Stepping Thru the Dalet
Twenty-two months ago I started Beyond the Dalet. Since then, I have gone through a variety of design changes, and personal transitions. Through this journey I am not only learning the ins and outs of blogging, I am processing through defining my passion and sharpening my focus. I have discovered things about myself I was not consciously aware of at the onset of this expedition. For one, I am more able to define what I don’t do as much as what I do do. That might sound simple but something those boundaries get blurred.
Here’s what I discovered
What I came to realize about myself is that the spiritual essence packed in the Dalet doesn’t just describe the focus of my ministry (what I do), it expresses who I am. That might sound a bit odd, especially if you don’t know what a dalet is. It’s also a bit weird to describe yourself by a Hebrew letter. But yeah, I’m weird. I’m okay with my weirdness. Dalet is infused with the divine energy that transitions us from where we are to where we need to be. It is the dynamic energy that moves us from one state of being to another.
I’m all about focused and deliberate renewal and transformation. My life’s goal is to daily immerse myself in the goodness of God so much that I will hardly notice when I have transitioned from this life to the next.
I made a choice
Years ago, I made a choice. I decided I wanted intimacy with God as a lifestyle. I chose not merely to obey His word and to do what Holy Spirit was instructing me to do, but to live in intimate communion with the Lord every day. I took on the concept of living in what I called unbroken fellowship with God. I decided that I wanted to be God conscious rather than simply situation conscious. That didn’t mean that I lived in some kind of LaLa Land where I escaped the reality of everyday life. It meant that I wanted to be conscious of my loving Father God, the leading and prompting of Holy Spirit, and the friendship of Jesus in every situation and circumstance throughout my day. I worked at it. I worked hard at it. It wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. It was not a popular choice, but it was one that I still hold as a value today.
I didn’t start out there
I grew up in an abusive environment. My family of origin was the stomping ground for verbal, physical, sexual and psychological abuse. It was chuck full of ridicule, condemnation, toxic shame, debilitating intimidation and the mixed signals that come with ‘I hurt you because I love you.’ Internally I was a mess. I was ashamed of my inner debris. I never thought I was good enough for anything. Yet something inside of me fought against the condemning words that daunted me daily. I wanted freedom. I secretly hoped that someone would come along and rescue me from these people who had obviously kidnapped me from my real family, who loved me and were still looking for me. The first step was to face the reality that this was my real family. Yikes. Yeah, that didn’t go down so easy. Because it meant that my real family really mistreated me. How could this be? I learned that hurt people hurt people. I learned that if I wanted to be free from the abuse I was going to have to take my release in hand and walk it out.
I needed something I didn’t think I possessed
I needed courage. I was always called a ‘fraidy cat. I was petrified of people. I trusted no one. Yet, I trusted people who were actually not worthy of trust. Go figure. I couldn’t control anything, yet I tried to control everything. I was always afraid. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of talking in front of people. In school I would take a failing grade rather than get up in front of the class. And that was with people I had known throughout childhood. I was terrified of everything. I didn’t want to be afraid anymore. If I was going to have any freedom at all I was going to have to start by facing fear
I’m not interested in rock climbing, sky diving or other extreme sport. But I still don’t want fear to stop me from the things I do want to do. I want to be able to talk about the things I value without feeling less than everyone else in the room. I want to take the risks I want to take, not the ones someone else thinks I should. I want to live courageously being myself. I don’t want miss out on something I want to do because fear prevents me.
So, the first fear I decided to conquer was my fear of walking on the elevated train platform. Mind you I had to get on that darned thing every day to go to work. I hated it but it was the only method of transportation I had. I was about 20 years old at the time. I almost passed out one time because the fear got the best of me. I had a full-blown panic attack on an overcrowded morning train. I turned white as a sheet as voices became distant and my head began to swoon. Just in time someone saw my dilemma and offered me their seat. That was a catalyst for change. I didn’t want fear to have that kind of grip on me anymore. I decided to do something about it. I wasn’t going to take on all my fears at once. But that one had to go if I was going to get back and forth to work in one piece.
I had a very specific way I navigated the elevated platform. I walked up the stairs and stayed as close to the railing as possible. I looked for a spot that where I could stand in the exact middle, not too close to the edge. As the train approached you could feel the platform begin to shake and sway a bit. In my mind that meant the whole thing could collapse at any moment. Fear is irrational. But it seems entirely logical in the moment. If it didn’t it wouldn’t induce fear.
