To this day, it is probably one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had. The long days challenged and fulfilled me. I cried. I felt insecure. And I felt like I was doing what I was born to do, and yet wanted to retreat back from ever doing it again.
For three summers in my early 20’s I was a Chaplain at an air cadet base in Alberta. It was a 10-week summer position with the Department of National Defence that worked superbly with my schooling and other job at the time. The pay was great and my expenses were low since we lived on the base. It was a world I had never known since I had never been through cadet training. As Chaplains, we taught classes, counselled, brought kids to a variety of churches in the city, and were the overall ‘morale builders’ of the base.
I had the opportunity to teach Life Skills classes to kids who were, many of them, away from home for the first time. Basic Cadets was their ‘class’. As I stood at the front of my classroom I was confronted with with sweaty ADD ridden 12-year-olds and I was on fire with both fear and exhilaration. Did they even hear what I just said?
There were four of us in the chaplain role, and we would pass off the pager so that someone was available 24/7. I recall getting called into counselling sessions where I would talk to young girls who were cutting themselves, and young boys who were convinced they had seen a ‘face’ in the toe of their polished boot. I learned SO much in those three summers.
In that role, the fear of the unknown and the sense that I was so unqualified for what I was called upon to do – woke me up. It didn’t paralyze me even though it scared me. I realized the state of what youth were dealing with. I realized that I could rise to the challenge of creating a curriculum for 30 youth that would inspire and challenge them. I realized I did have something to say to an Officer who had been in the military for years, but needed a friend to listen to.
I truly felt alive.
This past weekend Troy and I went to the movie Divergent with some family. Well written and captivating, the movie has a Hunger Games vibe to it. The main character, Triss, is called upon to choose which ‘faction’ (a societal classing system) she belonged to. She chose the one that was full of action and adventure, who were called upon to protect the fallen city – Dauntless. She had to fight and challenge herself in ways she never had before.
You see Triss didn’t fit in any of the class systems that had been created. She was unique and thought differently. She was a divergent. In one scene, the man who is training her (whom she of course falls in love with!) says to her when she asks him why she is different, “Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.”
Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.
It’s made me think how in every situation we have two options when we face difficulty: it can either shut us down, or wake us up.
What challenge are you facing right now that seems bigger than you? I know the thrill of being awoken by challenge. I also know the feeling of shrinking back and regretting my retreat later on.
2 Timothy 1:7 says that, “God has NOT given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
God never created us to be people that retreat. He actually created us to face challenge, and overcome it. He created within us the ability to meet something that is scary and bigger than us and say, “I can rise to meet this.” Through Him and His strength, we can actually be woken up in every situation. And find a deeper, more fulfilling life in the meantime.
So I ask you…
What will you say to the next challenge that comes – shut me down, or wake me up?