Throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, God reminds his people not to be afraid, but to trust him. Not unlike how I have to repeatedly tell my children to clear their plates from the table, put their bikes away, or finish their math, God gives this command over and over. I understand why: life is scary and the past two years of my life have been brimming with fear.
Fear that I would never be a good enough mother, that I’d never learn to cook or clean for seven people, that I’d never enjoy quality time with my husband again, that I was burdening my family with my newly discovered health issues, that I’d never eat a meal without experiencing anxiety over the allergic reaction that might follow, that people thought I was either making up my health issues or that I was straight-up insane, that maybe I was actually going insane, that I was giving in and giving up by accepting antidepressants, that panic attacks and insomnia would forever control me, that I would never recover from depression so dark that it sometimes made me want to quit life altogether.
Fear that all of the friends who knew me were leaving town, discovering that most of those who were left didn’t know me at all and had no intention of doing so, that I might never be known and loved for who I am (or in spite of who I am) again, that I would have to change to be accepted, that my gifts were no longer useful to the Body, that my family would be reduced to nothing more than poster children for adoption (and terrible ones at that, because living out adoption looks a lot less glamorous than those around us expected it to), that I would never be able to spend time with my beloved Somali friends again, that I would never hear the Holy Spirit speak again, that God didn’t want me because I was stuck here while all of my friends were headed overseas to the real work, while I had settled for compromise.
Fear that my kids would never trust Jesus, that I couldn’t parent children of another race or ethnicity well enough, that they were broken beyond repair by life, that they weren’t behaving as expected in public, that they weren’t learning English fast enough, that they weren’t progressing quickly enough as I homeschooled them, that we were suddenly parents of a teenager, that we would forever be late again to everything and that people would make rude comments, because we just couldn’t get it all together fast enough, that our children would resent us forever and write scathing blogs and books about us when they became adults, because sometimes they do.
Fear of speaking up or speaking out. Fear of moving on. Fear (during allergic reactions) that I couldn’t remember a word of Scripture at the moments I needed it most or that I couldn’t think of coherent words when I desperately needed to pray. Fear that everyone I loved would abandon me.
Fear of judgement.
When we began this journey about three and a half years ago, God gave us this verse:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
And we walked through sickness, and adoption, and the loss of nearly our entire group of friends and co-laborers, clinging to this verse.
But along the way, I began to let fear rule. I read blogs to educate me on our undertaking, but instead they made me more fearful that the children we brought into our house would be stolen away from unsuspecting mothers and sold into orphanages, or that they would never attach properly and run away or harm us, or that as adults they’d despise me because I never learned how to properly braid cornrows. People who learned we were adopting three children (for a total of five kids altogether) would make smart remarks about how crazy we must be to take on such a responsibility. As though we hadn’t already considered the responsibilities, the work, the cost of bicycles and braces and college, the emotional needs of four daughters. But I had already accepted (somewhat giddily) the fact that this was what God wanted! He had chosen us for this! We only needed to obey. Walk. One foot in front of the other. No looking to the right or the left.
But as I walked, I glanced to the right and felt lonely, incapable, and unworthy. I peered to the left and felt alone, abandoned, and afraid. I was terrified when I realized that God was marching us through something so big, that there was no return. I would literally never be the same again. Not only was the size of our family, van, and grocery budget different, I had been completely altered and I was unrecognizable to myself.
At some point, after things began to calm down, I stopped walking and tried to settle back into the same life I had once loved, but that proved impossible, because I am no longer the same person I was. God may as well have changed my name from Sarai to Sarah. Or physically altered my body with the slice of a blade. Or made me a citizen of a brand new city.
I tried to settle back on my old plot of land when God wanted me to keep walking. I hadn’t reached my destination just yet. He still wants me. He still has plans for my life. He has not revoked my gifts and left me useless to the Body. He doesn’t want me to alter the person he has made me to be, just for the sake of “fitting in.” This is not middle school. This is the Kingdom–his Kingdom–and in the Kingdom, everyone is wanted, everyone is needed. I am wanted.
So, here I am: fear behind, eyes fixed ahead, in strength and courage, I walk.