Strong women jump out of airplanes, do stand-up comedy, smoke cigars while speaking about literature in swanky uptown bars in New York City, and run successful corporations. Right?
Strong women don’t cry all night because they are afraid of the decision they just made to move into an inner city neighborhood. Strong women don’t ask for people to pray for them because fear is consuming them. Strong women don’t wait until their upstairs neighbor gets home at 3:00 am to finally fall asleep because now they feel safe. Or do they?
Much like the Ugly Duckling saw only its flawed exterior and was shocked when it had transformed into a beautiful, majestic swan, I only saw my fearful self, crying out to God and wondering why I had chosen to move into the ‘hood. I wasn’t strong or brave. I just loved the kids I worked with and wanted to live nearby to understand their lives and world better. But somehow in the process of being fearful, I became strong.
I learned to trust God’s word that said he would protect my coming and going. I recently read my journal entry dated a few days after I moved in. “Tonight was pretty scary. As I was getting out of my car, I heard multiple gunshots which at the time I thought were fireworks but unlikely since it was December. I became nervous and ran inside my apartment. Later, the news reported that a man in his wheelchair had been fatally shot 25 times just three blocks from my apartment. Supposedly, the victim’s arm stayed extended as he pointed his weapon at the police and they continued to shoot at him.”
But as I reread my journal and think back to those days, I know the Lord was right by my side showing me His love and asking me to love my neighbor. He’d say, “I love you, my child. Don’t be afraid. You have so much joy and radiance and it will be shown to your neighbors. They need love. Will you love them?”
One afternoon, my new neighbors said hello. I found it funny that the first thing they said to me was, “Hita, (Spanish for daughter), we ain’t rapists or thieves or nothing….
It was both endearing and disturbing, but each morning Antonio was there to say, “What’s your story, Morning Glory?” We would catch up on life and wish each other a great day.
Through multiple positive interactions with people in my neighborhood, I began to trust and develop caring relationships. I began to learn the truth of “perfect love casts out all fear.” I began to view everyone, even people I probably shouldn’t have, as safe loving children of God who needed love and some TLC. Looking back, I can see that I was transformed into a woman of strength. I took risks, prayed with honesty, and loved well in the midst of being a fearful little soul.
After living in my little apartment a few years, I bought a home in the heart of my neighborhood, taught at one of the toughest inner city schools in Denver, and mentored many children. My scared little soul blossomed into a fearless and strong one!
People often tell me they think I am strong, but I wish they could know that I freak out when I think of wearing a dress and looking pretty out in the real world; that I shake like an earthquake before I get up to make an announcement at church; that I’m terrified to blog but really want to be a writer and speaker.
Do you think that’s the case with all of us? Whether we jump out of planes, lead others, or live in a community as a minority, I’ll bet there’s fear involved. Rhonda Britten, author of Fearless Living, says, “You’ve heard it said a thousand times, when it gets down to it, there are only two emotions: fear or love.”
So, what’s your fear? Do you only see your Ugly Duckling fearful self right now? What risk would you be willing to take to overcome that fear and be transformed into a Strong, Beautiful, Fearless and Loving Swan?