“I guess we’ll see you in August!”
“Yeah.” I felt like I was on an amusement park ride, about to go over a near-vertical drop at breakneck speed.
It was March 2006, and I’d just gotten off the phone with the residence life director at a boarding school in Germany. After the completion of an extensive application and acceptance into a missions organization, the half-hour interview sealed the deal. I was moving to Europe.
A recent college graduate, I wanted to do something radical and exciting. Overseas ministry opportunities kindled my sense of adventure. Part of me craved to step outside my comfort zone. I was ready to experience new places, new people, new cultures, and a new role. At the school in Germany, I would work as a resident assistant in the boarding program, helping to care for dozens of teenage girls—missionary kids from all over the world. It sounded perfect—in theory.
The moment my dreams met reality—when I heard the words, “See you in August!”—an invisible monster rose up within me like a toothy one-eyed creature in a cheap horror flick. My back muscles cramped. I lost my appetite and had trouble sleeping. An endless stream of “what if?” questions ensued.
What if I hate Germany? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I can’t do the job well? What if the dorm girls hate me? What if the food makes me sick? What if I have to share a room with someone who snores, talks too much, or borrows clothes without asking? What if my plane crashes over the Atlantic?
The questions became less rational as the weeks passed. Departure was set for the end of July, and throughout the summer my thoughts became obsessed with Germany and the school. I swung between excitement and panic.
Perhaps everyone there hated Americans. Perhaps I was not gifted in youth ministry. Perhaps I should cancel the reservations and look for a nice, quiet library job instead.
Every morning of that summer, I woke up and questioned the decision to go.
The fear said terrible, accusatory things. It said I was going to fail. It told me God would be unfaithful. Fear illumined every escape route and said to give up the plans before they began to materialize. The invisible monster told me that it’s better not to take risks, because the bigger the risk, the more epic the failure.
The invisible monster was not new to me. Throughout childhood, I fought battles against fear. Its symptoms were familiar, and I knew that its paralyzing effects were not insurmountable. Fear made my life unpleasant, but it did not stop me from pursuing the things it warned against. When ignored, the feelings of panic did not immediately subside, and when they did I knew they would return—but not allowing feelings to control my actions helped to loosen the monster’s grip.
This time, the fear and the actions were bigger than anything I had previously faced. It took every ounce of willpower to keep from backing out of the commitment to go to Germany.
The battle between panic and determination canceled out all other emotions by the beginning of July. Through the weeks-long process of saying goodbye to family and friends in Tennessee, I felt a strange numbness and little pain. Fear overshadowed any sadness I felt at leaving my home of 23 years. I felt like I was walking toward a cliff, determined to jump off and forcing my feet to move toward the edge when they desperately wanted to turn and run.
On July 15, 2006, I stepped onto a plane to Europe. I had defied fear—but I didn’t feel defiant.
Apprehension plagued me. The fear did not immediately dissipate when I reached German soil and met the people I would live and work with at the school. The invisible monster still attacked with doubts.
I feared driving on the narrow roads in the large stick-shift dorm vans, feared being vulnerable with people I’d only just met, feared going shopping and having no idea what the salesclerk was saying. However, the fears were lessened because I was there. Yes, I was far outside my comfort zone, adjusting to a new job and a new culture, but at least I no longer faced a giant unknown. Facing my biggest fear broke the monster’s power to paralyze me. Because I took the “big” action of uprooting myself and moving to Germany, it was easier to take the “smaller” actions of meeting people and learning to function in a different language and culture.
Friends sometimes say, “You were brave to move to Europe alone.” If only you knew, I think. If you could taste the fear, you wouldn’t call me brave.
I used to think that brave people never have weak knees or experience insomnia. Perhaps those who walk in perfect love with the Lord do not. But when I set my will in line with God’s, I can endure the symptoms of fear and still move forward. The invisible monster attacks but does not paralyze. When I defy the monster, his power disappears.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
What Not to Say to Someone Grieving a Miscarriage
Here are a few things not to say to someone grieving a miscarriage.
To Those Who Want To Be Truly Happy: Stop Chasing Happiness
Chasing happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here are a few reasons why.
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions
The Psalms is a book that's rich with the reality of what life's like in this fallen world. Here are...
3 Ways to Navigate Personality Differences
Sometimes personality differences can wear on us. Here are three ways we can navigate them in a loving manner.
Surprised By ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
If you haven't seen this film, God may speak to your heart through it in ways you weren't expecting.
The Wedding Ring
Are you struggling in your marriage? Here's how a wedding ring helped one wife fight for her marriage.
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
What Women Are Saying
-- Darlene Schacht, author of Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages and co-author of Reshaping it All: Motivation for Spiritual and Physical Fitness
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
Faith4 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
Motherhood4 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
Faith5 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
Friendship6 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
Relationships9 months ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Marriage6 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
Everyday Faith5 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Articles6 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
Articles7 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
Articles6 years ago
Relationships1 year ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears
Digging Into Scripture6 months ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions