This year Courtney and I spent our Valentine’s Day evening watching a documentary titled In Light of Eternity. It may not seem like the most romantic thing to do, especially when your wife isn’t fond of movies or TV time, but this experience was different. As I continue to feel a strong pull to remain intentional in my pursuit for purpose the narrative spoke to both of us and questioned our plans. We were reminded that selflessness is the key to fulfillment. A truth that made February 14 more meaningful. But the challenge to live this way goes beyond marriage or any other relationship. It serves a higher calling and is greater than one day or one year; it is a life-long commitment. A purpose that moves in action. All these thoughts hit me like a train when I read the opening quote:
Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but succeeding in life at things that don’t really matter.
Suddenly it became personal and the questions circled my head: What am I doing today that won’t matter tomorrow, next year or 50 years from now? What am I pursuing that won’t make a difference in my life or the life of the people I love? What am I afraid of that I know I need to do?
Fear can paralyze a man and strip him of any potential good he could bring to the world. I’ve felt that fear before.
Fear in the form of a nightmare
When I was kid I remember having nightmares when I watched something scary. It wasn’t a sure occurrence but when it would happen I would sweat and shiver with suspense until I woke up. Heart pounding but relieved. The fear was not knowing if it was real.
As an adult I’ve experienced some nightmares but one has stuck with me. It comes and goes, and it expresses a fear that is real. It normally starts like this…
Driving an old car through the night on an open road with open fields on one side and scattered trees on the other. I am all alone and it is silent. The car stops as I approach an old pole with a street light shining a few feet ahead of me. The image moves from a first person view to a panoramic angle of the car, the road and the trees. I don’t know why the car stops but suddenly I get out to find myself walking towards the brighter side of the road with a cinematic view still playing. I’m no longer seeing things as if I’m the one in the dream; at this moment I’m simply a spectator watching attentively to see what happens. I walk pass the pole but don’t seem to make any progress. It gets darker and I continue to walk. By now I see myself running and looking back only to see that I’m still at the same distance from the light pole and the car. I run the other direction and the same happens. No progress. The image fades with me just standing in the middle of the road. Stuck in this reality with no where to go.
I believe much of this nightmare comes from the fear of failure. A fear that freezes you. Disabling you to no movement. I know for me this fear encompasses much of my professional life and the obsession with a successful career. But it is greater than just work; it’s about living a life that matters and making sure every decision, every step, every action aligns with my plans. For some people it is easy to read this and simply say “snap out of it.” The problem is that fear raises doubts in our own abilities and formulas. Fear is the real reason we feel stuck.
Fighting fear with hope
In August I will celebrate 12 years living in the United States. It seems like it was yesterday that Courtney and I arrived on a warm Florida night with little more than the clothes on our backs, ready to start a new life. That day was exhilarating. We were a young couple making decisions with no regard to fear. Yes Courtney’s parents would embrace our move and help us during the first few months but there was little certainty on what would happen next. No jobs. No cars. No friends. And no real concrete plans. We just knew we were meant to make the move across the ocean to a town we really didn’t know much about. Our driving force wasn’t courage. We simply had hope.
Fear gives us a reason not to try; Hope gives us the courage not to listen.
I believe the only way to fight fear is to have hope. Courage is simply an expression. An emotion that took place in our hearts and made us move. The real antidote to fear is to experience hope.
I still carry that hope that made me move to a new country over a decade ago. It is fulfilling to look back at that memory and see the blessings that have come from that decision. The real catalyst was the word of God that propelled us to see our decisions in light of… eternity. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.
The nostalgia of that time doesn’t negate my increasing responsibilities. It just reminds me that over time my dreams have become personal-life plans. I think that is why I don’t dream much anymore. I want to experience that hope-filled life again. I want to live with enough faith and courage where my actions aren’t just based on certainty but embrace risk as an opportunity for God to show up. Hope looks for a better way; a better future. I want to live that way; with a life that matters and have it reflected in my marriage, my parenting, and even in my career.
In the end our hope provides direction and meaning.
And HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
In the end our hope provides clarity in our purpose.