What would you do to conquer a fear?
We have capsule anxieties we talk about overcoming: Vertigo brought on by heights or disquiet toward certain critters or bugs, maybe (moths are pure evil, and you can’t convince me otherwise). We might also shy away from emotional difficulty: Setting boundaries, sharing our faith, and/or exposing vulnerabilities. Life has a way of creating and feeding our insecurities over time.
So how do we face these fears? They can spill out of our little boxes and permeate more than just phobias, and when confronted with extremes, some of us are more flight than fight. The more we give fear its foothold, the more ground it takes (and suddenly, it’s not just about the moths anymore).
In my avid appreciation for classic JRPGs, I notice in most cases the only penalty for fleeing battle is missing out on experience (there are certain exceptions, like Final Fantasy IX, where you also drop money). But by remaining in battle and succeeding, your characters level up and increase their stats to handle the tougher fights ahead. These are the accepted norms of the genre.
But think what would happen if whenever you fled – you lost stats.
That 83 in Wisdom your mage powerhouse boasts? Maybe you lose six of those points upon ducking out of a random battle. Or 10 points taken from your lead hero’s Strength stat. The more you run, the weaker your party becomes.
Of course, this would be wildly unfair in an RPG setting, where on occasion you do need to flee for strategic reasons (true enough in life at times, too). But fleeing in fear from our own conflicts or hurdles can lead to real-life, long-term consequences. Our own courage may atrophy. Perhaps we even lose the will to fight.
What would you do to conquer your fears?
Is that the question we should be asking? Are we pixelated characters with stat boosts who grow by throwing themselves into the fray? In some ways the metaphor holds true, but as Christians a better approach to the question would be: Where do you look to conquer your fears?
From the way he’s presented in the Gospels, I’d say the Apostle Peter had impressive Guts stats. He rushed into everything – declarations, promises, ear-amputation, and most famously an open sea of storm-tormented waves (Matthew 14:22-32). He walked into that chaos on the mere word from Jesus that all would be all right. I mean, I struggle even changing a behavior for God, much less jumping into raging tempests for Him. But anyone who knows the story will know where Peter failed: When his attention shifted from the Savior to the problem. Who wouldn’t quail at drowning in a storm, where walking on water should be impossible? Yet Jesus told Peter to trust him.
RPG heroes grow from command executions, but for a Christian the growth is ultimately not in our own power. God created us with the need for His strength because He is relational and calls us to obedience. I’m not able to look at what intimidates me and feel mighty enough to conquer it, and I think there’s purpose to that. The impulse without Christ is almost always to flee, but if I see him beyond the waves and wind, I learn by steps to believe in his power over mine.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still, according to Exodus 14:14 (I guess that means no idle animations, eh?) I say the fight belongs to God, but do I really live that out? The reason I’ll grow from facing my battles is not because I increase my own strength, but because I increase the strength of my faith in the One who can really bring the victory fanfare. My stats are His to build.
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