Drive Out of Fear

Talk about a moment I will always remember. My husband and I were spending a few days in Florida with my sister and her family, who had driven over from Oklahoma City.

My sister and I were in the condo, waiting for Noah, her grandson, to awaken from his nap. When he did, we knew exactly what to do. His mom — my niece — had left a fresh diaper, shorts, a life vest and baby sunblock. My sister and I carried the chubby fellow to a chair and changed him into fresh clothing.

As we gently ministered to him, rubbing the plump limbs with lotion, I thought of my sister's babies from years ago, whom she and I had burped, cuddled and changed, just like this. Then we carried the latest member of the new generation to the beach and watched him toddle behind his mom like a duck in a life vest. Soon, I thought, he'll be learning to swim.

Just then, I knew I, too, would be making a big change in my life: I would be breaking my five-year fast from flying.

For many years, I flew once a year to visit my sister and her family in Oklahoma. The joy the little ones expressed upon seeing me always astonished me. “Auntie Raine!” they would shout, and then jostle each other to spend time with me. They did not know that Auntie Raine despised flying with every fiber of her being.

You see, to a person like me, with zero knowledge of aerodynamics, planes are magical things. They remain in the sky thanks to the efforts of invisible elves. So couldn't the elves decide to take a coffee break at any moment and send the plane crashing to earth? Despite my trepidation, though, I continued to fly — until five years ago, that is, when my life descended into chaos.

Shortly after I had purchased a plane ticket, my doctor announced there was a suspicious spot on my mammogram. Terror kicked in, but I made the trip anyway. And had the most dismal flight of my life. All I could think about was the worst-case scenario: Surely I would die from cancer. And even though I’d promised myself that I would not cry, when I saw my sister at the airport I fell into her arms, weeping.

From that point on, whenever I contemplated flying again, I talked myself out of it.

But on the beach that day, as I watched my other nephews crashing about in the surf, I thought about the celebrations I had missed in the past five years. I thought about holidays and birthdays and baby Noah's birth. I thought about my niece's letters, which often say, “I think about you all the time.”

“Perfect love,” Scripture says, “drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). For the past five years, I realized, I had become a prisoner of fear. In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne can't become a hero until he descends into the bleak cave to confront his greatest terror. As for me, I will never be a hero, but I can try to be a better aunt and sister by getting over my fears.

And now that I've bought the ticket, I'm experiencing an unusual sense of peace. After all, even if the elves do take a coffee break, the trip will be worth it. How could it not be? It's motivated by love.

And who knows? Maybe when we face what frightens us, God sends us a special gift. The peace that St. Paul wrote about, the one that surpasses understanding.

Lorraine Murray's books are available at lorrainevmurray.com

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.