A row of bollards loomed in front of me. My heartbeat accelerated. My cadence slowed. The bike path was challenging enough without the prospect of navigating between a row of narrowly placed poles. These fixed posts, designed to keep vehicles from crossing, threatened to disrupt my peaceful ride with my husband. I tentatively approached the menacing structures, certain I would hit one. With careful attention, I wobbled through.
I breathed a sigh of relief. My confidence rose. I pedaled on and started to enjoy myself until I saw another row of bollards. You can do this, I told myself. No problem. Gulping air, I plowed ahead, crashed right into one, and fell off my bike. Yes, my husband laughed at me.
I decided I don’t like bollards—even though I like the sound of the word. If there might be more of them, I wanted to quit bike riding all together. Why was I so afraid of a short metal post?
People have many phobias. Some fears are common, like the fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of speaking in public (glossophobia). Some are understandable like the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) or the fear of high speeds (tachophobia) or the fear of crossing streets (agyrophobia). Some make us smile like testophia (the fear of taking tests) or nomophobia (the fear of being without one’s cell phone— “no more phone”) or hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (the fear of the number 666).
My bollard phobia surprised me. I don’t usually let fear disarm me. After all, I regularly speak in front of large groups of people and fly halfway around the world with relative ease. But the bollards forced me to acknowledge things that I avoid. For example, I fear driving in a busy city, getting lost in an unfamiliar place, or taking a road trip by myself to another state. Hence, I do not go unless someone else takes the wheel. I avoid making phone calls. I avoid heights. I avoid filling out the fafsa form. Yes, I avoid the things I fear.
David Benner in Surrender to Love says, “Fearful people live within restrictive boundaries. They may appear quite cautious and conservative. Or they may narrow the horizons of their life by avoidance and compulsion. They also tend to be highly vigilant, ever guarding against life’s moving out of the bounds within which they feel the most comfortable.”
Controlling our world usually backfires. My fear of driving has kept me from going to places I would love to visit or events I desire to attend. My fear of the bollards could lead me to avoid bicycle riding all together. Or I might only choose trails that have no bollards. If I let my fear of the bollards keep me from riding, I will miss out on many things—precious time with my spouse, the beautiful outdoors, a great way to exercise.
Recognizing my small fear of bollards gives me a way to start standing up to larger ones. But I don’t have to do this alone. The Bible says my sufficiency, my power, and my competency is from God, not me (2 Corinthians 3:5).
Even if I have to get off my bike and push it through the bollards, I will not let this irrational fear stop me from enjoying the beauties of God’s creation and the intimacy of time with my spouse. Instead, I will depend on the power of God to give me what I need to tackle my fears and not shy away from them.
What are you afraid of? Snakes? Losing a child? Being alone? Flying on a plane? Intimacy? Loss of control? Attention? Neglect? Death? Pleasure? Pain? Rejection?
What are you missing out on because you are avoiding facing your fear?
Lord, give me what it takes to do what I need to do to face my fears and not avoid them. I praise you and trust that you are big enough to walk with me through my fear, help me stand and face it and take the next step.
A shorter version of this piece appears in Wit, Whimsy & Wisdom: A 12-Week Devotional to Shine the Light on God’s Word.
David C. Benner, Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 40.