Fanatical Faith or Fumbling in Familiarity?

With rolling eyes, he said, “Don’t you ever get worried that your fanatical faith will get you in big trouble? “

We were on a team diligently working to rescue trafficked women. We had just rescued a woman, and had convinced her to get separated from the situation by going to a safe place in California.  We had quickly pulled together a team of volunteers, and raised the needed funds. I had just put her on a plane fly West to safety.

Before the rescue, we had been given a long list of reasons why we could not pull it off: 

  • You won’t be able to get the money together quickly enough
  • You will not be able to talk her into leaving
  • You won’t be able to find an open place where she could heal in safety, on and on.

He spoke of “fanatical faith and foolishness.” I could hardly believe what I was hearing.

So as not to be offensive, I looked him right n the eye and, with great kindness and respect, said, “My only other choice was to fumble in the ‘familiar territory’ of doing nothing!  Even if we had failed, I don’t think it would have been foolishness. Her life matters!”

My work that day began a journey along a path I have taught for years since. A path of reminding people that YOU WERE CREATED FOR MORE!

We all have a choice with how we move forward into life, into World-Changing. We can stay comfortable and “fumble in a place of familiarity,” Or we can step up to opportunities with “fanatical faith.”

I’ve learned through the years that all World Changers lean toward the side of fanatical faith. I’ve often been told that I, personal, don’t just go there, that I live there. I do my moments when I suddenly have a fanatical reaction to a daunting opportunity, so I’m OK with being told that I live there. But the truth is, I just respond when that deep yearning calls. You know about the deep yearning, don’t you?

I grew up scared to death of the world. I was scared to be out of my mother’s sight. I was scared of the dark, and I was scared to be alone. I was scared of unfamiliar sounds. I was scared of people looking at me. I was scared of thunder and lightning. I was afraid I would be kidnapped.  I was just plain scared to death.

I share that here with you to encourage you that although fanatical faith might seem scary, you too can go there.

Because I was so afraid, I also understand the comfort of familiarity. When I speak of it now, I tell people that I understand the allure of comfort.  All of us would prefer to sit in our recliner in air-conditioned comfort, remote control by our side, watching something on our electronics, with bonbons and potato chips in hand.  We all prefer a life of ease and predictability, where there is little chance of anything going wrong.

We call that “living in our comfort zone.”

World Changers actively challenge this preference.  Although they spend moments in their comfort zone, they know that spending too much time “fumbling in familiarity” is not the life they want.

Let me say that, of course, none of us can stay out there on the edge indefinitely. None of us can engage in opportunities with our fanatical faith all the time. We all need regular re-charging. I encourage you to find your method to re-charge. 

For example, I have found that one simple and effective way for me to re-charge is to watch a little television.  Although watching TV is not where I spend much time, I do have a TV, and I go there as often as I need to.

What?  Dr. Neecie watches TV! 

Yes.  Not much.  But I “use” watching TV for my benefit. I think of TV time as my little robot vacuum, that goes out and does good … picking up unwanted particles from my floor… But when it needs a charge, it finds its way back to its dock.

So find what recharges you. Go there as often as is necessary. But when you’re fully charged again, get back out there!

Now, having admitted my own strategy for keeping charged up, do not misunderstand.  My experience is that most of us don’t struggle much with the re-charge part! Most of us struggle with the “action” part: moving into fanatical faith!

When they hear my story, many ask how I changed my life.  How did I make the radical change from scared little girl to a woman with fanatical faith?

Some version of this radical change confronts us all at some point. You very likely are already aware of your unspoken drive to make a difference. You likely already wake in the night, knowing you need to face the nagging challenge you feel to do MORE! And the reason for that is YOU WERE CREATED FOR MORE! That will be what we focus on this week! How to get started stepping into fanatical faith!

But, how do you act on that drive?  What do you do to get started?

How to start is what I want to help you with. Why? Because you were created for more than a life of fumbling in familiarity!

I know without any doubt that you were created for more.

Perhaps as I share my little story of how I shifted into fanatical faith, it will help you get started.

But more than that, I really want to start you on the life of fulfillment that you so deeply want.

I remember the exact moment that I knew I wanted fanatical faith, even though I was not aware that those words defined what I wanted.

It was my first week away from home in college in Waxahachie, Texas. I was so homesick and so scared I could hardly function.

There was a group of students and staff going up to downtown Dallas.  The goal was to simply “encourage people in need.” That sounded pretty benign. I thought – well, you could just hide in the midst of the group and encourage a few people as they encouraged others.

I had no idea what I was stepping into. We parked our vehicle, and I just followed along with the group who obviously had done this before.

