Stepping Out In Faith

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You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat

“Security does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~ Helen Keller

One of the best self-help/motivational books I ever read was If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat by John Ortberg. It’s a religious book. It has to do with a horrific storm at sea and Jesus walking on water. It tells the story of the disciples hanging out terrified for a while in the boat until Peter steps out in faith. Whether you’re religious or not, believe in that story or not, the fact remains that if you want miraculous, heart-pounding things to occur in your life, you’re gonna have to step out of your comfortable, safe boat and into the churning waters without a guarantee of what the outcome will be.

I’ve said this before in this blog & here I’m saying it again: That’s where people get stuck. They like to dream. They like to think about goals to achieve someday, which is some nebulous, undefined time in the future. They feel a calling in their lives & they ignore it or worse, flat out say no. They have talents & gifts that they keep hidden. They like to stay in the background & sometimes gripe about why their lives aren’t satisfying, exciting, what they want them to be. Why? Because it’s safer that way. There’s no risk involved. But there’s never really a sure thing, is there? You could do all the right things and still get in a car accident that paralyzes you. You could be the best parent in the world & still your kid gets tangled up in the wrong crowd and hooked on drugs. You could pay all your bills on time and have a fabulous credit rating & still get cancer.

I don’t like risk

Look, I’m not a fan of risk either. I never have been. Part of it is my personality. Part of it is my upbringing. Either way, I tend to order the same thing at restaurants. I like to vacation in the same spot every year. My hairstyle hasn’t changed in probably more than 5 years. I’m a fan of safe & steady. Really, I am. But there also came a time in my life when I just couldn’t live with myself anymore. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror & flat out ignore what my heart was telling me. I’ve wanted to be a writer, specifically a novelist, since I was 5 years old. No joke. Five years old. And I wasn’t doing it. I was doing things around it (writing news articles, feature pieces, press releases, notes & short stories in my journal) but I wasn’t writing novels.

So what was the problem? Answer, short and simple: I was afraid. If you wanna find out what your particular boat is, Ortberg says, then ask yourself what you’re most afraid of, especially when you imagine yourself having to let it go.

Money

The biggest, number one fear was money. For me, it’s always been that. Where was the money coming from? Would there be enough? How am I going to support myself? That comes from my mother, God love her, growing up in poverty, her fears passed down. But the good thing that came out of my upbringing is that, for the most part, I tend to be a low-maintenance kind of gal. There’s almost nothing better to me than shopping the clearance rack at Macy’s and getting a pair of $80 Tommy Hilfiger jeans for $5.49 (after coupons, of course ~ true story!). Am I still scared about not having enough? Yes, but it’s less & keeps fading as time passes. What I’ve learned through all these years is that between bargain shopping, coupons, & not buying junk I don’t need, the money has always been there.

Career

I thought I was afraid to leave my career because of the steady paycheck & the medical benefits. That was part of it, sure. But also, I realized later, I was afraid to leave because I was afraid of other people’s perceptions of me (that’s a whole other blog post) ~ what would they think of me quitting a decent-paying job to go be an artist, a broke & starving artist, which sadly is what I’d come to believe about making art. What I also came to understand after I left my full-time employment was that it had been a convenient excuse, a kind of crutch I guess, a way to wiggle out of what my heart was saying ~ no, I can’t go be a novelist because I have a career, doncha know? I’ve also come to understand that satisfying your soul & being able to look at yourself in the mirror is more important than your bank balance.

Independence

When I left my full-time job, I had to rely more on my husband’s salary ~ very tough on me because I’d lived alone for a long time before I met him and so I was used to taking care of myself. Having mostly only his income to live off of made me feel less independent & more like a mooch. It’s been years now & sometimes I work 16-hour days (but only get paid for a fraction of those hours) & I still feel like that. But the upside is I’ve gotten (& still get) to experience somebody loving me enough to want me to succeed & being willing to help me however he can. I tear up a bit writing that because how often do you truly get to experience that level of caring and nurturing? How often do you let yourself experience it?

New surroundings

I moved to Chicago to follow my dream. It was a new place. A BIG city for somebody coming from a small town. I didn’t know a single person except for my husband. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know anything about the area, the people, what to expect. And I hate change. Hate it. Sorry to say, I’m not a fan of adventure either. See my I don’t like risk paragraph above. But I packed all my stuff in a little U-Haul & moved. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Not only graduate school but also city living (read: anonymity) and meeting new friends and realizing that despite all my fears about money, there was always enough. There just was. Some of my best friends still live in Chicago, people I can call at 2 a.m. & who have my back no matter what. Now, Chicago feels like home to me & some days I find myself homesick to return there. I love that city & I go back every chance I get.

