My Personal Succession of Fears

by - December 02, 2011

Friends, this is a long...true story...but if you have a minute...As imperfect as this is, I'm ready to share it.

I've been home sick, now for the second day. Not looking out any windows. Not going anywhere. Just looking at Kleenex boxes, soup and crackers, my throat in the mirror, and this computer screen. So, I thought I would finish writing what has been on my heart to share, but time hasn’t allowed, and really just I haven't allowed….Now, I've had time. So here it is: a big chunk of my testimony told from first-hand perspective. To share how I got from there (wherever I have been before), to here (where I am now). There are thousands of pictures, but they are all in my mind. So I can only show you by writing it out. I’m sure the word count breaks some kind of blogging etiquette. If you decide to go ahead and read it, just pace yourself. I titled this blog "My Personal Succession of Fears" because I realize that being afraid of (whatever I have been afraid of) has prompted some big transitions in my life. So let me break it down:

Afraid of the Dark

Through the 5th grade I had to have the bathroom light on when I went to sleep. I was afraid of the dark. What if someone came into the house and got me? What if there IS a monster in the closet with mom’s sewing machine? Sometimes I would lie really still thinking if they came in they might think I’m already dead and go on to the next house. Nothing personal against our neighbors, and I never watched scary movies…I just had an imagination and needed a light on just in case. I act like a grown up now though, and sleep in the dark.

Afraid of Hell and SinAfraid of Hell and Sin

The next thing I remember being actually afraid of is Hell. I learned about it at church, and I didn't want to go there. Thankfully, the alternative sounded like a lovely win-win where I could play with Jesus who loved me, one of the little children, and where I could fly. I came to a simple faith in Jesus, (the Son of God who loved me and died for my sins so that I may spend eternity in heaven, John 3:16), in the 2nd grade. In the children’s ministry the focus was on Jesus. Who he is, what he did, and how he loves me. With the uncynical, unaffected, unselfish heart of a child I believed. I received Christ's gift of forgiveness and acceptance and restored relationship with God the Father exactly as the Bible detailed it. My heart beating out of my chest, my eternity secure. Faith. My mom led me through the prayer to confess with my mouth what I knew in my heart (Romans 10) one night in the front seat of our boat-sized tan Cadillac. When I close my eyes now I still remember opening my eyes then, seeing the stars out the front windshield and realizing someday I’m going to be up there. Gulp.

Then by youth ministry time I was a little more self-concerned. We know at that age in development we are in the struggle to be accepted and figure out our own identities. This kind of causes us to be the centers of our own universes; everything is put in relation to self. "What does this mean for me? Is this fair to me? Is this fun for me?" I am thankful for those who served in youth ministry. This is not meant as a criticism of them because they were serving out of their love for God, following the trend of the day, and ultimately I am responsible for my own walk with the Lord. However, I think we can't be afraid to look back and consider why many of those my age are no longer pursuing a life with Christ, me included for many years. In my line of work now, I understand the benefit of insight to why I may have chosen to take the road most travelled. The antithesis to a poem I stood up and read at my Highschool Graduation. Time looking back has helped me to answer the question of why did I not stay faithful and growing with Christ. So, this may not be your story, but it is mine from my perspective.

