By Wendy Choy-Chan
Fears – If I see them from a distance, I will usually find a way to go around them or gear myself up to head right into them. This goes for all kinds of fears, from spiders to sickness, from public speaking to confrontations. It seems at first like I am handling my fears pretty well. See a spider outside the house, find another path to walk on; see a spider inside the house, with broom in one hand and bug spray in another, I prep for a gladiator fight. But if it appears out of nowhere right in front of me, I scream and I jump and I run like I am in the Olympics!
Not every fear comes announcing its arrival. I have had migraines for about 15 years, and at first, it manifested itself with a headache and eventual nausea. I learned how to detect its onset and take medication right away and I could still go about the usual tasks for the day. But recently, it is coming in the form of vertigo, where I would wake up with the room spinning around me. Physically it is inhibiting for I can’t do anything but rest. Emotionally, I feel defeated and scared: what if it comes the morning I have to preach, or when I am on a trip? It turns out that I can only handle my fears, literally, when they are in my hands and under my control, but I have trouble facing my fears when they are beyond my reach and my control.
Other fears will always be present. No matter how much or how prepared I am, my hands sweat and my mouth dries up right before speaking in front of a group. My daughter used to joke that I should just lick my palms to wet my mouth! So I learn to befriend this fear. I learn to put aside the what-ifs: What if I trip and fall? What if I go over time? What if I forget what to say? I learn to deliberately talk slower at the beginning, to maybe open with a more casual remark. And I find that I don’t have to go around my fears or head straight into them; I can face them and dance with them.
Finally, some fears are just part of my personality. I am a pleaser, and I strive for peace and tranquility. So fear of confrontation includes not only those interactions we see in a debate, but also as small as a discomforted look or a disapproving glance. I look for paths to go around, I search for weapons to fight with, I race through hundreds of what-ifs in my head, but all to no avail. As such, I just have to be present in my fear, maybe even let it wound me. I remember once hearing that God sometimes delivers us through an atrocity, sometimes delivers us from it, and sometimes delivers us in it. But no matter which way, He will always deliver us. Perhaps, it is in times like these that God is not asking me to go around my fears, or to master them, but to surrender to them and let God deliver me in my fears, as wounded as I am. Perhaps, it is in times like these that I really learn and experience faith. No way around, no weapon, no befriending – just letting fear get a hold of me, but trusting that God will also get a hold of me.
As I will be leading a group on a study tour, I have been preparing as much as I can to get my fears under control, but who knows what will happen? Spiders, sickness, public speaking, confrontations? I pray for God to give me faith, trusting that He will deliver me through, from and in my fears – for I am not bringing my broom and bug spray with me on this trip!
Wendy Choy-Chan came to North America from Hong Kong when she was 15. After graduating with a MScE, she worked as a telecommunications engineer for 5 years before becoming a full-time wife and mom. Wendy just earned her MA in Theology at Fuller Northwest and is now serving at Evangelical Chinese Church of Seattle as a minister-in-training. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Seattle, WA.