I am haunted by my love for comparison.

At the pool, I like to watch the kids who run off the high dive and squeal with joy as they fly through the air with abandon. I myself have issues when it comes to swimming, and I haven’t yet managed to attempt a jump off the high dive. I have, however, managed to ask the lady who teaches swimming lessons if she might possibly be willing to show me a few things. This is progress. (In case you are curious: my issues are less about a fear of water and have more to do with the fact that when I was small and taking lessons, I could not see very well, and thus I never felt very successful at swimming. But my new vision and I are maybe ready to try to learn a little better. Maybe. But don’t rush me.)

All the teachers in my family tell me that it takes a week and a half to two weeks to unwind after the end of the school year. This year, the end of the school year was particularly rough for me in several ways and we are not even a week into our official summer break yet, so I have to confess to feeling barely human. I want to spend time with my friends, but it feels like more effort than I can manage. Not to mention the fact that when I get busy and/or overwhelmed, I tend to batten down the hatches. Which makes me feel disconnected, and which can be alienating to people. I feel that I have alienated people in the past month or so, which I didn’t intend but which I also do not know how to fix. So I end up walking across the street with a book . . . yet again. (The book I’m into right now is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and it’s really good, but it’s also hard to pick up once you have set it down. And I should really tell you guys what I thought of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at some point. I will work on that.)

I thought about some of this yesterday during the sermon. This week’s Seuss story was “What Was I Scared Of?” and our pastor challenged us to think of ways in which our fears keep us from following Jesus, the places we could go and serve if our fears – including fear of overcommitment – were not keeping us back.

I have a deep and abiding fear of overcommitment that dates back to my college days. I was involved in a campus ministry, and I overcommitted to the point that I was doing campus ministry and not so much . . . college. Now, we could get into a debate about the purpose of being in college, whether it’s about being there for Jesus or about being there to learn (and whether those two things have to be separate). In fact, I think that was a fundamental disagreement between myself and the leaders of the ministry. Regardless of who was right, I do feel that I missed out on some college fun both because of my overcommitment and because of my fear of what they would think of me if I did other college things instead.

It’s funny, because I fear both being overly involved and I fear rejection. Fear of being overly scheduled causes me to say no to things, which isolates me. Fear of rejection causes me to say yes to things I may or may not be able to do, which stresses me out. I don’t know how to live in the middle, because I don’t always seem to know what it is that I want to do.

I had a bad dream the other night in which I lay on the floor crying because I was not being granted a special favor or reward (I don’t even remember what the reward was) because I was not considered special enough by the person giving the award. Meanwhile, an acquaintance (I remember exactly who it was) was being lauded, right there in front of me. For . . . I don’t know, being charming and important and having a clean, well-decorated house. Or something. This fear of rejection, of not being included and important, it even haunts my dreams.

In the sermon, our pastor questioned why people are afraid of things they have never tried. I find that to be the easiest answer of all – fear of looking stupid. But as I was listening to the sermon, thinking about my ingrained fears, I started to wonder when it is that I get to live. Almost everything I want to do causes me to run up against some fear or another – fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, fear of overcommitment. What would my life look like if I was less concerned about what other people think? Our pastor concluded the sermon by saying, “Faith wins out over fear every time.” That is an inspiring thing to say, and I liked hearing it. But I don’t know exactly how it works.

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