The Man in the Jungle: Releasing Fear's Controlling Grip on Our Lives
"... and he whispers to your heart to let it go and to be alive."
This weekend, my team took a four hour long bus ride to the beach (it only cost $5! World Race budget style :)) and are staying at these cute little bungalows right on the Gulf of Thailand.
Something a little strange happened when we checked in yesterday. We have a ton of girls piled into one room and not enough beds for each of us, so I planned on sleeping in my hammock. I asked the nice woman at the reception desk if that would be safe and she didn't understand my question. However, a minute later she explained that we really needed to lock up all of our belongings and be very careful to not leave things laying around because, she explained with wild eyes, of "the man in the jungle" - and pointed to the jungle beside us. She explained, in broken English that she had seen him just yesterday and that he caused "many problems."
After what happened to me in Durban (see my blog post about getting robbed), I take things like weirdos hanging out in the woods seriously. Fear gripped me when I thought about sleeping in my hammock, something that had brought me tremendous joy in the past. Before before getting robbed, I was cautious but I didn't let those types of things invade my thoughts too much.
So I went to investigate the situation. The porch where I would be sleeping seemed very secure - on stilts about 8-9 feet off the ground and it would take a lot of effort for someone to get up to it. There was barbed wire on the side that faced the jungle. I could leave the doors open to the room and be about 3 feet away from my teammates. In all rational thoughts, sleeping on the porch wasn't that big of a risk. Still, fear gripped me. But then, that changed. I decided to not let fear keep me from doing something I wanted to do. My teammate Leticia prayed over the porch and over me. She prayed for God to send angels to protect me through the night (did you know we as Christians have the authority to summon angels? So cool!). And not just any angels - she asked for the big strong ones. She also told me she was a light sleeper and would hear me if I called out. So I set up my hammock and confidently slept soundly through the night - only waking a few times to picture the 'big, strong' angels at each corner of the balcony. And you know what? I really believe they were there, looking over me and the other girls in our room. I couldn't see them but I could feel their calming presence.
I also started thinking. You know - there's always a "man in the jungle." There's always something or someone lurking, whether it's real or imagined, and often times, we let the "man in the jungle" - or the fear of him - hold us back.
One of the biggest compliments I've ever gotten was from my voice teacher in Lexington, Kentucky (John Ireson). My mom was talking to him once and he told her "I like Kara. She's got guts." And for the most part, I do. But the thing is, I'm not always brave. Sometimes I let fear hold me back. I felt the calling for missions long before I went to Haiti but I let the fear of not having enough money to go hold me back, not realizing the blessing that comes through fundraising. I didn't want to ask others for money - I didn't want to admit that I truly needed others, and there's also a lot of humbling that comes through the process that I wasn't ready to do yet. When I was called to the Race, I hesitated on the decision. I had many sleepless nights, sweating with anxiety thinking about missing my family for a year, thinking about not seeing my niece and nephew for 11 whole months of their lives. Wondering how much I would miss from home and what if something happened and I couldn't be there?
Today, laying in my hammock next to the jungle with tears streaming down my face, I'm overcome with thankfulness that God has walked me through those fears. What if I had missed out on this year in my life? What if I had let fear hold me back - what if I hadn't met the 39 other people I've been doing life with and who have changed me, in big and small ways? What if I hadn't experienced everything I have this year - had my heart broken by poverty in South Africa, helped a new church plant in Botswana, felt overcome by God's love and also had my heart bleed for orphans in Madagascar, taught English and been called "Mom" for the first time in Vietnam? Experienced a team change, a fresh start, and felt more loved and accepted than I have in a long time in Cambodia?
Releasing fear's grip on our lives is scary, terrifying even. But when we realize that God has our families in his hands, sends his angels to watch us as we are sleeping, and even uses traumatic events like getting robbed to work in the hearts of those who steal from others and the hearts of those who have things taken - we start to embrace the journey that God wants to take us on in our lives. We start to experience the grit and the dangers and the hard stuff - but along the way we see glimpses of God's beauty. We start to - like Peter - take our eyes off the waves and start focusing on Jesus' face. And we realize we can accomplish things we never thought possible. We stop sinking and start walking on water.
"Adventure in theory is full of excitement and bleeds with passion for life. But adventure in reality is full of breathless moments, silent nights and wounds that leave scars of memory on a heart. Can I go the distance? Can I give all my mind to get what the Messenger is saying? Can I surrender my knowing? Can I survive the humility of ignorance to obtain a treasure that earthly gold cannot buy?"
"Take me back, back to the beginning. When I was young, running through the fields with you..."
By the way, if you haven't checked out United Pursuit's album, Simple Gospel, you really should. It's great! Also, how do I have 194 subscribers?! That is amazing! Thank you for caring so much and sharing this journey with me. I love all of ya'll!
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