And the point is . . .

Take it from me, living based on your fears is not living. A lot of times, especially with new stuff, I’m still scared. But I keep moving forward despite it. Just hold my breath & go. If you want your life to be different, be what you want it to be, you have to make a change. Nobody will be at the end of your life handing out gold stars or blue ribbons because you played it safe rather than feeling fully alive. If you truly want to feel that exhilarating rush as you take a risk & trust the universe to catch you, then you have to take that first step. As Ortberg says, you’ve got to get out of the boat.

What about you? Have you stepped out in faith? If not, what’s holding you back? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.

26 Responses to "Stepping Out In Faith"
  1. Shawndra Russell says:

    Excellent blog! Whenever I’m doubting my career choice (quitting safe, freelancing full-time), reading something like this is so affirming and encouraging. Here is a post I wrote about my decision: http://shawndrarussell.blogspot.com/2011/07/writer-wednesdays-my-first-guest-post.html

    • Hi Shawndra! Thanks for sharing your post. I found myself nodding along as I read it. I especially love this from your post: “Pursue delirious happiness.” Hear, hear! I also have Thoreau’s quote hanging up, mine in my writing room: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

  2. Oh I could relate to so much of what you wrote, Shelli! Eating the same things at restaurants, shopping the clearance racks, not liking change (to a point). Writing for years, but doing nothing with it except handpicking a couple of ‘proof-readers’ to ‘check for typos and rough spots.’ Why? Well, what if no one liked my writing? What if they thought it was stupid?

    So this year I got out of the boat…and was it ever a SCARY experience! But you know what? While I might not be WALKING on the water, yet, my head is still above it. And I’m finding that while some people might not like my writing, others do. I also have gotten to meet a group of fantastic authors that I wouldn’t ‘know’ if I’d stayed in the boat.

    Yes, staying in it is the safe thing to do. It’s also boring, stifles your growth as a person and leaves you with too many regrets over all the opportunities you threw away because you were afraid to get your feet wet.

    Great article! 🙂

    • Hi Kristy! Congrats to you! Truly. I know how hard it is to take the first step. I love this: “leaves you with too many regrets over all the opportunities you threw away because you were afraid to get your feet wet.” That’s the truth, too.

  3. Very inspiring article, Shelli. It gives me comfort as I recently quit my safe and secure full-time job where I was making decent money, but I wasn’t happy. I thought I had made a mistake at first, but then after focusing more and more on my dream of working for myself the anxiety and regret has slowly turned into excitement. Reading this article hit home for me.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Rob! I’m so glad this post spoke to you. 🙂 I love this: “the anxiety and regret has slowly turned into excitement.” It did for me, too. Wishing you all the best in achieving your dream.

  4. I swear I read your blog posts and envy you for saying it exactly so! Thank you!

    Katherine Owen

  5. Nancy says:

    Amazing blog post Shelli. I am 100% with you. We need to step out and find out. The answer may be no but then we’ll know and try something else. I’ve said lately that “no” isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever heard so it doesn’t scare me any more.

    Get out there folks!

  6. Very inspiring post! I’ve been dreaming about being a full-time novelist for years now. I did manage to self-publish my first book late last year, but money is what is still keeping me back. I’ve often thought about quitting the day job to give me more time to write that next book much faster, but I’m afraid we’d lose our house only living on my husband’s income. I’d love to just take that plunge and finally do what I love to do full-time.

    Great post, Shelli!

    • Hi L.J.! Thanks so much for the compliment. Here’s some advice: do your budget first & know where you’re at financially. I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t (well, if you’re anything like me) get much writing done if you quit your job and then freak out about money. I work part-time at a job I enjoy that has flexible hours, so I manage to pay bills and write ~ best of both worlds. 🙂

  7. Paul Denni says:

    Hey Shelli, I moved from Central California to Southern California (two completely different cultures) and am loving it down here. I wanted to live in a more beautiful area and in a place where I could thrive in my career as well. My wife and I have been loving it and although it was scary and tough to make the move, it has been well worth it.

    • Hi Paul! Well, I learned something new today. I never knew that 2 different regions of California had vastly different cultures. Kudos to you for moving through the fear and doing it anyway. I’m so glad to hear that you’re happy. Cheers!

