Living Scared


living-scared, passion, fear, risk, safe


Last week, I went on 5-day field trip to St. Louis, Missouri, with my oldest daughter’s school choir. I had the pleasure of chaperoning high-school students. I spent most of my time with a little group of juniors and seniors. One of our stops was at the St. Louis Zoo, which is quite large and extraordinary. The kids were excited to see a polar bear and penguins and gorillas; however, they kept talking about how sad it was to see the animals in their faux habitats. One student even lingered alone at the gorilla enclosure, and upon returning to the group, remarked about how upsetting it was to see them locked up.

I shared with my husband about the trip and the zoo and how the teenagers were somewhat saddened by the realization that the animals would never again be in their natural homes. He remarked, “They’re safer at the zoo than they are in the wild.” Ah. True. However, safe and free are two different things.

I’m pretty sure most people desire and cherish freedom. I don’t know of anyone who would prefer not to be free. Yet, most of us live our lives in such a way that we prioritize safety over freedom. We work long hours at jobs we hate so we can have a retirement fund. We get every app and gadget and insurance we can afford in order to keep our homes and cars and accounts safe. We avoid neighborhoods where we think we might be harmed. We stay away from people we think might hurt us. We stand in long security lines when we travel. We put nets around our trampolines. We take every precaution we can think of in every instance of our lives in an effort to be safe.

We’ve been conditioned to be practical and smart and level headed. We’ve been taught since childhood to stay away from strangers. We’ve learned to be scared, and those who’ve taught us are filling their pockets with profits.

And we’re mostly miserable.

What we really want to be is free. We want to dance like fools. We want to jump without the net. We want to ride without a helmet. We want to feel the wind in our hair. We want to worry less about money and let passion have its way. We want to walk away from the jobs we hate and do the thing we love. We want to talk to our neighbors and make new friends. We want to fall in love. We want to take risks. We want to sell the house and travel the world.

But we’re afraid.

Fear will never make us happy. And living scared makes life mundane, at best.

I wonder how many of our missing smiles might return if we were a little reckless and risky every once in a while.


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  1. Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    First, Rebekah, I’m so glad you had a great time in St. Louis (based on your FB posts and our exchanges I know that you did). Second, I’m so very sorry we were unable to connect. I surely wanted to, but I have also chaperoned, and I realize how your time was jammed packed every minute. It’s my hope you will be able to come back some day. I’d love to take you to our Art Museum in Forest Park (where the Zoo is!), and to other sights and out for tea and back to my house for a jam session!! So be sure to let me know if you come back. I really appreciate this essay, despite that our Zoo is a major attraction, free to all, and touted as one of the best zoos in the world! I have often shared the same thoughts as your teens did. My aunt used to visit the Zoo every day for ten years when she lived here in her later life. Every day! She had a special rapport with the lions, believe it or not, and loved to be in that atmosphere! But no matter the lovely landscape of our zoo or my own pride in being able to claim that my great-grandfather helped build that gigantic birdcage you likely saw :-), I still lament the captivity of the animals. They are on display “for consumption” in a way, in artificial and often cramped (by comparison to their natural habitat) quarters. I know they are not mistreated in the way that many animals are, but still . . . do they long to spring free? We all do long for freedom and often remain imprisoned in cells and straightjackets of our own making. God has set me free in so many areas of my life. How could I not long for that for every person and every animal? You’ve given great food for thought here. And may we remember not to engage in self-inflicted activities which imprison our souls!
    Thank you for posting, and for visiting our “fair” city (thnking World’s Fair here, for which we are likewise famous! :-))

    • Lynn,
      We so enjoyed St. Louis. My daughter’s choir teacher highlighted some amazing places. Maybe we’ll have another chance to connect one day.

      The kids loved the zoo! I think their favorite exhibits were those of the pengiuns and polar bear. I was impressed by its size and appearance. (Much larger than our local zoo here in Birmingham.) That’s amazing about your aunt!

      Thanks for the book recommendation (below). I’ll check it out!

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    BTW, along the lines of your topic, I’d recommend Life Unhindered: Five Keys to Walking in Freedom by my friend, author Jennifer Kennedy Dean:

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    I’ll tell you my little polar bear story sometime. I’m glad that the girls had a great time. I do thnk we’ll meet some day!!

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