At that time the tactic to get a teen’s attention turned to God was kind of more focused on using the threat of Hell to entice a desire for Heaven...the threat of bad consequences, instead of benefits of a relationship with Christ. The focus went from who Jesus is, what he did, and how he loves me, to: if you don't believe in Jesus you will go to Hell, your friends are going to hell and here is a list of sins you can't do or you don't love Jesus. I don't really remember anyone specifically saying those words to me, more than just a general level of anxiety because of a lot of Hell and sin talk. I was always conflicted through Junior High and Highschool to try and be a good Christian girl. I was afraid to sin because I didn't want to get in trouble. Instead of handling my struggle personally and gracefully, I know it came out as self-righteousness at times as I tried to convict others of what the Holy Spirit was trying to convict me of so that I didn't stick out. “I do not sneak out. I do not drink. I do not play light-as-a-feather-stiff-as-a-board (I was scared of that). I do not….”whatever. I can't think of anything sadder than somehow my own insecure actions being a reason for someone not seeking Jesus because of bossiness or hypocrisy they saw in me. I know I can't be anyone's excuse when they someday have to answer for their decision to accept Christ or not. But, it still grieves me. I wish I could go back and handle some of those moments differently. But, sometimes heart pounding in my chest, I would invite friends to our fellowships and Falls Creek. (p.s. I love Falls Creek). The Hell message was scary enough at times for some to consider Christ, but for others it seemed unnecessary. I think because there wasn’t a strong foundation or context for belief, so after the emotional moment passed, what was there for them to keep coming back to? We weren’t being shown why to fall in love with Jesus, we were being shown to not sin or go to Hell. Or at least I wasn't getting it. The answer to the questions: “Is this fair to me?” “Is this fun to me?” was “no.” Church was just not cool enough to compete with Friday night, and we weren’t coming to know Jesus for who he really is. The consequence of Hell, was not enough to push us to relationship with Christ. Especially if all we had to do was pray the prayer, and then move on with life. We all need to confirm if we for sure put faith in Jesus Christ…or if we put our faith in the reciting of a 60 second prayer so we don’t go to Hell. Matthew 7:21-23 are the scariest verses in scripture I think. I had accepted Christ during a time where He was the focus of my salvation, but as my focus turned to Hell and consequences, his reflection in my life began to fade. I was already saved in childhood, and consequences have never really been an effective motivator for me. I'm willing to go through consequences I deem as acceptable based on whatever I have put as priority. Love and devotion have always had bigger influence on my actions than consequences, and my heart as a teen girl led my love and devotion in directions it should not have gone. I knew about eternity with Christ. I did not understand about life with Christ.

Afraid I Was Missing Out

So with my focus on me, and Hell being a consequence that I had already dodged, not on love for Christ or integrity to live as I believed, I kind of let go trying to obey all the rules…I wanted to start making my own decisions. Now my decisions were based on my desires for myself, and I was afraid that I was missing out on some things. And those things were not in line with the acceptable behaviors list at church. They were definitely on the do-not-do list. But, I had it all planned out. I'm saved, check. I invited friends to Falls Creek, Dawson McAllister, and to youth events, check. I wasn't afraid of Hell, and I didn't have respect for my relationship with Christ, so I started making bad decisions.

Afraid of Jesus

Before long….I was afraid of Jesus and frankly, annoyed. Ultimately, I didn’t have the strength of character to obey his rules (which is the whole reason for Jesus in the first place). I didn't really want to either, because there were other things I wanted to do. So that bossy church girl started looking a lot more like a fake hypocrite. As I started to drift, since my relationship with him wasn't personal anymore, it was business, I didn't lean on Him. I didn't really know I could pray to him to draw me nearer. Instead, I began to draw away from him. Feeling conviction for my actions pushed me further away. No one likes to hang out with someone disappointed in them all the time. And I was viewing Jesus as someone disappointed in me and unrealistic anyway, instead of the One who loved me. This is when I willfully walked into the wilderness, still His, but lost. Conviction was there, but annoyed me. I downplayed obedience to Christ as unnecessary, and my life reflected that. Fast-forward through years of trudging passed conviction defiantly into willful sin, to life in Tulsa. I remember one girl I worked with who would take her Bible to her car during lunch and read it. People asked me what I thought of that, because in between smoke breaks and ungracious talk, I still claimed I was a Christian. I remember saying "I’m a Christian but I don’t have to read my bible every day to prove it." What an idiot. That’s like saying I’m alive, but my heart doesn’t have to beat to prove it. As I was mocking her, Christ was gearing up to overhaul me and my mouth. It had been 10 years since I had earnestly sought a relationship with him. It is a testament to his goodness that he didn't just leave me there to live a life mocking him, and those devoted to him, out of fear of missing out on what wasn't working out to be very fun anyway. I was not faithful to Him, but He stayed faithful to me.

