“Dawn, let go and jump! I’ll catch you!”
I could barely hear my coach’s encouraging words above the ringing in my ears. All I could make out was the muffled sound of “Wah, wah, wah,” as he pleaded with me to take the plunge into the pool of water below.
My teammates also tried coercing me, although they were not quite as patient or understanding. It was hot, and they were anxious to take a dive into the cool refreshment waiting fifteen feet beneath my toes. Even with a few choice names for me, they could not budge me off my perch.
For the first time, at the age of twelve, I was paralyzed with fear. Minutes before I had courageously made my way to the top. Now, my only thought was, “I’m going to die.” What was happening? I had taken this dive many times before. It was easy. It was fun. So why was I stuck here now?
“Do not sit down! Just jump!”
In panic, I had dropped to a squatting position and was holding on for dear life. What had caused me to become so frozen with fear that my coach had to silence the team, get out of the water, and climb to my rescue?
“Just let go.” It took some serious persuasion on his part to coax me to release my grip, grab his hand, and allow him to guide me to safety.
It seemed like hours as he calmly inched us off the board, down the ladder, and back to the reality I had failed in a big way. The pain of hot concrete burning the bottoms of my feet paled compared to the pain of my bruised ego.
I wish I could identify the source of that paralyzing fear, but I never did figure it out. Maybe I was traumatized by the sight of a neighborhood friend who had fallen off that same board the summer before, resulting in several lost teeth and two broken wrists. Perhaps, witnessing my sixteen-year-old cousin drown at camp that same year triggered my panic.
I don’t know, but I suspect that before there were any real labels for it, I had a case of PTSD, bringing with it episodes of debilitating fear. Back in those days, no one understood the effects of trauma on people, much less on children. It was easier to believe we could just get over it if we determined to do so.
And that I did.
I decided I would never let fear control me again. I attempted to control my environment enough to keep from feeling insecure or afraid. As a child, I had many reasons to be fearful, my dad’s drinking being one. While he loved and provided for us, our homelife could be perfectly “normal” one day and complete chaos the next. I lived in a constant state of anxiety, but at least that was better than the feelings of helplessness and fear.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid…” Psalm 56:3-4
Even as a young girl, my determination to control my fear meant that everything needed to be in perfect order. I carried that same attitude straight into adulthood.I loved the Lord and believed I had surrendered my life to him, but I still struggled with the need to control my life, my surroundings, even my family.I loved the Lord and believed I had surrendered my life to him, but I still struggled with the need to control my life, my surroundings, even my family. - Dawn Ward Click To Tweet
I was married and raising three teenagers when my faith was challenged in a way I could not have imagined or prepared for.
“Our son is addicted to drugs,” my husband spoke the words quietly. A familiar, uninvited feeling overwhelmed me. Once again, I only heard the sound of “Wah, wah, wah” ringing in my ears like so many years earlier.
I didn’t speak. I could barely breathe. In that moment my need to control was desperately trying to take the reins. I needed to fix him. I needed to fix us, but instead paralyzing fear had taken me hostage.
“Jesus, Jesus,” I whispered.
I was powerless to get off the floor, much less put two words together. In despair, I cried out to the only One truly able to rescue a frightened girl from the high dive or lift a broken mom up and give her the courage she would need for her battle. In that moment of complete fear, Jesus was there.In despair, I cried out to the only One truly able to rescue a frightened girl from the high dive or lift a broken mom up and give her the courage she would need for her battle. - Dawn Ward Click To Tweet
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4
In my darkest valley, with fear overwhelming me, I had a choice to make. I could try to control everything, or I could let go and trust the Lord, believing his love could save my son from his addiction and set me free from my fears.
How could I let go when holding on to him for dear life seemed like the only way to save him?
Tearfully, I made the choice to let go. It wasn’t easy then. It isn’t easy now. Circumstances have a way of pulling me back into old patterns of responding. But living in peace apart from fear is worth the effort.
Learning to let go is an ongoing lesson. My faith continues to be tested in ways that cause me to want to squat and hold on for dear life. Today, while I can gratefully say our son is free from his addiction, his brother is now fighting the same battle. I am still tempted to control, but I am learning the daily act of surrender. As I learn to let go, fear slowly releases its grip on me.
Like me, you may find yourself in a circumstance you can’t control. Fear may overwhelm you. Holding on with every fiber of your being may seem like the only answer, but it’s not.
I encourage you to face your fear, climb the ladder up that high dive, walk courageously to the end of the board, and with reckless abandon, let go and plunge into the loving arms of Jesus. He promises he will be there to catch you. After all, he’s been there all along.
I am honored to have been asked to share a small piece of my story with you.
Please share in the comments below how God has given you faith beyond fear.
Dawn R. Ward, Contributing Writer
Dawn R. Ward is an author, blogger, speaker, and founder of The Faith to Flourish, a ministry offering support and encouragement for women of loved ones who struggle with addiction.
Dawn has served in Women’s Ministry and leadership for more than 30 years. Professionally, she works in the medical field, primarily with female patients, giving her a unique perspective into the hearts and lives of women.
Married to her husband, Steve, for thirty-seven years, they have three adult children, two sons who have at times in their lives struggled with substance use disorder, and a daughter who is on the Autism spectrum. Her passion is to teach and equip women to live victorious lives of faith in spite of the hardships they are facing.
Dawn is co-author with Valerie Silveira of the book, Still Standing After All the Tears, Faith in the Battle Edition Workbook. She blogs words of hope and faith on her site, thefaithtoflourish.com.
More Stories of Reaching Beyond Fear into Faith in Christ
A Baby Step of Faith by Heather Norman Smith
Redefining Fear by Jennifer Cotney
Flying Through the Air with Faith by Amy Merritt
Faith, Fear, and Fire Hydrants by Chip Mattis
The Dreaded F Word by Norma Poore
His Hope in the Darkness by Alynda Long