Well, they walked directly into the middle of the bus station!  Certainly NOT a place where I was in my comfort zone!  It felt to me like every drug addict, mentally ill or homeless person in the city was there.

I thought, “Encourage them? — I’m scared to death of them!”  

But I watched as a friend in the group (I knew her from a mission trip earlier that summer) encouraged a homeless man. As I watched, I was shocked to realize that what I saw was a person just like me: afraid, feeling a little hopeless—someone who had lost his way.

I hate to admit that to help myself through my fear in that moment, I became aware that I had begun silently judging those hurting souls. I even thought, “How could anyone lose their way?

But then a quiet, small voice within me had a quick response, “Really, Neecie? You know you can’t lose your way … because you have never found your way!”

This flash of self-awareness stopped me in my tracks! All my pointless judgment ceased. Instead, I forced myself into the moment.  I watched what was actually happening. Hopeless people smiled. Agitated people calmed. Soon there was a group of us all laughing and talking together. No longer were they scary strangers. Somehow they had become hearts that mattered.  Wow!

In that moment, I heard an unbidden prayer coming from my heart.  My heart was asking God to give me the compassion to watch what my group was doing. To step up, step out. To get out of my comfort zone, and do the same.

Others in my group knew that, at least for a moment, they could make the lives of all the hurting people in the bus station better. I knew, deep in my soul, that I too could make those lives better …  if only I could step up to the plate.

I wish I could tell you that I immediately knew, at that moment, all that I have come to understand. No, my courage did not arrive that fast.  But my eyes were opened. In those few precious moments, I had a life-changing experience. After that day, I knew that it was possible for me to get myself to take steps out of my comfortable familiarity.

I knew I was created for more.

Over the years, I realized that even I didn’t know in that moment how foundationally my view of life had changed.  My awareness came along in small steps. Now and then, I would still crawl back into my life of “fumbling in familiarity.”  But not for long!

Without being consciously aware, I just hoped in my soul that something would happen that would propel me forward.

However, I learned that I needed to be careful what I hoped for!

My story would reveal that fanatical faith CAN suddenly just rise up inside of all of us!

I was at my parent’s “antebellum plantation-style” home outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana when it occurred. Their home was set back about six blocks from the main road, with a hundreds of mossy oaks and pecan trees between their house and the road. There was a railroad track that ran along side their property, and the train engineers had all learned that my mother loved their horns. So they routinely sounded their horns as they passed.

This particular day, I was visiting with my mother and grandmother in the front room.  Suddenly there were horrible noises of screeching tires, crunching metal, and screams. We jumped up to look out the front window. It was apparent that a car had tried to beat the train and had flipped as it took flight across the tracks. It landed on its roof in the ditch in front of the house. 

My heart was pounding, but I instantly knew that I could not just stay in the house and hope those in the car were OK.  I could not just say a prayer. In my heart, I was overcome with a deep yearning I could not deny or subdue!

With no shoes, I darted out the front door and sprinted to the scene.

I found a woman dazed, screaming and crying. A man was trapped under the roof of the car. The woman was screaming, “Help us! Please help us!”

It was clear that the man could not get out from under the car by himself. He was clearly still breathing.  It was equally clear that I was the only person there on my feet.  Only I could help. 

In an instant, I knew that logically I could not budge the car.  But in that same instant, logic disappeared. I knew I had to do something! 

So, there it was — fear versus faith – right in front of me!  Fanatical faith or fumble in familiarity. Beneath my conscious thought, I knew it was my choice.

Unbidden again, my fanatical faith rose up.

I went around to the front of the car. If I could just push it a little, I might be able to rock it off of the man just a bit.  Maybe he could free himself.

I was surprised that it seemed fairly light as I tilted it up. I screamed at him, “Get out! Get out! “

I could see him struggling to move and get out as I began feeling the weight of the vehicle taxing my arms, my back, my legs! I could see the determination in his eyes, on his face. He gathered all his strength.

He rolled out from under the car! I tried to lower it, but I couldn’t. I dropped it!

As I dropped the car, the windshield shattered. Thankfully he was lying face down, so none of the glass hurt him. Although the whole incident likely lasted less than a minute, it seemed like an eternity.

At that moment, I heard sirens. Someone, likely my mom, had called 911. The officers flew across the railroad track and jumped out of their cars. The woman was pointing at me, yelling, “She got him out! She got him out from under the car!”

He was a large man. Incredulous, the officers asked how I was able to pull him out.

“I didn’t – I lifted the car, and he rolled out!”

They looked at me like they had seen a ghost. Although I was probably in a bit of shock, I do remember having this thought, “It was not a ghost. If you had been here, you would have seen fanatical faith in action!”

By that time, EMTs and fire trucks had arrived. Suddenly I was weak, every cell in my body drained of strength. I turned and began to walk back to the house.