Afraid God Was Not Who I Thought He Was

Have you ever walked away from something and thought "did that just happen?" You look for evidence to see if it was real. If you don’t see the evidence you expected…you may doubt it. I walked away from God, and after a long enough time I started to wonder if He really was who I thought He was. It's like being openly unfaithful to your spouse repeatedly, and then being appalled they are not nicer to you; that they are not making home a gracious place to be filled with all the things that please you. I didn’t see the evidence of Him that I expected. He wasn't making my life filled with all the little things that pleased me. (1 Peter 1:6-7) I lived on my own sense of righteousness and self-imposed morality based on lessons learned, good works and some sort of American good-girl sense of right and wrong, but it was not based on my devotion to God. (It was dust in the wind. America is not the world, and I don’t know everything. There I admitted it.) My pride in my own sense of character left me just satisfied enough to justify whatever I wanted to do. I was arrogant. I viewed myself as a good person, why shouldn't I (insert whatever here). I deserve to (insert whatever here). I could say my sins were mild compared to some, but the Bible says that Christ so loved us even as we are sinners that He died for us; and the Bible says God "hates" pride. He loves sinners; hates pride. Pride was my biggest sin. He didn’t hate me though, he hated my pride. I didn’t fall into a trap of addiction or make bad decisions after being hurt or abused…those people we so often judge so harshly. My sin left me looking clean and redemption unnecessary. When you think you don't deserve Him most, is when you do...and when you think you deserve when you probably don’t...and yet He is still there.

I kept trying to make life about what I could attain and accomplish and get through. I was d-e-v-o-t-e-d to my job. I bought a house, drove a nice car, and travelled some. Although I loved the people I worked with, and felt a lot of purpose in being a part of that team, there was always something nagging at me. I thought it was just the anticipation of the next crisis to come. I was continually unsatisfied and uncomfortable. Thinking the next raise or status attainment would satisfy, but it didn’t. Where was God? I have tried to be a good person (leaving out any thought for the thousands of ways I had denied Him). Why hadn’t he shown up while I was working and given me a husband and kids and financial security, and all those things I deserved? I am a Christian. Why isn't he providing for me in the ways I want Him to? Was He even real? I was afraid and getting angry that maybe He wasn’t who I thought he was. Turns out He wasn’t. He is immeasurably more.

(This might be a good time to grab some water, or take a potty break.)

Just Plain Afraid

Long story, not short...I began having some well-timed panic attacks. The first of which happened on vacation with some girlfriends in the scariest place in America….Silver Dollar City, Branson, MO. I just HAD to go down into the caverns…and when we got down the first flight of stairs I lost my mind. Even if I had to throw someone over, there was no way I was going on down into that death pit abyss. I.would.die. I went right back up the way we went in. I basically shook and cried for almost an hour even after we were safe outside. Lame. Slowly but surely my anxiety level began to grow and grow over the course of the next few weeks/months. I felt out of control for the first time ever. I had tried to always be some voice of reason, level headed, and in control especially through recent years of some really chaotic events in the place I was employed; which was my object of devotion as I tried to make myself useful in the world. We had gone through tragic deaths together of an employee and family members of my co-workers. Those times alone will bond people. But, we also added the high stress bonding of a hostage crisis, near death by alligator, lay-offs, illnesses, New Orleans voo-doo, affairs, federal court, anthrax scares, spy operations, late night visits by the mob…and I was not working for the Secret Service…I worked for a marketing company. Looking at that list I can laugh now, but I assure you some of those were incredibly difficult and painful times. The person who was significantly contributing to the chaos is no longer affiliated with the company, but we all played our parts. I know God was with me during those times, (he is faithful even when I'm not) but I was certainly trying to handle everything on my own. When the dust settled and we were in a pretty nice routine…God began to show me the grace that I was not the one in control. All those years of trying to run the show, were coming to a very painful and gracious end. I know the panic attacks were his mercy to me…to help me begin to let go of all of my perceived self-sufficiency, so that relationship with him my heart longed for, even without me realizing it, could finally begin to mature. That relationship that was sealed forever in the front seat of our Cadillac when I was a child, was coming back. My anxiety attacks happened in several different circumstances but intensified through a fear of flying. On one trip from New York to Chicago, I cried the whole way and my closest friend and co-worker kept telling me as she was holding my hand "If you were flying the plane you would be fine." She knew me well. My control was slipping, and I was just living afraid. This came on the heels of conversations I was starting to have openly about not believing in God anymore. This was my battle that was worth the fight.

