'Are you ever afraid when you're up there?" the sportscaster asked.
A young woman had just completed one of those breathtaking, no-ripple high dives during warm-ups for a world championship diving competition. In the light of her years of competitive experience and thousands of hours of practice, it came as somewhat of a surprise to hear her reply matter-of-factly, "I'm afraid every time."
Why, some might wonder, would anyone voluntarily live with fear day in and day out? Obviously, this woman had stronger motivations than just being safe and comfortable. And yet when we choose - or even when circumstances force us - to take on challenges, fear doesn't have to be part of the deal.
Actually, living with fear isn't natural or necessary under any circumstance. A growing understanding that God is the Principle governing all life results in less fear all the time. It promises not just the suppression of fear but its complete end.
To see how to begin moving in this direction, consider two fears that a diver, and plenty of other people, might confront: getting hurt and failing to do well.
1. For the devoted diver, love of diving can outweigh fear of getting hurt. That's a useful hint in handling fear in any situation. Taking love to the highest level, a close disciple of Jesus said, "Perfect love casteth out fear" (I John 4:18). One meaning of the Greek word translated perfect is "complete," or "fully developed." A fully developed love of God eliminates fear. Such love includes trust in God's goodness and ability to preserve us. One way to develop this confident love is to affirm on a regular basis that God loves us, and that we are safe in that love.
We're loved and safe because each individual is and always will be essential to God. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: "If God, who is Life, were parted for a moment from His reflection, man, during that moment there would be no divinity reflected. The Ego would be unexpressed, and the Father would be childless, -no Father.... But man cannot be separated for an instant from God, if man reflects God. Thus Science proves man's existence to be intact" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 306).
Even a glimpse that we are God's reflection, instead of vulnerable, mortal beings existing independently of God, begins to subdue fear. Since God is fearless Spirit, we are spiritual. As His image, we are intact. Nothing can damage the reflection of an unchanging and perfect original. As this understanding grows, it does much more than just suppress fear temporarily. It will remove it. Prevent injuries. Heal diseases induced by fear.
2. The same idea of our relationship to God as reflection also overcomes the fear of failing. Again, by persistently realizing that God has created us to express Him, we develop the confidence that ability is reflected instead of personally possessed. This is humble prayer that helps us feel more trust in infinite good. Our highest achievement is to praise and express God, and to appreciate how others do this, too. A reflection has no glory of its own, but it shares and enjoys God's glory, grace, and beauty. The book of Isaiah records a declaration by God: "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise" (43:21).
Succeeding most effectively in our lives - whether we're a diver or anyone else -comes by seeing our activities as the expression of God's divine qualities, such as intelligence, precision, integrity, and unselfishness. With this perspective, both fear and failure are impossible. Even if fear recurs for a time, it must come to an end. It has no power to affect anything that's done for the glory of God.
God is never afraid, and we are God's reflection.
And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society