Duck and Run

I want to talk about fear for a little bit.  I’ll keep it short, as tomorrow morning several members of the AC STL ERT, including myself, are departing to serve in response to the 11-13 August Flooding in Detroit.  Our assignment is Direct Service, mucking and gutting homes affected by the rising waters that fell from the skies above.  We are scheduled to be out there for the next month, but as with everything, plans could easily change in a moments notice.

Several weeks ago, I was writing the rough draft of Journey’s: the adventures of a Nomad, and these were the words that were left on the page:

I stood in the doorway confused as the wave of nervous energy washed over me.  I grabbed a teammate as he slid past to ask what was going on.  We were being deployed to Joplin.

In that moment, I froze.  Those were the words I feared; we were being deployed to Joplin.  Everything stood still and the chaos faded to silence as my thoughts were filled with the cry of a mother that has haunted me since my time in Uganda.  All I could feel was that sinking feeling in my gut of being helpless, something I had promised myself I would never allow myself to experience again.

I don’t know how long I stood there holding my breath, but I found myself closing my eyes and forcing myself to breathe.  As suddenly as it faded, the chaos of the moment washed back over me, forcing the fears away from my thoughts.  I opened my eyes to see my teammates there before me, packing, and I knew that this was exactly where I needed to be.

Fear can be a powerful force in our lives.  It is natural to be afraid, our experiences teach us that there are in fact monsters lurking in the darkness of our thoughts and the past will continue to haunt us as we allow ourselves to run from our experiences.  I have run so many times.  Fight or flight.  And so many times our instinct of survival forces us to flee from that which we perceive as destructive, harmful, or to dark to face alone.

Fear has helped me to survive, to become the man I am today.  Facing those same fears, instead of running, has allowed me to grow through times where I thought was going to be my downfall.

The instinct is still to flee, to duck and run, but experience has shown me that I am stronger than the darkest thoughts and experiences.  Oh, they still haunt me.  I still feel the clutch of darkness at night.  I still hear the cry of that Ugandan mother whose child died within arms reach.  I still get that deep sinking feeling in my gut, the feeling as if I am about to loose my last meal.  And I embrace each as they come.

I accept my fears because they are part of who I am.  In a way, they are my armor, my shield.  My strength and courage.

The strange thing about fear is that it doesn’t ever go away.  No matter how strong your faith is, it will remain there.  Waiting.  Like a good friend.

We can run from it.  Or we can accept it.  Turn our path into a crash course and charge headlong.  Or wait in silence and stillness until it crashes over us.  Face it with eyes wide open.

So, take a breath and dive in.


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