children’s greatest fears live underneath their beds, and their parents have
gotten up many a weary night and gone to their child’s bedroom, flashlight in
hand, lifted the covers, shone the light on the dusty floor, and proved, once
again, that there is no monster.
When I was a
boy, I had a recurring dream about a giant, scowling, and mean-eyed lumberjack,
who wore a bright red flannel shirt, blood stained jeans, and muddy boots, and
who carried an enormous gleaming axe in his right hand.  Not only did I dream about that lumberjack; I
was sure he lived in my bedroom closet. 
Whenever I dreamed about the lumberjack, I would wake-up frightened,
short-of-breath, and sweaty; and I knew what I had to do:  turn on the lamp beside my bed, find some
courage, tiptoe to the closet, and throw open the door, either to be axed by my
fear or to be relieved that, once again, it was only a nightmare.
As fearsome
as that lumberjack in my dreams was, there was one thing odd and buffoonish about
him. Instead of a horse or a pickup truck, he rode, I kid you not, a
tricycle—his knees up around his ears and his enormous feet slipping off the
pedals.  When I was a child, the dream struck
me with terror; years later, though, I laughed at myself and at the dream: my
Goliath-sized fear looked like a monster, but he was nothing more than an
overgrown child who wanted nothing more than to get to play. 
These days,
the memory of that dream reminds me of something the poet Rilke said: “Perhaps
all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act,
just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in
its deepest essence, something that wants our love.”
I think
that, day by day, our fears of rejection and failure most diminish us.   
There’s a
tug of war in us between our fear of rejection and our yearning to be clearly
seen, fully known, and deeply loved. Too often, fear wins; the result is that we
won’t risk saying what we think, doing what we believe, and becoming who we
truly are, because we are afraid that “they” will not accept us. 
There’s also
a conflict in us between our desire to flourish and to succeed, on the one
hand, and our fear of change and failure on the other. We shrink back from the
call to transformation which comes to us in our challenges and
opportunities.  We conspire in our own
diminishment by refusing to risk newness. 
Life has me
in a place which is forcing me to face-off with some of my most intimidating
fears.  I am trying to remember that the
monsters I most fear are actually buffoons on a tricycle, to laugh at them
rather than to be held down and held back by them, and to love them into
Most of all,
I am trying to remember that the real God is like Jesus. God knows everything
about us: our limits and our possibilities, our weaknesses and our strengths,
what hides in the shadows of our shame and what shines in the glory of our best
selves.  God knows it all, never rejects
us, always welcomes us, and unfailingly loves us. 
And, God has
mercy for our failures, grace for our wrongs, and forgiveness for our sins.
With our God, failure is not final and it is not fatal.  God stands us back on our feet when we fall,
restores us when we are broken, and gives us hope when we have given up.  That means we can take, without fear, the
risks of learning, growth, and change.
With a God
like that, we are freer than we know, as free as we dare to be.