Overcoming the fear

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I was never into skateboarding, but even I knew who Tony Hawk was in the 80s and 90s. Hawk is legendary to his sport, taking it places it hadn’t been before. Although it’s debated in skating circles as to who’s the best skater ever, it’s hard to debate a more influential one.

On Feb. 23 Hawk posted to his Twitter account a video of him encouraging his daughter, a novice skater. She’s on the edge of a ramp just a few feet high. And though her father is The Great Tony Hawk, she’s scared.

Hawk stands there encouraging her. Eventually, she overcomes her fear and takes off down the ramp. Listen to his excitement in the moments afterward. At that point he’s not necessarily a skateboarding legend as much as a father elated that his child has gotten past her fear. She’s realized what she’s capable of.

I can’t say I’ve ever experienced a time in my life as a Southern Baptist like now. There is hope, yes, in making others a part of the process and finding new, effective ways to proclaim and present the Gospel. Things are being done differently even if it seems we stumble now and then in taking those steps.

But, I think, fear kept us from taking those steps long ago when perhaps we should have. And just the same, fear can keep us from taking the steps we ought to now. When it comes to doing what’s right, fear shouldn’t keep us from it.

Fear is a topic dealt with throughout the Bible, but the instance of Peter walking on water spells it out best, I think.

In Matt. 14, Jesus approaches the disciples in a boat as they are caught in a storm. At first, they don’t believe what – or who – they’re seeing. The whole situation is so incredulous that they first exclaim it’s a ghost.

You and I know the story from there. After Jesus tells them to not be afraid, Peter asks the Lord to command him to come out on the sea. Once Jesus does, Peter is progressing normally until he takes his eyes of Christ, who should be the focal point of his attention. He looks again at the waves and wind. Peter reminds himself that he’s supposed to be afraid and immediately sinks until Jesus brings him up out of the water.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” the Lord asks.

Why do we doubt? The answers vary. We doubt because we don’t want to let God down. We doubt because surely that new method won’t work. Even if God is directing us toward a decision, we may experience fear on actually following through.

There’s another aspect of the fear. What happens if we overcome it, we take that step, and … it works? What new world of possibilities and responsibilities would that bring?

Peter gets knocked for taking his eyes off Jesus and slipping into the water. But there were a boatload of guys watching, unwilling to take that first step. Peter was willing.

Tony Hawk’s stature rose even higher in 1999 when he performed the first ever 900 – two-and-a-half midair revolutions on a skateboard. With a roaring crowd and fellow competitors at the X Games cheering him on, it took Hawk 12 times, but he did it.

Even more remarkable, Hawk repeated the feat in 2016 at 48 years old. The video of it is brutal, as there are no cheering crowds, no TV cameras. You can tell each fall takes more out of his aging body than when he did it nearly two decades earlier. When Hawk finally lands it, he takes off his helmet and slams it down with the kind of “take that” of someone who proved something to others, but more importantly to himself.

It would’ve been easy for Hawk to know that, at 48, that kind of feat wasn’t expected of him. But for guys like Hawk, that’s exactly why they do it.

We can be our greatest critics, placing limitations on ourselves because breaking beyond the expectation is scary. That’s true for individuals, churches … even denominations. When we get past that fear, though, we learn there wasn’t nearly as much to be afraid of. We realize our capability, which most certainly will result in an excited Father.

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