For God has not given us a spirit of fear. . .2 Timothy 1:7
The tiny hairs on the nape of my neck stood at attention. My palms, cold and clammy, twitched rhythmically; slightly but consistently. The air around me thinned. My chest felt burdened as if it might suffocate under the pressure of the mound of odious emotion. I’d seen this side of myself before. It had appeared on several other occasions when Fear had shown up at the door and barge his way in. He curled up beside me, along with his twin brother Intimidation who’d slipped in almost unnoticed. Intimidation got comfortable and settled in for a long nap. Fear put his feet up on the coffee table where I was preparing my notes for speaking.
He stared at them.
I stared at him.
Then his eyes caught mine long enough for him to see behind their glassy surface and deep into the depths of my heart. The smirk curling at the ends of his crooked jaw made me look away, ashamed.
Now, he knew for sure that he’d gotten to me; just like the last time.
As if on cue, Fear took off his coat and sauntered across the room to hang it on the hook in the corner. He tiptoed so as not to wake his pal then kicked off his shoes and cracked his knuckles like a pianist limbering up for a masterful musical rendition. He grabbed my hand, intertwining my fingers into his and whispered, “We’re here to stay a while”.
I hung my head. I couldn’t believe I’d let them in. . .again.
These pushy guests had invited themselves over many times before but I’d always been the one to open the door. I felt violated and yet, somehow, I was too upset to realize the power I had to send them away. That was the way this saga always played out for me. And their intrusions were getting worse. These visitors didn’t show up on rare occasion anymore, like in-laws popping over for a surprise visit during the holidays. They moved in; carrying all the baggage that guests like these always do.
And now they were here with me as I sat sunken into an oversized sofa that was tucked in the dimly lit green room just off stage. It was only moments before I was supposed to teach and these two refused to realize that they’d long worn out their welcome.
Stage fright. That was the gift they’d brought for me.
It was wrapped in sheer terror.
I had prepared a message to deliver to the two-thousand plus women who had gathered and I could hear the group roar with laughter, applause, hoots and hollers as they prepared to receive me. This was a great audience; sitting on the edge of their seats ready to hear from God yet I was nothing short of terrified to walk out on the platform. My stomach churned like the old ice cream maker my momma would pull out on hot summer days. My legs wobbled and my breath became shallow. The knot in my throat was so tightly strung I thought it’d take a clever magician to unravel it. I was sure that my normally booming voice would never reach its normal height of clarity once I stepped in front of these precious women. To be honest, I didn’t know for sure that I wouldn’t make a run for it once that solitary beam of the spot light illumined my presence in the otherwise blackened auditorium.
(Note to self: check for the nearest exits).
I’d seen a survey somewhere that said people feared public speaking more than death itself. I laughed the first time I read it. I couldn’t fathom the notion of someone volunteering for the guillotine just to avoid facing a spot light, stage and a crowd. But now, somehow, I was fully convinced.
I’d opt for the noose.
At first I thought I would “just get over it” but then, over time, as this happened in greenrooms on different platforms in different cities at different events, I realized that this mountain was too high a scale for even the most skilled climber to get over. I called a mentor for direction. He wisely informed me that this kind of fear (the kind that refuses to leave) was not a mere emotion to deal with but a spiritual stronghold to demolish. Unless I fought for my freedom, I’d find that the bondage would only continue.
I prepared for war and went to the battlefield camouflaged in spiritual armor. Scripture was my offensive weapon as I battled the enemy of my soul for territory he was trying desperately to win. The lies that were paralyzing me had to be replaced by God’s truth.
I spoke God’s Word out loud to myself until I changed my own mind.
I was tired of Fear and Intimidation ringing my doorbell at all hours of the night and then leaving their footprints across my floor. Their assignment was to keep me from my God-given destiny. They wanted it demolished once and for all.
The enemy wants the same for you, you know?
How about we send these unwanted guests packing. They may knock at the door but we’ll refuse to let them enter. No more stage fright for us. We’re walking onto the center stage of God’s will; smack dab in the middle of God’s purposes. Doesn’t mean we won’t have butterflies anymore but now they’ll at least fly in formation. We’ve got new guests to entertain. Their names are Competence and Adequacy. They come directly from God’s Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:5-6) bringing peace, assurance and joy.
No more excuses and no more fear. The stage of God’s plan is divinely lit just for you and there’s a crowd of people that need what you’re offering.
So. . .I woke Intimidation up from his nap, handed he and Fear their coats and asked them to leave once and for all. At first, they were shocked and didn’t think I was serious but from the look on my face they could tell that this time. . .I wasn’t messin’ around.
So, they left.
And I. . .I was free.