This Christmas, my sister gave me a copy of Michael Hyatt's book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. I'm reading with notebook and pencil in hand - lots of great tools and information to process as I face the challenge of marketing my first book (Yay!). Platform would be a great book for anyone who has a small business, or for someone who wants to connect with others to promote a cause, or for someone like me who has a little, long-deferred dream that is just beginning to unfold.
In Chapter 5, Hyatt lists several obstacles that we often face when pursuing our goals and dreams. We run out of time. We don't have enough resources. We don't have the experience we need. We give in to the dream-squishing negativity of others who don't share our vision. But, Hyatt writes, the biggest obstacle that we face is fear.
I really identified with that. In throwing this first book out into the world - for other eyes to see and other voices to comment on - I have to admit there has been a good deal of trepidation. What might others think and say about it? What if it doesn't "fly"? What if I mess up this first flight into the world of fiction writing so badly that it handicaps any future opportunities or projects?
But I think one of the greatest fears I've identified in my own experience is - What if I succeed? How would it change my life if Book #1 led to Book #2 and then Book #3, and what if one or more of them actually did very well out there in the big wide world?
Sure, positive consequences of success as a writer are easy to identify: meeting new people and having opportunities to engage with others outside my present circle. Being able to pay off a few debts or to give financially to ministries I'm excited about. Fixing things around the house. Maybe even a vacation!
But surely there would be a down side to success, such as greater demands on my time and schedule, deadline pressures, sales pressures. Travel - which sounds exciting, but also a bit intimidating for a house mouse like me. PR - which I think I would enjoy, but which, again, opens a person up to negative or hurtful comments. What if people read my book and perceive me one way, when I am actually very different from what they imagine? Worse yet, what if, through my writing, I dishonored God? What if I wrote and promoted things that weren't true?
I spent my wee-morning-hour wakefulness pondering the question, "What am I afraid of?"
Then I remembered a conversation between a couple of friends a few years ago. Debbie was explaining how she was afraid to talk about her faith with her family, who are not Christians. Her biggest fear was that she might say something wrong that would hinder her family's ability to understand the Gospel, something that would turn them against the God she had grown to love. What if she didn't get the message exactly right? What if she got upset, and her emotions hindered the conversation? Debbie longed to share her faith with the people she loved, but she was crippled by fear.
Mark, a dear brother in Christ who had been listening to Debbie's concerns, simply replied: "You're a Calvinist, damn it! What are you afraid of?! Stop cowering in the corner and get out there!"
Yes, his reply was like a slap in the face - but he was spot on. Mark went on to explain that, if God is indeed sovereign (which He is) and if salvation is entirely by His grace (which it is), then we don't have to be afraid of "getting it wrong" when we share our faith with others. Yes, we should be gracious and thoughtful in our conversations with unbelievers, but the pressure is NOT on us to save lost souls - that is God's work. Our work is to faithfully proclaim the good news that Christ saves sinners. And if we don't get it exactly right? God can handle our mess ups and our failures. He can redeem our weak efforts and fumbling words.
I've recalled that conversation so many times over the years, when faced with some soul-sapping fear that left me hesitant, timid, incapacitated.
I recalled that conversation again last night (very early this morning, actually). What am I afraid of? Yes, I am a Calvinist - I truly believe that God is Sovereign, that He is good, that He loves me very much, and that He redeems sinful, fearful, clumsy me and everything about me.
What are the secret dreams of your heart, Dear Reader? Have you, like me, been held back from pursuing those dreams because of fear - fear of failure, or fear of success? I pray that we - you and I - will fix our eyes so firmly on the loveliness and sufficiency of our great God and Savior that we will be strengthened to step out of fear, into courageous living.
Let's stop cowering in the corner and get out there!
7 hours ago