I was the biggest guy on the football team.
Well, the heaviest, if not the biggest. It was little league and they capped the weight limit at 175 pounds and I was right at the limit. All of the linemen were supposed to be.
I was the biggest guy on the football team, but I kept flinching, flinching. D-linemen would fly by me, linebackers would jump over me, and this one free safety would run right through me. And I kept flinching, flinching.
My coach would yell, grab my helmet and yell "What are you so afraid of? You're the biggest guy out here and you're covered with armor. What are you so afraid of?"
Coaches have to yell, I think. Somewhere in a closet under the stairs there's an official rule book that requires coaches to yell if they want to get through to their players.
I was afraid of a lot. I was afraid of getting hurt, sure. But I was mostly afraid of my teammates. This was Police Athletic League football, rough football, football for kids whose parents got their gear at thrift stores. And I had the lightest skin on the team. I stood out.
I was afraid that I would block well, play well, get praise from the coach and get jumped while waiting for my mom to pick me up after practice. I didn't know my teammates, I didn't live near them, I didn't know they would never do something like that to me.
Then something happened. There were race riots in St. Petersburg on a Friday night. Some white police officer shot an 18-year-old black kid. The next day, we nervously showed up for the PAL game. One of my teammate's fathers met us at our car. He gave me a hug and thanked us for coming to the game. He sat next to my parents in the stands and protected them by his presence. I was on the field, so I prayed and became less afraid.
I had been afraid that they would hurt me because I wasn't like them. That was a fear, a big one. God wanted me to name that fear and he had a bigger purpose than interracial sportsmanship.
Brenda asked us to name our fears, to identify them, bring them into the open. Hidden, unidentified, unnamed fears are hard to abandon. They cause us to do things that seem rational and justifiable but are also non-incarnational. They must be named as we start to present a credible witness to the gospel of Jesus, as we start to tear down walls and barriers between people.
Here're some of the fears Brenda has encountered on her journey...
...I can't change anything
...I can't change everything
...I'll be overwhelmed
...I can't identify with these people
...I'm not worthy
Can you see how these fears - unnamed - would keep us from starting where we are?