Afraid to Let It All Go

The panic attacks, the disappointment in life, the drama of my workplace…all these things were either going to push me into a padded room somewhere, or push me to turn around and take a few steps in the opposite direction. I remember saying to my cousin "I can't believe this is my story...that I grew up and one day went crazy." What a waste. I decided to try walking back toward God for a minute and see if He was real and where He might be. I know this was in part due to answered prayers for me by faithful friends and family. I went to a bible-study in Tulsa called BSF. They are all over the world. There were over 30 different denominations represented. Jesus doesn't just love Baptists. I remember saying "if you are real God, prove it." He was right there waiting to prove it. He wasn't going to force me, but he wasn't going to deny me when I sought him. Even as I was turning to Him though, I was still turning to him for myself. For him to make my life better, but we were very early in our new journey together. I knew God was showing me that things were going to change in some big ways. Naively, I thought it was in the job. Surely I hadn’t been there for all these years for nothing. I didn’t consider it possible to leave there with all we had been through. That was my life. Some really exciting things started happening and some really big deals were in the works. I was flying again. Panic attacks over. Uncomfortably, but I was in the air to Los Angeles, New York, and Memphis for some deals that I thought would finally be God’s blessing in my life. I was praying for "clarity and courage" daily. I wanted clarity to know exactly where God was leading, and the courage to take whatever steps He opened up. I had decided to believe Him for everything His Word says. I chose to trust Him, whatever that looked like. Even still looking at new home magazines dreaming of the blessings I expected to start flowing. (Record scratch noise here). Soon those deals looked like they were fading, and the clarity I had prayed for was showing it was time for me to leave. Very clearly. This isn’t a book, it’s a blog, so let's fast-forward again. I came to know for certain God was calling me into Christian Counseling. There was so much to that, too much to write about now, but I was certain. And I was afraid. He was asking me to let it all go. No reward for the years of devotion in that job. Just "here is the door Haley, walk through it, or don't." Basically, "stay and wish for change, or follow Me, and watch Me change your world." The point is, God created each of us for a purpose, and each new morning we have an opportunity to ask Him to show us. He will. He will never lead you against His own character, or against His Word. But He will set you free from any expectations or walls you have ever placed in between you and Him. Everyone's story is different. My plan is not like yours. He may not lead you to quit your job and move. He can change your tomorrow right where you sit. If you are single, He has a plan for you. If you are married, he has a plan for the two of you. If you have a family, He has a plan for all of you. For me it was kind of a violent transition because where He is leading, I couldn’t have gotten to from Tulsa. One foot in, one foot out has never worked for me. I'm not focused enough. But I wrestled with Him. What would this say about me?!?! I was the “Girl Most Likely to Succeed” in Highschool, and the “Boy Most Likely To Succeed” is a bajillionaire. How embarrassing. Going back to school? Loser? Failure? Logistically how would this work? Other people my age have families and homes. Why do I have to give everything up? For several months I struggled with the decision. Angry. Unforgiving. Sweating and crying it out. He patiently walked me through that time in his Word, and by His Spirit. Unexplainable things happened to reassure me. He brought me through that first crisis of surrender, and plans moved rapidly. My house sold in 5 days, when houses weren't selling. The amount of money I made on my house was the exact tuition amount for my first semester at Seminary. I traded my car in on a little Suzuki, crying the whole time, but knowing in my gut I was finally doing what I needed to be doing. Chains were breaking. My p-r-i-d-e was devastated even though He had firmed my resolve. Why couldn't he just give me huge deals at work and then let me pay for stuff for Him? I imagined being such a cool benefactor, and then my pride could still be intact. I’m supposed to be succeeding…and following God to Texas didn’t feel like that to me. However, it was. He wanted my pride broken, because it kept me from being who He created me to be, and it had me chained to all those disappointments I rehearsed in my mind over and over. God knew my heart was genuine when I accepted Him as Savior. He knew the moments I stepped away from Him. He allowed me the consequences of my actions, and spared me many consequences I deserved. And then He drew me back to Him.