Anyway, I decided that if I was going to get over my fear I was going to have to face it. I practiced taking chances. On my days off I would go to the train and climb the platform during non-rush hour times. I could stand as close or as far away from the edge as I wanted to without being jostled by the crowd. I had to feel safe. I had to somehow lay hold of a feeling of safety while experiencing fear in the situation.
Each time I did the exercise I gained more and more confidence. I was less stressed and felt a greater sense of confidence no matter where I stood on the platform. When the train pulled into the station I chose to focus on a sign or someone on the opposite platform. While my heart was pounding rapidly, I was sweating profusely, and I wanted to scramble off that platform as quickly as possible, I had to speak to my mind and tell it to be calm. I had to tell myself that I actually was safe and okay. It wasn’t easy. But I learned something. If you stand in it and hold onto the emotion it will eventually begin to fade. When I let myself feel the fear and not react to it by running away, I discovered the feeling would dissipate. At first it took a while before the fear calmed. But, the more I practiced holding onto the emotion of fear without responding to it the less control fear had over my actions.
In time I tested my new-found confidence. There was one platform on the particular train line that was double the length of all the others. It not only was longer, but it went around a curve. You could see the whole structure sway from street level as a train pulled into the station. I knew if I was really over my fear if I could walk across that platform as a train pulled into the station. It took multiple attempts over an extended period of time, but I finally did it. The confidence eventually became greater than the fear. When I could walk the curvy platform without any sense of fear, I rewarded myself with an evening out at my favorite restaurant to celebrate my victory. Dinner was secondary. The greatest reward was the sense of confidence and triumph I felt inside myself. The enjoyment of that dinner is long gone. The reward of facing my fear and trading it for confidence and inner strength has never left.
Triumph payed off
An interesting note is that a number of years later I took a job right off that particular station. I walked that platform twice a day for four years. I remember thinking as I went for the interview, I never would have considered applying at this place before I had conquered my fear. It ended up being one of the best employers I’ve had. It took courage to face that fear. It took letting go of the fear and embracing who I wanted to be, someone willing to take risks. It might seem like a small thing. But we don’t start out with big jumps. We start out with small ones. We build confidence through making small choices every day. Some days the fears won. But those days were fewer and further apart as I progressed in my journey to living free of fear. No, you won’t find me jumping out of airplanes or skiing down the Alps. That’s not who I am. But you will find me standing in front of an audience or writing a blog. You will find me being vulnerable and authentic in other ways. I am more willing to take a risk after years of practice. That doesn’t mean I throw caution to the wind and take senseless and meaningless chances. It means I don’t let fear stand in the way of the things I truly want to do, or how I want to be in life.
Pick a Fear
For those who don’t see themselves as courageous can I encourage you to face the smallest fear you have by taking steps to overcome that fear. Maybe it’s talking to a stranger. Maybe that fear is riding a bicycle. Maybe that fear is going to a restaurant alone. Pick a fear that you consider to be holding you back from enjoying your life more fully. Pick something you value not something that doesn’t really matter to you, and pick something you are willing to change. Don’t pick something you aren’t ready to face.
Prepare Your Mind
Prepare your mind for action. For instance, like taking on the challenge of standing fear free on a train platform, see yourself as you would like to be. Picture yourself standing on that platform with your head held high and think about what it might feel like to have confidence in that situation. Tell yourself you can. If you have to tell yourself several times a day for several weeks before you make the first attempt, then do just that. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t expect the fear to just fall off the first time. Don’t try to do it perfectly. Just do it. Keep at it. It will happen. Keep doing it until your confidence begins to push away the fear. If you feel you need the support of a friend steer away from anyone who would feed the fear, belittle your efforts or otherwise shame you in the process. In other words, find someone who will be a strength; not someone who will shame, coerce or otherwise sabotage your efforts. Then celebrate the victory. Decide ahead of time what the reward will be. Plan it out. Give yourself a goal and determine an appropriate reward for achieving it. The greatest reward will be the newly found sense of inner strength.
This may seem a bit daft to some but for those who have been bound by fear I assure you this is powerful stuff. Getting free from small fears gives us the courage to face bigger fears. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself room to grow and adjust to new behaviors. Stop all negative reinforcement from your own mind. Focus on what freedom looks like. Make positive declarations that reinforce courage.
When facing we are walking through a dalet. As we take steps to face a fear, we are stepping into the divine power that move us from one state of being to another. We are transforms and transitions from a state of fear into a new condition, one of freedom, courage and strength.
Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life.
O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You. Let me not be put to shame or [my hope in You] be disappointed; let not my enemies triumph over me. Psalm 25:1-2 AMPC