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Yesterday, I got unsettling news and all day long my prayers began with “I’m scared” and “God, I’m afraid” – even knowing that “fear is a form of unbelief.” Fear is also what nags at you when your self-imposed methods of protection begin weakening.

I scolded myself all day long for being afraid. Why? Well, in the last year, I’ve had some groundbreaking personal development, breakthroughs and realizations. I’m proud of that. I’m in love with the joy I’ve come to know through mental breakthrough. I feel a small rush of adrenaline and the tingle of butterflies in my tummy almost daily when I realize how incredible life is. I’ve shared that somewhat publically.

So, when I experience dark moments of fear for my future, shed tears because I don’t know how I can do everything by myself and just feel scared – I generally don’t tell anyone. Sometimes, I might call a friend but then hang-up before they answer because, really? Didn’t I just post on Facebook how awesome life is? How can I be sitting at home crying because I’m scared I’m not up to handling all that life is throwing my way? I don’t want people to think the joy I described in the previous paragraph isn’t real. I want them to know it’s here, it’s stayed here for months and months and no, no drugs are needed. It’s real. I want it for everyone. So, it’s hard to reach out – even to a close friend – because I want them to know that inner joy is real if they don’t have it yet. I don’t want my example to cause doubts. (Clearly, my inner peace still needs work;-) So, I keep quiet. I’m protecting people and some of them I don’t even know. Who made that rule?

This misguided sense of “protecting others” seems to hurt the one doing the protecting more. Perhaps even symbolically martyring ourselves albeit unintentionally.

I don’t like to admit that there may have been more valleys than mountaintops in the last several years. There are some good reasons for not admitting it (in my mind, anyway). Admitting there were more bad times than I let on implies a bad attitude, poor perception and even poor judgment. But there is more to my own reticence than just bad choices. I think it was the whole subconscious ‘protection racket’ I had going on.

For example, sometimes admitting that things aren’t so great feels like a betrayal to the ones closest to you. Often, we don’t admit that we aren’t doing so well because we’re protecting someone. And, admitting that to ourselves, means that we have to admit that life isn’t perfect, that the people we love aren’t perfect, we are not perfect and even that the people we care about don’t care about us as much as we believed. And that last, is a huge reason why so many people choose to pretend that things aren’t so bad and protect people when they should be standing up to the truth and giving their own hearts a little TLC.

And once you admit that you’re protecting your own little illusion(s)?

It opens up a whole kettle of introspection. Some will run from that. But those who don’t run learn some critical information about themselves. It means you have to face up to some ugly facts. Wading through them ranks right up there with cleaning your bathroom after the sewage backed up. In some cases, cleaning the bathroom is easier. When you try to protect someone, you’re actually trying to protect your image of the relationship and how it should be. This can be with a significant other, your kids, family, friends. So much energy focused on denying what’s in front of us is exhausting both mentally and physically. In relationships with significant others, it’s like a never-ending charade where you never, ever get a chance to be you. Eventually all parties involved become someone other than themselves because they’re just worn out. They don’t recognize each other much less the person in the mirror.

But are we really protecting the other person, the relationship, and the illusion that everything is okay? I say no. We are unconsciously protecting our hearts. We are subconsciously scared of “what will happen” if we face up to reality: that things aren’t the way we want them, we can’t change it and we can’t force other people to change. That’s scary when it’s your future involved.

But it’s breathtakingly beautiful when I recognize it and set it free.

I’ve “stood up” to most of those realizations this year. Seems crazy but I can feel self-growth happening. Bizarre but cool. I’ve learned that I always have a choice to see through “clear lenses.”

I’ve learned that there are “turning points” in every relationship where we get to make choices, to set boundaries, to decide what roads to take, what words to say, what battles to fight, what’s worth it and what’s worthless.

So, while a small part of me wants to think my “valleys” were a waste of my time, I know I learned something most people don’t. Recognizing moments are a key secret to lasting relationships of all kinds. I’m better able to recognize those moments than I’ve been my whole life. I’m sure I’ll miss a few here and there but I’ve learned the importance of trusting my “gut” and acting on my heart’s conscience.

So what happened yesterday after I spent the whole day saying “God, I’m afraid?” After I had a seriously serious pity party, I wiped my tears, blew my nose very unladylike and crowned myself Drama Queen. Wait, you want to know what happened after that, right? I opened my Jesus Calling book to the current date. Here’s what it said and please note the scripture I bolded:

I am the gift that continuously gives—bounteously, with no strings attached. Unconditional Love is such a radical concept that even My most devoted followers fail to grasp it fully. Absolutely nothing in heaven or on earth can cause Me to stop loving you. You may feel more loved when you are performing according to your expectations. But My Love for you is perfect; therefore it is not subject to variation. What does vary is your awareness of My loving Presence.

When you are dissatisfied with your behavior, you tend to feel unworthy of My Love. You may unconsciously punish yourself by withdrawing from Me and attributing the distance between us to My displeasure. Instead of returning to Me and receiving My Love, you attempt to earn My approval by trying harder. All the while, I am aching to hold you in My everlasting arms, to enfold you in My Love. When you are feeling unworthy or unloved, come to Me. Then ask for receptivity to My unfailing Love.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.—1 John 4:15–16, 18

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”—Deuteronomy 33:27

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.—Psalm 13:5

I thought that was pretty good but I didn’t totally let it sink in. I mean, I read it, right? But then after tossing and turning a few hours, I woke up, grabbed my iPad and pulled up the Bible app. I figured I’d read a bit. I have no idea how it worked this way and don’t remember what I read in that app last, but the app opened the Bible right up to this scripture:

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

—1 John 4:15–16, 18

It gets better. In the morning, I read a separate devotional based on a scripture. Guess what the scripture turned out to be? Yep.. 1 John 4:15-18.

Given my prayers beginning with “God, I’m scared…” off and on the previous day, ya think there is a message here about my fears?!

I think that this is what they mean by “getting a Word” from the Lord.

It’s these moments that freak me out in a good way. I literally giggle out loud and say “Thank you, God” several times over.