  8. Wow, I seriously feel like I could have written this exact post (well, besides the religious part). I’ve always worried about having enough money, I’ve also left my job and am now going to be supported by my husband’s income while I write, etc.
    I can’t tell you how comforting this post is and your blog in general (I just discovered it). It is so hard to step out of the boat, especially when you see the water rising up around you. But it’s worth it if it means having a chance at creating something you believe in.
    Thanks again for posting this.

    • Hi Jenny! *waves* Glad you found this post comforting. It is so worth stepping out of the boat to create something worthwhile. Glad to hear that you did. Cheers to you!

  9. Heather Swart says:

    Thank you so very much for this post! I am in a similar situation at the moment and have just made the decision to give up “security” and follow my dreams. It’s really a scary prospect but exciting and liberating as well. So good to know that I am not alone in this! So thank you!

    • Hi Heather! *waves* You are welcome & I am so happy to hear that you’re stepping out to follow your dreams. Scary, yes, but absolutely worth it, IMO. Not alone & in fact, you’re in great company. 🙂 Cheers to you!

  10. Tony says:

    Shelli, thanks so much for sharing. I once talked to people about actively going after their dreams and even wrote books about it but for years I found it most difficult to do it myself. I had a dream of becoming a motivational speaker and best-selling author. I had the courage to write several books but not to pursue the speaking part of my dream. Then in the last year I suffered 7 strokes (three were just mini strokes but scary non the less) and I think reality is beginning to hit me in the face and it hurts. What if I were suddenly unable to go after my dreams because of my health. Thank God I am still healthy enough to do it. I am currently driving a taxi 6 days a week 12 hurs a day and it is taking a toll on me mentally and physically but I need the money just to make ends meet but as long as I bust my but to help the owner of the company live his dream, I am destroying my chances of living mine with each hour I spend driving for the company. If I quit I have no idea how to pay my bills. I just got engaged and need to be saving for a wedding but I don’t make enough money as it is to save AND still eat everyday. Please offer any suggestions I am frustrated and very unfulfilled. I didn’t earn my BA to drive a damn cab but because of my strokes I can’t work in my career of corporate sales anymore though that never was a passion of mine either. I am an award winning speaker so I know how to motivate an audience but right now I can’t even motivate myself! HELP!!

    • Hi Tony!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your health problems but glad you’re still healthy enough to go after your dreams.

      A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to hear a billionaire speak. (I’ll be doing a series of posts about it on my blog in a couple months). Here’s what I can tell you: he got where he wanted to be by having a singular focus on his goal, doing whatever it took for him to reach it, being willing to grow slowly, & not giving up. It’s the grow slowly part that I have a hard time with. 😀

      I can’t tell you what’s best for you with regards to your job. I can tell you that I ended up changing careers entirely to something that had flexible hours (so I could write) and paid enough to cover my bills. That work is also fulfilling to me & that makes a huge difference in my happiness level.

      I can tell you, too, that if you’ve lost hope, that’s a bad thing. We all have to reach for what we want & keep growing. If we don’t, then we end up stagnating & withering, and that’s no way, IMO, to live a life. If you haven’t read Ortberg’s book I mentioned earlier (If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat), I really can’t recommend it enough. I’m reading it again actually to give myself courage. I hope it does that for you, too.

      *hugs*

  11. Amy says:

    My husband is a former drug addict (who the Lord saved from suicide) and when we met he had left another state because he knew he would end up in the same situation again. He quit drugs completely and I met him shortly after while going through a terrible divorce. Everything statistically shows we shouldn’t have made it as a couple but here we are ten years later…happier than ever and are six years into our walk with the Lord.

    Because of his decision to take off without notifying his probation officer he ended up with warrants and the original charge a felony. We talked to many attorneys over the years and EVERY one said we would have to return to the previous state and appear before a judge to see what the outcome would be. I have never been so terrified in my life. My husband finally told me he HAD to do it and that he knew the Lord would make a way. This last February we hired a Christian defense attorney to represent us and he also said we would have to appear since the original charge was a felony. Well…we didn’t hear anything for a time and the end of May we received an email stating that not only had the judge dismissed the warrants but had also dismissed the felonies. This allowed my husband and I to travel freely back to his home state to see his family. I had never met any of them and my husband hadn’t seen them in over ten years. Some weren’t even sure if he was alive or locked up. Once I relinquished my fear and gave it completely to God…it allowed Him to pave the way for a complete miracle…and what an amazing and abundant blessing it was.

