence. And no, during my psychological exam prior to being hired, I did NOT reveal this experience. This was between God and me.

And whenever I faltered in training, whenever I was beset by despair, whenever I thought I was "done for" while working through the test, I remembered the voice, "DON'T LET YOUR FEAR DESTROY YOU."

I was hired, I was forced to face several fears, several challenges, and when it comes down to it, those were the most important tasks. I suffered an injury in training which ended my firefighting career, but by then I was ready to go. I was done, and apparently did what God sent me to do.

Every so often I look back, and I question why all those doors were opened, why I worked so hard for what turned out to ultimately be a "failure". But there was no failure.

In the end, the Lord won. Firstly, he kep me praying...A LOT! He made me face fears and find that tenacity deep within my soul that he gave me from birth...and he helped me to make choices which glorified him, even though no one else knew about it.

I will never forget hanging over the cement apron, thinking no one was holding the rope at the bottom, and losing the rope in my own pathetic hand, thinking that I was literally a millimeter away from dropping 5 stories. I will never forget my desperate rasp "Please, God", and in my mind's eye, I see my guardian angel, holding the rope, helping me work it into my hand, helping me find that survival instinct, resolving that I WOULD NOT FALL, even if I had to hang there in purgation forever. I remember having to climb ladders in different positions...straight up and down (really), from ground to roof ladders, walking the ridgeline 3 stories above the cement...etc.

God sent me into my fear, but he did not send me alone, and he gave my guardian angel a message to pass on.....DON'T LET YOUR FEAR DESTROY YOU.

Had I quit, I would never have faced those fears. I would never have found that tenacity, that willpower, that place deep within myself that made me strive to be more than I thought I could be. He helped me to find that place, because in all liklihood, I will need it again, but then, in a battle for Truth.

God may use everyday things in order to help us identify the traits he gave us, and the learning may be painful, it may be terrifying, it may even seem like a failure. But in the end, God wins, he helps us win, and he forces us to overcome when we'd rather just walk away.

Maybe if there's demand I'll tell the specific stories, but the point of this post is this: don't make your guardian angel speak to you. Stop and listen to God, remember that he is the Creator, not the author of fear and confusion.

When you are afraid, lean on God, call upon Jesus, and trust in the angels he sent you. They may usually be silent...but if they speak...listen. Their message may change your life.

It has already changed mine, and I hope my sharing it may also change yours.

I leave you the folloiwng Pulic Service Announcement, straight from the Heavenly Father...from his heart straight to yours:

DON'T LET YOUR FEAR DESTROY YOU

1 comment:

Ray from MN said...

I wish I had read that, and understood it, 30 years ago.