Inside, both my mother and grandmother were sobbing. They of course did not know my instant inner turmoil as I had stood in front of the trapped man. They did not know of my instant decision to step out. They did not know that this decision took fanatical faith.

Later, my mother told me that she almost had heart failure when she saw me bolt for the door. In her mind, of course, I was still the little girl who would have been crying under the bed! But then she also told me she knew something supernatural had happened. She said that although her first worry was that I ran out there with bare feet, that it seemed to both her and my grandmother that my feet never touched the ground!

During another seemingly unrelated visit to my mother, I went with her to the regular meeting of her women’s support group. The mission of this group was to go into hospitals to support women who were battling breast or ovarian cancer. She was a significant force in this group, because she had a compelling and moving story of life and recovery. They would often bring others to the group’s meetings to hear my mother’s story.

But on this particular day, as she was telling her story, she spoke something I had not heard before, that I did not know. She spoke of an event that had happened years before the train accident.

She started by saying that her surgery had lasted for over six hours. (And I remembered my dad at that time, a tough-as-nails man who had built a million-dollar structural steel business from nothing, sobbing and pacing as the hours went by. My precious sister was in shambles.)

My mother continued the story (although of course she had heard the story from her surgeon, Dr. Sterlind Sightler, now a dear family friend). She related that, after six hours of waiting, there had been no word to those of us waiting of how the surgery had gone. No caregivers could be found,

I went to the door of the surgical suite and gently pushed my way in, getting a brief update that I related to my family. Then Sterling came out and gave us some difficult news: she reported that sadly, mother was already in Stage 4 of ovarian cancer. We were all stunned. 

She told us to go home and get some rest. My sister and I looked at each other and immediately agreed: our mother would never leave us if this had happened to us. Neither of us was going anywhere!

We got some pillows and blankets and made a pallet on the floor.

I was devastated. I could not imagine my life without my mother. She was my world.

Once mother was asleep and my sister was asleep, I buried my face in my pillow. I cried out to God. I cried out, “Lord God, every bit of faith I can find I will give to you; just please Lord, keep my mother alive.”

I remember crying out, again and again, “Please don’t take her! Please don’t take my mother!”

Even as I write this story, years later, hot tears are falling from my eyes.

Back to the support group meeting.  My mother was sharing her story. She said to the group, “My daughter is here today, and I have never told her this part of what happened. I’m sharing this with her as I share it with all of you.  One of the reasons I’m still here is because I heard her that night crying out to God. Before that night, I had no idea that her faith was so strong. But as I heard her call out to our God for my life, somehow I knew I would make it.”

Then she told the group another piece that I had not heard before: she related a short version of the train accident.  Then she said that just days before that accident, she had asked God for evidence she would make it, that she would live.

Then, with tears coming to her eyes, she said, “What I saw in my daughter that day assured me that the same faith that lifted a car would be given for me – that with the same help from above, healing would come for me!”

(OK, I found a tissue, and I’m finished crying!)

You were created for more than fumbling in familiarity! No matter how scared you are, no matter how young or old, no matter whether you work for minimum-wage or make millions, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your political persuasion. You were created for more!

I’m going to leave you with this: If there’s anything in you that wants to lean toward fanatical faith, let me help you to step into that faith.

First, look for small opportunities that will nonetheless stretch you out of your comfort zone. Believe that you can step into it! Don’t worry about the outcome. Give it your best shot! Because if you do, it’s a sure win!

After a few of those small wins, ask for an opportunity that touches you so deeply that you cannot resist.

But don’t expect that moment to be without inner “chatter.” Those voices from long ago will still whisper to you: “You can’t; you shouldn’t; you’re not qualified.”  Blah blah blah!

I implore you, at that moment, to intentionally choose to connect with that yearning deep within you. That yearning is pleading with you to “step out!”

If you really want to become a person of fanatical faith, step out. That faith will appear the moment you take the step!

Now a bit of warning: keep in mind that choosing this path may be called foolishness by others. But you will forever remember it as the moment you stepped into “fanatical faith!” You will forever remember that this is the day you forever closed and locked the door to a life of “fumbling in familiarity.” 

What do you have to lose? You already know without a doubt that you were created for more!

How can I make such a statement? Because you’re reading this!

I believe in you! I believe in you in the way that I wish someone had believed in me much earlier in my life.

But it’s not too late. It never is! Don’t take that yearning to make a difference to your grave.

Instead, live your life fully every day, seizing every opportunity to do good, creating a revolution in others by your actions.

When your moment comes, I will be right there with you, cheering you on!

I’m certain that your fanatical faith will indeed arise in you, and that you will be changing the world!