I had no idea the level of humility I would have to face. It was only matched by the mountain of pride I had. The more the pride, the more humbling moments of cleaning pizza place toilets I had the opportunity to embrace while wearing unflattering khakis none-the-less. I remember walking into those bathrooms at my 2nd part-time job shortly after moving to Fort Worth angry. "I used to drive a Lexus, God. And now I'm cleaning toilets, and being trained to do this job by a 16 year old who hates my guts and tells me I laugh like a rich white girl." She had every right to not like me. I was pretty gross. I saw myself as above her. My smiles to her were condescending and not genuine. I hate that me. I am so thankful for the boulders of my pride mountain she helped to knock off. Although rocks remain that I continue to have to kick off the road. Everyone else at that job I grew to love, partly because of the love for them that spilled out of my friend who owned the pizza place. In hindsight of course, I count that time as a great blessing. Some things can’t be explained. They have to be experienced. My experience is only one testimony meant to show that God is faithful. I would not have done any of this if He hadn't been true. I would have never known to come here, to this life that I know He planned for me. (Jeremiah 29:11) He did this, and I am challenged by it daily, as I grow to love him more. I still don’t know where it is going, but I know where it came from, so I can go forward with complete confidence. I left Tulsa to find God’s purpose for my life. Now I only want to live for Him. He is not my burdensome taskmaster that I have to obey to have a good life. Life is still sometimes really, really hard. But, He is my peace in all circumstances, my joy in any pain, my hope in any trial. My Savior. My Redeemer. He is my purpose in life.


Even though I willfully chose life apart from Him, He was a very patient and loving God. He took my defiant and frustrated life and turned it into something beautiful. Not sinless. Not perfect. Not without doubts. Not without pain. Not without disappointments; but with total peace. The kind or peace that if I lost everything tomorrow, would still be there knowing that I live for an eternal purpose, not temporal. Losing everything tomorrow has happened to people, there is nothing but our God who has a hope for that. If we are living for a marriage, and a spouse walks out, what hope would we have? If we are living for comforts and a tornado blows it all away, where is the purpose in that? If we are living for success, and our economy fails, how is that fair? When we are living in the purpose God created us for, we can enjoy the the blessings he gives us (family, comforts, security) without fear. Life doesn't crumble when it doesn't meet our expectations. Life lived with Christ will far exceed what we dream. I am humbled and thankful he left me uncomfortable enough to know how much I needed him. I have a future hope, that no natural disaster, terrorist act, cancer, job loss, financial crisis, death, or life circumstance can destroy. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2. That is my testimony. I have been transformed, and am being made new by a life with Jesus Christ. Now life is because of love; not because of consequences. My fear and chains are gone. It's just better. Faith, Hope and Love. Peace. Joy.

The fear in life is gone, even though the unknown remains. Having no fear is not about my strength. It’s about confidence in who God is. I believe. He's made me believe. Genesis to Revelation I believe. The beginning and the end. I can live with no reservations. No hesitations. No expectations. Just Christ and Him crucified for my redemption, hope and purpose. I am unafraid of the dark. I am unafraid of Hell. I am unafraid I am missing out (this one doesn't come easily for me). I am unafraid of Jesus. I am unafraid of leaving anything behind. I am unafraid of cancer. I am unafraid of separation. I am unafraid of others failures or my own. I have preferences. I have desires. I have hopes. I have goals. I have prayers. I have questions. I have concerns. I have musings. I have none of the answers other than Jesus Christ is who he says he is, and his perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4). I know firsthand.

I sought him. And He was found by me. Jeremiah 29:13

I'm glad I don't try to write songs.

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