Chuck Yeager was apparently a nameless nobody at one time. Until he broke the sound barrier. Now, his name is what we call a household word. Everybody knows it.
The sound barrier isn’t actually an obstruction, per se. If humans didn’t become pilots of airplanes and try to see how fast that they could go, we might not even know that such a thing exists. But, the sound barrier was a challenge to the human spirit in the aviation world. It went something like this: I’ve got you beaten. You’ll never cross this line, dreamer. Don’t even try.
A challenge the likes of which will, of course, always summon forth people like Mr. Yeager to prove it wrong. Because that’s how we’re made.
What is your “sound barrier?” Maybe its having that talk with your boss about your work hours, or confronting your son about a certain habit that he’s developed. Maybe it’s getting the courage up to ask for help with an obstacle that’s beset you for several years. It could be speaking in public, mustering the determination to start prayer with your wife, or to follow through with a promise that you made.
However we label or define it, yours is likely an internal battle. Human “sound barriers” are normally encountered within. The results are seen by others and are measurable, but the process of overcoming fear is not quantifiable. There are no twelve steps for every occasion. Maybe God wants it that way, so that we include him in the arena in which we find ourselves fighting.
The first one through a wall always gets bloody. Yeager was surely having a bit of difficulty controlling his sphincter when his experimental aircraft started to shake as he approached the speed of Mach 1. Or maybe the mess in his pants didn’t make the history books, and rightly so. Not only did he have to manage his fears, but he also had to trust the airplane that would bring him through to the other side of fear. And there are barriers for humans that are even more important than a world record.
Most of our fears have to do with our egos. Your ego isn’t you, and that’s one of the first thing that I believe Jesus would have us understand as Christians. Whatever you call it, the ego, the flesh, the old you – I call it the impostor – it is the locus of all fear. And it must die.
Before Jesus performed any other miracles, he showed that the impostor was his impotent slave when the spirit tested him for 40 days in the wilderness. All the fears of the ego – hunger and thirst, rejection, powerlessness, anonymity, and the like – had ample opportunity to best him at that time. He was even confronted by the biggest, baddest ego of all time, the devil, and proved that a spirit filled human being is more powerful than the best that the cosmos has to offer. He was the first through the wall, and so is the most celebrated and admired human to ever be on the planet.
Yeager had a grid of trust, which helped him to face his fear. It was his airplane. He trusted that vessel to get him through to a glory that no man had seen before. But he trusted in more than the plane. He also had to trust in the maker of the Bell X-1.
When I worked in the tree service and was training as a climber, it was crucial to learn to trust in the equipment. Sure, you had to check the ropes for nicks and cuts, and learn to tie the right knots. But if you didn’t have the guts to trust the equipment, there was no way in hell that you were going to walk out on that limb (literally).
The grid of trust that you and I have is the greatest possible. We have a heavenly Father, the same one that Jesus did, who has given us everything that we need to make our breakthroughs, to conquer fear, to overcome all things. We have Jesus who went before us to show the way, and who walks with us to strengthen us. And we have our brothers and sisters in Christ, who also walk with us and share all things with us.
And we also have ourselves. Don’t forget that God made you – and that should give some measure of trusting yourself, no?
Jesus kept his eyes on the other side of fear. He looked neither to the right or the left, but straight ahead to his heavenly Father – who is also our Father – for strength, guidance, and courage. He looked ahead to the glory to come if he followed through and overcame that barriers that were given to him. And as a result, he was given first place and is chief among beings both in heaven and upon the earth. Did you know that facing your fears could lead to such glory?
What lies on the other side of your fears? Let’s answer that question, and start to look to the rewards that follow for those who live victoriously, rather than the pain that may result from rocking the boat and taking a risk.
As Yeager knows, the greatest turbulence happens just before the barrier is broken. But the greatest glory comes afterwards. It’s time for us to face our fears.
Make your decision. Be determined. Greatness is not composed of title, fame, or accolades. It is in the moment by moment decision that you make to follow Jesus in spite of your impostor and the other nay-sayers, all of whom would nag you to nothingness until the day you die.
So what’s it going to be for you?