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The Sacred Scared: Fear of having failed

Something extraordinary happened over at Momastery last week. Brave women, strong women, honest women, women whose names we recognize and admire, women with huge hearts and giant platforms, stepped into the public confessional and whispered their shared secret:

They are scared.

Glennon calls this the Sacred Scared, which I love. To be vulnerable is sacred. It is holy. It says I am weak, and I am frightened, and we can share this dark space together because we are all scared. And maybe then, together in our fear, we will be less scared and more brave. And they discovered the simple act of showing up, even when we’re stuck in this sloppy, tangled, beautiful mess of fear—that, my friends, is an act of bravery which lights the way to freedom.

So each courageous writer—Rachel and Sarah, Jen and Kristen, Jamie and Nate, Tara and Jamie, Shauna and Sarah—posted a short essay describing her biggest fear, along with a no-makeup, this-is-the-real-me photo. (To be fair, Nate is not a woman, but he is a writer and a pastor…and he looks fabulous without makeup.)

Glennon also offers this bit of wisdom:

We hear a lot lately about the importance of being vulnerable in front of others, but we haven’t been taught how to respond to someone else’s vulnerability, so I’ll be offering suggestions about how to receive vulnerability during this series. Here’s the first one: When someone lets you into her Sacred Scared – she is showing you her messy insides NOT because she wants you to fix it, but because she trusts you enough to let you know the real, true her.

Imagine that you have a new friend that you just love, and she’s coming to your house, and you finally liberate yourself enough to skip the panic-clean before she arrives. You decide that you trust her enough to walk in and see your messy house and you just KNOW that she will GET IT. She will LOVE that you just Let It Be for her. But she walks in and instead of flopping down on the laundry covered couch, she starts cleaning up the mess. Your mess is making her too uncomfortable. She starts to FIX IT instead of appreciating your mess as a trust offering. How do you feel about that?

Let’s not try to fix each other’s Sacred Scared, if we can avoid it. The people in this series are letting you in to see their Real, Beautiful Mess. Let’s not try to fix them, because they don’t need to be fixed. Neither do you. Let’s just try to find some comfort and love and maybe even Me Too in the offerings.

So even though my platform is practically non-existent and my audience is small, I’m joining their chorus and admitting

I am terrified that I have failed as a mother.

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My kids are now fifteen, twelve, and nine. People tell you when your kids are tiny how fast the time will fly, but you’re so immersed in whining and tantrums and poop that you don’t believe them—or you hope they are right. I asked Gretchen last week, “do you remember when our kids were cute and sweet? Because I miss cute and sweet. I’m pretty sure they were cute and sweet. I’m almost certain they used to like me.”

She laughed. “I was so tired, I don’t remember any of it.”

Last weekend, our house was swimming in cute and sweet. Our five year old nephew and three year old twin niece and nephew came to visit, and they brought an abundance of snuggles and giggles and adoration. My favorite moment of the entire weekend? Sitting with both twins in my lap, reading Curious George, complete with voices and intonations and questions and observations.

I miss this, I thought. And then, Thank God! I know I did something right. I know I read with my kids. Hours and hours, book after book, I remember reading to them. 

Because lately, the realization of all I didn’t do and the fear of not having done enough leaves me trembling and breathless and very, very sad. Did I teach them all the important things? Did I pray with them enough? Did I pray for them enough? Did I tell them enough how much they are loved, how God holds them in His hand, how amazing grace and redemption truly are? Did I enjoy them enough, or was I too preoccupied? Did I hug them, snuggle them, kiss them enough? Have I impressed upon them the joy of walking with God, or could they not see past my scowling and snarling?

Did I blow it?

In my deepest heart, I fear that I have been so concerned with raising independent kids who can take care of themselves that I took my hands off the wheel too often. That in my exhaustion, I let too many things go and dropped too many balls. I fear that by disengaging myself (my go-to method of self-preservation), I didn’t care enough.

When Meghan began middle school, this thought stopped me in my tracks: CRAP! We forgot to do Girl Scouts! She waltzed through her entire childhood without selling a single box of cookies or earning any merit badges. She’s doomed.

I’ve skipped out on eating lunch in the school cafeteria because, frankly, it’s loud and obnoxious and cafeterias still smell weird. I haven’t checked their homework or quizzed them on their weekly memory verse or chaperoned field trips. Mostly because I don’t want to. It’s not fun, it’s not convenient, and I’m busy.

And I can’t get that time back. Missed opportunities are just that: missed.

I see my girl struggling, questioning, doubting. I see how hard it is for her to love herself. And I remember what that feels like: fifteen is god-awful. I remember feeling rejected, left out, miserable. Sixteen was good. Seventeen was okay. But you couldn’t pay me enough to return to fifteen.

So I know her insecurity is not all my fault. Not entirely. Fifteen year old girls struggle, regardless. But could I have done something differently that would have made her more resilient? If I would have loved her better, would she be less afraid?

And what about the rest of my life? My friendships, my education, my (air-quotes) career, my marriage, my writing…all of these would have been-slash-could still be better if I tried harder. If I did better. If I cared more.

(As I’m writing this and silently vowing to redeem my numerous shortcomings, my fourth request to please go take a shower was ignored, as was the please sit down with us and eat your dinner and put your homework in your folder. So what did I do? Ran away and took a hot bath. Then the next morning—because a single blog post takes seventeen years to write—I get the cold shoulder and more rolling eyes and more ignoring. Whatever, man. Do whatever you want. I don’t care. Hello, disengagement, my loyal companion.)

And in coming to terms with my own insecurities and reading the brave confessions of the Sacred Scared, I’m realizing my girl will always be afraid—because who among us is not afraid? We are not alone in our fears. That truth both comforts and devastates me.

But perhaps we can throw open the heavy draperies, shouting THIS IS ME, AND I AM AFRAID, and expose those fears to light: warm, comforting, life-giving light. And when we let the light in, we find that the room is filled with fearful warriors, that we are not alone, that grace exists, that redemption—that blessed process of turning the broken into beautiful—is always the happy ending.

And, of course, I’m not done yet. I have nine and a half more years before the last chickadee leaves the nest. So today, and hopefully tomorrow, I will show up. Trembling, messy, broken; apathetic, exhausted, overwhelmed—I will push past my fear of being Not Enough. I will offer blessing and attention, speaking life into my babies, praying with them, praying for them, trusting the One who is not afraid, the One who tells me not to fear because He is with me. Because Love—strong, resilient, invigorating love—is more powerful than Fear. Because I am not alone. Because I can do hard things. Because my story, their story, your story is not finished yet.

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2 thoughts on “The Sacred Scared: Fear of having failed

  1. I’m right there with you… Sometimes I feel like in the midst of trying to survive I forget to enjoy and appreciate what is right before me. My question is will they remember the crafts? We did lots of crafts! 😉

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