I don’t remember being afraid when I was very young. Fear didn’t come until later.
I was not afraid of being alone. I reveled in it. Alone, I could be anything. Act out any story.
Alone, I was Goldilocks in the forest, Hansel and Gretel beating the witch, Nancy Drew solving all the mysteries.
I was not afraid of climbing the tallest trees. I held books in one hand and a pencil in my teeth and scrambled up to the highest branches, an elementary school lady pirate.
I nestled in and read for hours and wondered what it would be like to sleep there. I would close my eyes and wedge my body into safety and drop anchor.
I rested there and soaked up all a tree could give.
I was not afraid of riding my bike as far as I could go. I pretended to be a Swiss Family Robinson boxcar child, and imagined where I would find my next meal, and how I could convince my teachers I had a home if I didn’t.
I told myself I would run away, even though I didn’t really want to leave. I just wanted to know what it would feel like to fall down a rabbit hole or ride off into the sunset, to wake up in new worlds, to wake up and find new places in my heart.
I was not afraid of any animals. I was Snow White, for heaven’s sake. They would stop at my word. I knew it. I had bottle fed baby skunks. I had curled up like Mowgli with a giant Rottweiler as my sleeping mat. I had ridden the biggest stallions in the barn.
They knew me. And I knew them.
I was not afraid of the dark, or zombies, or ghosts. If they approached me, I would say a prayer, and they would disappear in a vapor. I was Persephone, even the dead would bow their knee to me. I was born to be a queen. I knew it.
It was not even the bad news of terrible things. Kidnappers could kiss my cowgirl boots. I would kick their teeth in. My uncle showed me how. I was ten.
No, not the news. Not the big bad things in the world. I was Red Riding Hood. I knew all about wolves.
Feeling the crush of poverty. Watching my mother suffer. Wondering if that was what life would really be for me instead of getting to live as Mrs.-Queen-Nancy-Velvet-Persephone-Hook. I thought that I knew what was coming my way, I was part gypsy, I could feel it.
But then, I saw the hand of heartbreak, and it made me doubt. It made me afraid of getting hurt, afraid of failing, afraid of falling, afraid of being poor, afraid of brilliance, afraid of love.
And the fear changed me. It stole all the stories of what I thought I could be, what I thought I could have.
I got smaller inside. My shoulders collapsed downward onto themselves. My lungs held less air somehow, and my breaths were always shallow. My heart had no room for its big pounding beats, it skipped fast to try to make up for all the lost things. My hands got clammy, and I could no longer grip the high branches. My hair got limp.
Fear did its best to squish the life out of me. To squish the dreams and the stories and the promise out of me.
I panicked and panted over questions posed by adults, “what’s the right answer, what’s the right answer?” And even if I knew that I knew it, I doubted and kept silent.
I walked for years in confusion. What was I doing? Why had it all changed?
“There is more, there is more,” I thought, and yet I was always falling short.
It’s a self-defeating vicious cycle. Fear of success means failing, fear of failing means no more trying. No more effort means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator every day.
And that denominator leaves no room for fairy tales.
Identity. Fear steals identity. Fear steals the assumption, the confidence, that I am loved and made for majesty and adventure.
Fear snuffs out all the light in us. It makes us certain that anything good we ever get will only be given to us out of pity. That there is no way to get delight for ourselves, that there is not enough strength and power at our disposal to gain any ground. Fear covers over passion, fear suffocates the security it takes to sample anything new, to look different, ever.
And in a world where we all look different, that can be excruciatingly painful. Looking different is inescapable.
Knowing we are loved as we are by the King of All Things, it changes everything. It changed everything for me. It turned back the pages of my story, of our story, to the fresh and sweet beginning.
He is the God of Second Chances. To infinity. And beyond.
Knowing that we are more than enough for the Maker’s heart. That He is not disgusted. He is not disappointed.
He is not calculating any numbers when He looks at you, your I.Q., the cost of your house, your earning potential. None of it. He doesn’t look at you like that.
In the beginning.
A word spoken, flesh raised from the ground. The one true and original magic.
All creation singing. The rocks swelling and bellowing like whales.
And you. The crown of creation.
He chose you. To be His crown.
The seed of courage, the greatest story of all time, planted in you from the first day of the world, because you were formed in love, made in His image.
Whatever came close and tried to suffocate you and steal your story, whatever it was, whatever it is. It is no match for love. It is no match for knowing who you were made to be.
A fairy tale, sometimes, is the most true thing of all.
Once upon a time.
There was a kingdom.
There was a prince.
He saved you.
For himself. For adventure.
He stood over you, and he said,