For the past few days my baby has been waking up unusually early. When he wakes up this early he’s not the happy baby that’s ready to be up. He’s grumpy and falls asleep on me again instantly.
So, on Sunday at six thirty I found myself quite awake in an apartment of sleeping people. We had bacon, but no eggs. So I walked down the two flights of stairs and into the sixty degree summer morning made chiller by the wind.
I was thinking about fear. I thought about how much people fear and the silly things they fear. I remembered how fearful I had been as a child when I had to interact with adults or make phone calls to strangers. I remembered my mother practically pushing me out of the van on the first day of soccer practice with a new team.
I got to the little shop on 25th and Clement that opens at six and bought some eggs and a small orange juice. I nodded to the workers unloading produce. I exchanged pleasantries with the owner. He’s a nice man with laughing eyes and we talk about our kids. His youngest is six, the perfect age, he says.
“So, I’m just getting there, huh?” I asked.
“Yeah, my daughter’s fourteen and all this,” he mimes texting on a cell phone and shakes his head, “just drives me crazy.”
I laugh, but I wonder if that’s what I look like sometimes. We say goodbye and I walk back out into the wind.
I think about fear again. I wonder if his daughter is on the phone so much because she fears loneliness. Could that be my reason? How can I be scared of loneliness if I’m never alone? How much does fear hold us back from doing more and bigger? If I wasn’t scared how much more could God do with me?
I remembered how scared I was before I went to Africa for a medical mission trip when I was twenty. There were things to fear. A girl had been pricked by a needle the year before and had been getting tested for HIV all the year since. I was going to see AIDS, polio, and starvation. God had shown me, at the time, that it was more than just a scary experience; it was a chance to be brave.
And doesn’t life give us so many opportunities to be brave?
How many things would I have missed if I had not been brave? Would I be walking the streets of San Francisco right now?
I say good morning to the crazy Bikram people on the sidewalk, freezing in their shorts waiting for the instructor to come let them in so that they can feel a bit of real summer before breakfast.
I was suddenly thankful that I was a fearful child. I breathed my thanks into the cold. How often do we long for a chance to prove our bravery, to be bold, to be daring?
When I fear, my chance arrives.
The streets are quiet. I look to the right and see the fog covering the bay, straight ahead and see it breaking over the tops of the trees in the presidio, little wisps overflowing at the top, dissolving on the other side. I wonder how cold it is at the beach with no break between you and the wind.
My keys sound loud in the stillness of the street. I feel the instant relief as the door to my building closes behind me. I walk past the sleeping doors of my neighbors and unlock my own. I consider the word “dormant”, “door-mant”.
I continue to think about fear, so insidious that we don’t often recognize it hiding in our reticence. I want to take the time right now to sit down and seek it out in myself, but we leave for church in an hour. What resistance in me is really fear?
And as I’m laying the bacon out strip by strip on the baking tray I find it strangely appropriate to think of Pa Ingalls. He reminds Laura that if you do something enough it becomes a habit with a body, just as anything else does.
So it goes with finishing things and bravery.
Practice, practice, practice…