    Now for the next chapter…I’ve worked at my current job for 9 years and just went part time in November after getting several confirmations from the Lord. I was scared senseless but with the encouragement of my husband I stepped out in faith. We adjusted our budget and shortly after the Lord presented me with a business name. I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I waited (which is new for me) and in May of this year He blessed me with the “motto”. It turns out the business includes both my husband and myself and will allow us to be flexible when the Lord blesses us with our first child. We are not pregnant yet but started trying this week. Now I know that I know that I know that the Lord is asking me to step out once again but this time I will have no control or “security”. I am certain that He has prepared a day in the near future for me to quit my job and do our business full time. My check has always been the steady one and my job has been the one with benefits. However, I wholeheartedly know that He’s asking me to jump…to grab tight to His hand and not look back. The time is now and I have already made the decision to give my notice next week but I’m doing it scared for I have no idea how this looks and I don’t yet have the “jobs” for our new business to meet our finances. The one thing I am certain of is that He has been faithful time and time again and I know He will this time…but it doesn’t stop my brain from telling me to stop…or my soul from telling me to go ahead and jump. How exciting, how nerve wracking…how wonderful to be a child of the Almighty God <3

    This post was the second one I clicked on after doing a Google search for "stepping out in faith when scared"…and it was PERFECT…as God's timing is ALWAYS perfect 🙂 I definitely teared up when I read the part about being supported financially by someone else. Interestingly enough my husband and I just had that VERY conversation tonight. He told me that he will do ANYTHING possible to help my dreams come true…all the while reminding me to rely completely upon the Lord…what a truly wonderful man I've been blessed with. This is more confirmation for me that IT IS TIME to do what the Lord has been asking me to do. Prayers are appreciated as I step out once again…knowing that He will catch me even if it feels like I'm free-falling!

    May I share a poem the Lord blessed me with…

    I Give You

    It doesn’t matter what you’ve been told
    I give you permission to be courageous and bold,
    It doesn’t matter how insecure you are
    I give you permission to be a bright shining star.

    It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been a child at heart
    I give you permission to claim a new start.
    It doesn’t matter what others have said,
    I give you permission to look through my eyes instead.

    I see you as worthy, a most beautiful child
    I am filled with joy when I see your radiant smile.
    Let your light shine forth so that others may see
    You were created with love, you were created by me.

    All that matters is how I see you through my own glorious eyes
    So don’t shrink back in fear for you have no reason to hide.
    I’ve created you significant and you’re one of a kind
    You were lovingly made with an abundant future in mind.

    I give you permission to see yourself as a beautiful creation
    For when you were formed there was great celebration.
    I give you permission to live a life exciting and renewed
    Because I created someone amazing and there’s only one you.

    My permission is everything, it’s all that you need,
    You’re a beautiful flower that grew from Christ’s seed.
    Be gorgeous, my child, for I planted you with love
    Grow in abundance as you glorify your Father above.

    © Amy Ramirez 09/23/11 (smileyqueen2122 at yahoo dot com)

    Psalm 145:9 The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.
    Psalm 145:13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.

    • Hi Amy!

      I’m so glad to hear that your husband is off drugs & that your marriage is strong & happy. 🙂

      I know how nerve-wracking it is sometimes to step out in faith. I know it involves a fantastic amount of trust. Our preacher likes to remind us: where God guides, God provides. I’ve found that to be incredibly true. He also preached a sermon this weekend on discernment, which is discerning God’s call from stuff that we swear is a door from God opening, but really is just stuff we want to do.

      I’m reading Ortberg’s book again because I needed discernment & courage; both of which that book provides. In it, he talks about how there are 366 verses about Fear Not (one for every day of the year + leap year!). He also talks about doing what he calls a “low-cost probe.” That basically means that you take a small step out in the direction you think you’re being led to see if it feels like the right thing, if doors open, if it takes off; if it does, you know you’re headed in the right direction. I say this because in the book, Ortberg gives an example of someone who was given advice to quit his job & go full-time in the ministry; if the man had done that, he would’ve missed God’s call on his life. The man chose instead to do a low-cost probe & ended up finding his calling.

      I’m not saying all this to discourage you. I’m telling you this so that you discern between God’s call & your own. And if it’s God’s call, then step out even if it feels like you’re free-falling. I know how it feels. I’m right there with you. I know that I know that I know that I’m doing the right thing. And yes, I’m still scared, too (although some days less than others). 🙂

      Thank you for sharing the beautiful poem. It was encouraging & uplifting & something I needed to hear today. You are so right that God’s timing is perfect. You’ll be in my prayers, darlin.

      Please stop back & let me know how it goes for you. *hugs*

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