By Kaylee Henn
It was the very last night of summer before moving to college freshman year; I was laying in my bed and even over the sound of my fan I could hear the drone of the cicadas and the chirping of the crickets. As I laid there, my mind started doing that thing minds do when all you want is a little sleep.
I thought about how, over the past few years, I had battled the paralyzing sensation of trying to achieve perfection in every aspect of life, the sheer terror of starting conversations with new people, and hopelessness of waking up in the morning with no motivation to continue the façade of ‘having it all together.’ I thought about the many comforts of being in a place I could call home, and the elements of familiarity and consistency which were an essential component in my identity: my family, my church, my house, my close friends.
And as I tossed and turned, the thought of this being the last night I would ever sleep in my bed before beginning a completely new chapter made my stomach do somersaults.
“I can’t do this.”
I walked out into the living room and started sobbing harder than I had in long while.
“I can’t do this. I can’t go. Don’t make me go. Please. I don’t want to.”
My mom sat down next to me on the couch and listened as I poured out the waves of bottled up anxiety and fear.
Suddenly I remembered the simple sentence in 1 John 4:18: “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.”
The verse echoed in my mind as I sat on the couch, tearfully dreading the move to Northwestern the next day.
Now fast forward…surprise…I came to school. And I stayed, but not by my strength or ability. Being out of my comfort zone pushed me closer and caused me to rely on God in new ways. But there were still many moments when I felt completely out of control, anxious, and fearful. And it wasn’t the kind of fear you feel when you curl under a blanket during a scary movie, but the paralyzing fear that controls emotion and thought, that comes from placing little pieces of your identity in others and their opinions, and the kind of fear that holds you captive with that tight, constrictive feeling in your core.
But I came. And I stayed. Was it because of the campus community? The relationships I’ve built? The experiences I’ve had? The education I’ve received? The new comfort I’ve created?
And the answer to that is no, not entirely. Those things are good, great even. But over the course of the last couple years God has been continually revealing the beauty of his salvation, teaching me about the dangers of sin and the miracle of forgiveness in love. Through time spent alone in scripture and prayer, conversations with dear friends, and advice and encouragement from mentors, I’ve felt God move and grow me closer to himself. But that overwhelming fear which consumes me whenever I am holding too tightly to comfort is not overcome by substituting old comforts for new ones. Rather, it’s the gradual stripping of my solaces and replacing them with a meditation on the vast love of Christ.
I am not defined by my situations: past, present or future. Fear, while real and scary and powerful, is not the identity given to me by Christ and I don’t have to live in it. Through Jesus I can live in LOVE, a love that doesn’t settle for comfortable or normal and steady, but a love that breaks the bonds of fear and sets me free to embrace the unfamiliarity of His beauty and purposes, wherever he calls me to go.