It was a balmy Friday night in November. The night air was neither hot nor cold and a gentle breeze sprinkled a light mist over the fans as they crossed the parking lot. The scoreboard that flashed the time and temperature read 64 degrees. The fans were pouring in for the biggest game of the season. Cross town rivals were dressed in their school colors and carried blankets sporting their teams’ logos. High school bands were playing their school fight songs, cheerleaders were bouncing on the sidelines as the teams sprinted onto the field. The air was charged with excitement because tonight’s game was a battle for district championship and a spot in the playoffs.
Kris Jones, a sixteen year old sophomore, was among the fans sitting on the home side of the stadium. He rarely missed a game, but Kris had a phobia of sitting in the bleachers. He avoided bleachers after watching a documentary about engineering disasters when he was seven years old. To escape being among the casualties when the stadium collapsed, Kris stood at the fence separating the fans from the football field.
Tonight Kris was joined at the fence by a local youth pastor, Eli Phillips. Eli had noticed Kris standing alone at the fence during every home game and wanted to find out why standing at the fence was better than sitting in the bleachers with his friends.
“Hey, Kris” Eli said as he reached the fence.
“Hey, Eli,” Kris responded with a quick glance before returning his attention to the game.
After a few minutes of watching the game in silence, Eli asked, “Kris, do you want to come sit with me in the bleachers?”
“No, I’m good.” Kris answered without taking his eyes off the game.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” Eli inquired.
“Sure.” Kris knew what was coming next. He had often been approached at the games about standing at the fence instead of sitting in the bleachers.
“Why do you always stand at the fence, but not sit in the bleachers?
“I knew you were going to ask me that.” Kris sighed as he turned to face Eli. “Come with me. I want to show you something.” Kris began walking toward the open area under the bleachers. “Years ago, when I was down here, I saw something that bothered me. No one will listen to me about my concerns for the strength of the foundation of this stadium. The superintendent and the city inspector tells me the stadium’s foundation is solid and I have nothing to worry about.” Kris explained as they stopped in front of a section under the bleachers that was dimly lit by the stadium lights.
Kris took out his cell phone, turning on the spotlight. He pointed the light to a section of joists that appeared to be part of the original structure. They were faded wooden beams that had endured years of use and various weather conditions. The faded brown wood appeared to be in place and strong, but Kris showed Eli several places where the wood had retained water near the base of the beams. “I think that if there is enough weight up there,” pointing at the seating above the beams, “the beams will collapse and people are going to be hurt or killed.”
Eli pushed on a post and looked at Kris, “I understand your concern, but I think you are letting fear keep you from enjoying yourself. It seems pretty solid to me. And look at these steel replacements that are over there. What makes you think this isn’t safe?” Eli pointed to a steel structure a few feet behind Kris.
Kris slowly turned toward the steel structure, blinked, and gaped. He opened and closed mouth several times and cleared his throat, “Oh. I didn’t know this was here,” he croaked.
Eli patted Kris on the back and smiled, “Do you still want to stand at the fence or do you want to join me in the bleachers?”
“I think I will just go home,” Kris answered, brushed past Eli and stomped toward the exit. “I can’t believe I didn’t see those steel beams just a few feet away from those wooden ones,” Kris thought climbing into the driver seat of his dad’s truck. He started the engine and then tapped his head on the steering wheel. “I bet people think I am stupid. I’ve stood at that fence for two years like an idiot,” he growled and headed for home.
Kris’ behavior in this story represents the consequences of life choices of several people I know, including myself at times. We find ourselves standing on the sidelines watching as life happens for others. Starting this Blog and publishing inspirational books is my stand against allowing fear to keep me frozen at the fence.
When we merely “stand at the fence” instead of getting involved, we allow fear to paralyze our progress, shipwreck our dreams, and destroy our relationships.
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not placed a paralyzing fear in us. He has given us the power to love and use wisdom to use the gifts He has given us.
I learned three things from this parable.
- If I am so busy being afraid of what I don’t have, I will miss out on opportunities to trust God to use me. Kris was so focused on the old wood, he did not see the new structure that was holding everything up.
- If I don’t confront my fears, share them with someone who can help me, and take action to overcome them, others might miss out on the blessings God has placed in me to share with them. Eli listened to Kris’ fears, but didn’t laugh at him. Eli helped Kris see that he was allowing fear to keep him standing at the fence. He showed Kris there was really nothing to be afraid of. God has put people like Eli in my life to encourage me and I am no longer hiding my light under a bush.
- Even when I face setbacks because of my fears, everyday is a new opportunity to start again. Kris was embarrassed by his oversight of the steel structure, but he still had an opportunity to go sit in the bleachers to enjoy the rest of the game. He chose to go home instead. I have decided that setbacks are my opportunities for growth. I am determined to keep moving forward.
I pray that as you continue on your life’s journey you will
- Be thankful for opportunities to share God’s blessings with others.
- Ask God to show you what He is doing and to show you how to get involved in His work.
- Obey when He answers and respond with tenacity to the call God has on your life, and
- Connect with others who will encourage you to be all you were created to be.
Matthew 5:16 Living Bible (TLB)
15-16 Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.