Written by Katie Pezzutto
Exercise was my safe space for years. Known for my killer kick and long-winded lungs, hiking trails and soccer fields were home. I let my athletic abilities become my identity. For years, they shielded me from digging deep and unearthing pain. This weekend, I was faced with an unexpected reality: fear is a zombie, animated until I strategically snipe it.
I was hiking with a group of friends. Halfway through the hike, my husband asked me to take the backpack. That thing was heavy. Sure, I didn’t want my husband’s back to break. But more importantly, I didn’t want to look weak. I shouldered the pack and ran ahead of everyone.
Because of my legs and strong lungs, I stayed in the lead for a couple hours. Things changed as the trail steepened. As I ascended the slope things started to slow. My legs burned, my lungs were running out of air. I pushed on. Dizziness hazed my vision. The zombie crawled from under a rock and started screaming.
Don’t be weak! You’re strong. Prove it!
As I pushed myself, I was surrounded with memories of being in an emergency room with white walls and an IV. Bone thin. I was so deprived of nutrients that my heart almost stopped. It was that raspy zombie voice that almost killed me. It told me to starve myself, so I did. Fear told me if I accomplished something, I would feast on acceptance. I accomplished my goal.
Yet I still crave acceptance now just as desperately as I did several years ago. Through heavy gulps of air and sweat streaming down my face, I tried to ignore the beast’s hideous face.
“God. I don’t want to care. Help me.”
A gentle whisper drifted through my heart. “You are accepted.”
My foot slammed into a rock and I careened forward. I fell into a tree and looked around. No one saw, good. I wanted to kick myself. My fear of people’s opinion was out of control.
“Daddy, help me believe it! This is so hard.”
“Looking to people has become a pattern in your life. Break it. Believe truth. Repeat truth. Know me and repeat truth.”
“You are accepted. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are enough.”
“Choose to believe Me, not the lies.”
“Where do I start?”
“Face the fear. Let yourself fail.”
I had to stop walking. I hesitated near a stream, slid the pack off my shoulders and plopped onto a rock. Relief and anxiety assailed my thoughts. As I sat on the path, watching other hikers pass me, my face burned. Pain emerged from the shadows of my mind, grinning.
They all think you’re a loser. You’re such a failure, Katie. Look at your pathetic life.
I was failing. No, I wasn’t. The very essence of my being is glory. I am one with Christ. He is perfect. I have nothing to prove.
“I am loved.”
Hah. You suck.
“Shut up! I am beautiful.” The thing winces and slinks behind a tree.
I squeezed my eyes shut and ball my fists. “Get out. I am my Father’s daughter. I am good enough. I am loved.”
Facing my biggest struggle was a catalyst for the well-being of others.
I looked to the forest beyond and listened. No more accusations, only silence. After a few minutes, I started making my way up the path. Much to my surprise, I found my friends sitting along the trail, sipping water and catching their breath. My heart soared. Facing my biggest struggle was a catalyst for the well-being of others.
In our weakness God’s strength is revealed so gloriously. When we let go of our assumed identity and embrace God’s wholehearted love for us, we receive something far greater than what the world could ever give. Peace. Peace, that as we continually call on the One who gives it, He will transform us and the world we interact with.