Tackled by fear

When I was a kid in Georgia, just a tike, I’d ride the big yellow bus to school every day. And although I was a small kid, I was not one to put up with a bully — and there were many bullies. Now, I wouldn’t say I looked for trouble, but you can bet I didn’t back away from injustice either. Bigger kids on that bus often ran their mouths, putting down anyone outside their circle of friends, bad-mouthing the weaker, slandering their name, family, mommas, looks and so forth. I can’t remember if I was one of those targets, and it didn’t matter anyway, because a verbal assault on the weak meant an opportunity for me to stand up against the tyrant.

So there I was, in the back of the bus, running my mouth in the defense of someone weaker (or as weak as myself). I would manage, in all my childish wisdom, to become the new target. Suddenly, the threats started, and the bully would become 3-4 bullies ready to sock me good. I was scared. I hated bullies, I hated the fact that I was ever compelled to stick up for someone and now face the wrath of some bully’s poor upbringing. I was not upset that I had stood up for another kid, just that I was ever put into a predicament of such. Now my sense of justice was beginning to take the shape of fear, knowing good and well that size mattered, and I was on the losing end.

As the bus squeaked to a halt, I knew my small legs would only give me a few seconds lead — but what the heck, by some luck, I might actually run into a cop or something. So the door would open and I’d hit the ground like the 40-yard dash. And I’d run for all I was worth. And I’d muster all the remaining wisdom I had to high-tail it out of there. And I’d get about 20 yards — BAM! I was tackled by fear.

My own fear, I’d one day learn. It was my own fear that took me down, my own fear that dropped me. It was my own fear that I gave birth to in the back of that bus, then coddled and cooed, fed and supported. It was mine, and mine alone.

That fear has taken many shapes over my lifetime, always ready to knock me down. It stands and waits for me to speak out, make some life-changing decision, assert my creative gifting, and then leans in close to intimidate and scare me. It threatens me, warning that once the bus stops — watch out. It beckons me to run for my life. It hounds me to give up because I’m small and weak. It taunts me. It wants to tackle me.

As the years roll on, my physical size has increased, but my sense of injustice remains. I am no longer beaten down by bigger men, but rather feared by some instead. Not fear as through a physical assault, but rather fear through relational challenges. What is a bully to do when someone with wisdom, a voice, and physical stature stands against them? They learn quick that we are no longer riding in the back of a big yellow school bus.