A friend recently gave me this bracelet because it’s National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in September. That’s a fact I didn’t think I’d ever note in my life. I guess while breast cancer awareness is pink, ovarian is a pretty teal blue. Who knew that cancers were assigned colors…as if it makes them easier if they are assigned a pretty color.
I LOVE the bracelet though. “Be brave” reminds me of all the times in scripture we are reminded to “be strong and courageous”
Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Daniel: “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
David: “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
Paul: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
I used to wonder about how this works. How do you stop being afraid of things? How do you “be strong, brave, courageous”?
Seems like fear just is. It just happens….?
So…I was on the Weakest Link. Maybe you remember that game show? It was a quiz show that was hosted by a perfectly awful British woman who would say (in the worst possible tone of voice) “You are the weakest link—goodbye!”
It was a really popular TV show when I started working in genetics, and I’m not a very fast learner so my coworkers often quipped this phrase at me when I made mistakes. “You are the weakest link!!!” One day, my friend Laura saw a notice in the paper advertising the opportunity to audition for the show, and suggested that I could OFFICIALLY be the weakest link, so off we went! Ironically (because I’d never seen the show before), I was chosen to be on it! They flew me out to Hollywood, put me up in a fancy hotel (where I met Bernie Mac in the lobby…) and put me on TV!
I was TERRIFIED.
When people ask me about the most scared I’ve ever been, being on TV ranks at the top of my list. It was all fun…makeup, hair, instructions, paperwork, meeting Jay Leno and seeing one of his crazy fancy cars in the back parking lot…and then we got on the set. All the lights and cameras- and a studio audience. Yikes. I was the 1st person up- which meant I was the 1st to record my introduction and the first to answer a question. The camera was a few feet from my face and the producer said, “Ok Ruthanne, we are taking all the lights down and on the count down of three they will come up and you will be live.” The room went dark.
PANIC!!!!!!! I’ve heard people say that a second can feel like so much more time, and this happened to me in this moment. I wondered what they would do if I ran. I wondered what they would do if I screamed. I wondered what would happen if I did both….?
“You are not alone.” I didn’t hear an audible voice, but it was a sentence spoken so loudly in my spirit that it silenced my inner panic. “You are not alone. I’m here.”
God. Here on a game show set in Hollywood. Here in the dark waiting with me in my panic.
My fear vanished- it actually vanished. I took a deep breath, and…
The lights came up and I played the game and I….well…maybe I won, maybe I didn’t. I don’t tell- I make people watch it with me 🙂
Later, when I thought back on this experience with God, I thought about Psalm 46 where it says:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
Lesson #1: Fear leaves in God’s presence, and He is ever-present.
My second lesson in fear happened just before I left for the Navajo Nation. I had coffee with a man named Jim who I’d worked with before in training mission teams. He runs a camp for inner city kids and he has experienced many instances of spiritual oppression and fought many battles on this front. I’d heard that there was much spiritual darkness where I was going and I was curious to learn more about how Jim does battle.
He had simple advice. He gave me a verse from 2 Timothy 1:7:
“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
He explained the simple truth that the spirit of fear does not come from God. It comes from Satan. Refuse that spirit. Ask God to take it away from you so that it doesn’t control you in any way. Simply REFUSE and REBUKE fear. Running into battle is harder when you are trembling in fear.
I’d never thought of it that way before, and I tucked his advice away for use on my new mission field. But I was never afraid. I mean, there were spiders and snakes I was afraid of- and tumbleweed freaks me out… but there were no overwhelming or controlling fears that I struggled with there.
I came home, started raising support, went to training in Chicago in early October of last year, and on my way home dad called. “They think mom has cancer”.
Fear. Overwhelming and paralyzing fear. I hung up the phone and drove and panicked over all the scenarios the future could hold. I felt worse and worse- I’ve never had a panic attack, but I think I came close that day on the Indiana Toll Road.
Then I remembered that verse Jim had given me almost a year earlier.
This fear was not from God. Out loud, I started praying and asking God to remove the overwhelming fear. I asked him to replace it with His power, love, self-control and peace.
He did. The fear completely left that day. It occasionally crept back in over the course of mom’s illness. We got SUCH bad news, over and over. But fear didn’t control me anymore. God’s spirit filled me- not the spirit of fear.
Lesson #2 Paralyzing fear is not from God and with God’s help you can refuse it and be free of it.
I’m sure I have further lessons to learn in this, but since the bracelet keeps reminding me of the ones I’ve learned I thought I’d write them down. Maybe they will be an encouragement to you. On a side note, I was just thinking the other day about the word encourage. It’s like the words enable (to make able), enclose (to make closed in), enlarge (to make large). But it’s encourage. To make brave. To make courageous.
Makes me want to be better at encouraging!!!! 🙂
I’m writing this blog for the last time from mom and dad’s living room in Battle Creek. Everything is packed, and dad moves out tomorrow. We will miss this place, but we have said goodbye well. Please pray for all the details of closing and moving and for safe travel as he takes a trailer and a cat all the way to Ocala!
Last night, mom and dad’s small group and Sunday School class had a good-bye party for dad- it was fun to share a meal and memories with these dear friends of my parents- many of whom have known our family since I was a toddler. A beautiful picture of the importance of community as we walk with God through this life.
I leave for the Czech Republic in 2 days. I will be taking part in Camp Meeting, which is a gathering of all the missionaries that work with summer camps and with interns. I will be introducing some of the changes and updates that we are making to the JV intern program. Which means I will be speaking in front of lots of people… (be brave!!!) After camp meeting is JV Fall Conference. I’ve never been to either of these events, but I’m excited to learn more about how JV equips our leaders and missionaries. I will be excited to update you about what I learn!
Pray for safe travels, health and energy (I am a failure at adapting to jet lag!). Also pray for my heart to be all there. I’m hesitant to be so far from the states with so much transition happening. (be brave!!!) I have a lot of people to meet with and much to accomplish in areas that are best worked on face-to-face with my overseas coworkers.
Finally- I am SO close to being finished with support raising. I need exactly $252 per month in support. That’s it. Pray that God provides though monthly or annual donations.
I’ve had some time at home in Fort Wayne this month, and it has been such a blessing to spend time with some of you- to be a part of some of your celebrations and to even walk through some of your hard times. I’m looking forward to spending the fall and winter reconnecting, friends! I promise that I won’t always be insanely busy!!! I’m so thankful for your love, encouragement and support~ I believe with all my heart that God chose many of you to walk this road with me because he knew I would need exactly what you are bringing to my life. Especially those of you who make me laugh- goodness…I’ve laughed a lot this week with you! Hugs and much love! ~r