Way back in 1965-1967, I was in the Peace Corps in Turkey. That’s another chapter in my life. 78 years is old enough to have lots of chapters. Anyway, while in the Peace Corps, I had leave time, on some of which I decided to visit Egypt. Another Peace Corps Volunteer was doing some different traveling on her leave time, but we decided to meet on a specific date at the American University in Cairo. I flew there and she didn’t show up. There I was in Cairo, a 25 year old single young woman. By myself. In a strange Moslem country. Instead of having another person to hang out with and gain courage together to go sightseeing, I was alone. What was I going to do? I knew I would most likely never be in Egypt again. And, in Peace Corps training and in living for more than a year in Turkey, I did know something about how to act in a Moslem country.
The American University in Cairo had a dormitory that was a safe place. After visiting the Pyramids and the Cairo Museum, I took the night train to Luxor in the Valley of the Kings. I took the night train so I would have one less hotel bill. I expected there to be several other people in my train car. There is safety in numbers. No one else was there. That made me even more afraid. What if someone would come in while I was sleeping? I didn’t get much sleep that night.
I did survive the night. And when the train arrived in Luxor in the morning, I, and lots of other people, got off the train. I got off the train and pretended that I knew what I was doing. There were no buildings in sight. But everyone was walking in one direction, which I assumed must be the town. I picked up my bag and purposefully strode off, as if getting off a train in the Egyptian desert was a perfectly normal occurrence for me. And I have a long story about that adventure. But the important part for this talk is that I pretended I knew what I was doing. I pretended I wasn’t afraid. I acted like an experienced world traveler. And I had one of the most marvelous adventures in my life.
Leaving your fear behind is not the same thing as being fearless. I guess, it’s courage. Or maybe courage is just pretending. Courage is not being fearless. It is deciding to do something even though you are afraid. Sometimes, it is acting like you are unafraid even though you are shaking in your boots.
On the American Discovery Trail, I have walked city streets and country roads. I walk up to people’s houses and ask for a place to put up my tent, or for water, or a place to go to the bathroom; and most of the time, I pretend. I act like I am unafraid. I consciously try not to act like a mark, in street language. I stand up a little straighter and make myself walk exuding confidence. To tell the truth, I use that when being a pastor getting up in front of people to preach too. And after lots and lots of pretending not to be afraid, it becomes kinda true.
Have you ever gotten past a fear by pretending? By acting like you were not afraid?