My Greatest Fear in Life

August 5, 2010 | 24 comments

Earth spins the dust off another day, and the sun melts orange across my Iowa sky.

I grab the Nikon from the kitchen counter, and slip feet into dirty flip-flops by the back door. Anna says she’s coming, too. We head to the patch of grass where etched stones mark the lives of the saints.

“Are you scared of cemeteries, Mommy?” she asks from the backseat.

“No… Are you?” I look in the rear-view mirror, and she’s looking out past fields, counting up her fears.

“No, I’m not scared of cemeteries either,” she pauses. “But I am scared of bears and sharks. What are you scared of, Mommy?”

“Just snakes mostly, … I guess.”

I turn west, squinting into the sinking sun. And I consider the things that really do scare me — things I don’t think I can articulate to a six-year-old who measures fear by the number of sharp teeth in a mouth.

I suppose we’ll be buried here, in a graveyard established five years after the Civil War ended. It’s across the road from the country church where we worship every Sunday; it’s one mile from the home where we’re raising crops and kids.

Yes, I ‘spect we’ll be buried here. But only God knows, really. I scan the horizon, wondering where our grown-up family might gather, huddled, by holes cut in the Iowa dirt. I think a spot near that big old Norway spruce might be nice.

But I’m not scared of dying — not anymore.

And truth is, I don’t much care where these old bones lay. I just want to know that I’ve satisfied His calling on my life before the spade turns dirt for my grave. Before they etch the stone with the dates.

For this is my deepest fear: That I will have missed my calling before I die.

When the sun melts orange across my life, will I have lived these years the way He had planned for me?

It could easily go the other way. Because I’m easily charmed by all of the vain things. These are the things that threaten His calling on my life: the pride and the search for man’s approval and the hope that someone will notice me and that they’ll like me — that they’ll really like me. Will vanity will stand in the way of what I was really supposed to do?

I don’t think I can articulate all of that to a six-year-old. I’m not sure — even now as I write — that I can articulate it to myself … and to you.


“There’s my favorite tombstone, Anna, the one with the big cross.” I point it out, and she says it’s her favorite, too.

We walk past rows and fake flowers and fresh humps of dirt to stop at the stone, to stare silent at the Jesus nailed to the cross. She has a pocket full of red craft sequins, and I don’t want her to litter, but I let her leave a few at the base of the gravemarker.

And I leave a few things there, too — a few burdens I’ve been carrying around. What I drop is invisible, but it’s litter all the same.

All of this life finds proper perspective in the place where three nails meet the depravity of humanity. At the cross of Christ, this I know: our richest gains are loss in comparison to knowing Jesus.

I know that if I’m ever really going to answer His calling on my life, I must fully grasp that truth — not just in words here, but in the daily practice of my life.

I bend down on a knee to snap a picture, and I whisper a prayer that somehow my girls will see their mama living in a way that seeks hard after her calling, not for personal glory but for the glory of the Father.

And I call out to Him — spirit to Spirit: Help me, Lord, because I don’t want to miss it.

He must become greater;
I must become less.
— John 3:30

by | August 5, 2010 | 24 comments


  1. Linda

    I understand this fear Jennifer. I live with it too. I am in the sixth decade of my life, still wondering if I have done what He really wants me to do – and longing to finish well.
    The irony, for me, is that another fear that sometimes runs alongside is the loss of control. How is it I can want so desperately to do what He has created me to do and at the same time want to keep it all under my control
    I have had to learn the lesson of surrender and trust. I sometimes have to learn it all over again.

  2. Angel

    Jennifer – Tears are falling hard because your deepest fear is one I share. I hear the cry of your heart echoing in my own and all I can do is fall at the feet of Jesus, littering my heart wounds, fears, doubts, regrets all around. I pray that he will give me grace and allow me to see his calling fulfilled in my life. Thank you for this.

  3. Kelly Langner Sauer

    He doesn't have a Plan B, Jennifer. The idea of being able to miss the "perfect will" of a sovereign God who wrote all our days in His book before we were born, who shaped us perfect in our mother's womb for the life we would live, for the glory He would gain from it.

    There is no fear in Love. You can rest quiet in Jesus, friend.

  4. JC Dude

    "I know that if I'm ever really going to answer His calling on my life, I must fully grasp that truth — not just in words here, but in the daily practice of my life."

    That statement is at the heart of following Him…beautifully told in words and pictures!

  5. Karen

    Beautiful heart's cry…

    I have felt this fear before, too, and been chained down with regrets…but this is what He spoke to my heart…

    "My precious child…

    It is not about what you did or did not do…

    It is about who I AM…

    and what I did…

    and am still doing…

    So no regrets with Me…

    That chain is broken by the power of the blood of the Lamb…

    So close the door to your house of regrets…"

  6. katdish

    I need constant reminder of this. If I were God, I would get quite tired of all this fear I hold on to. Which is why I'm thankful that He is God and I am not. Thank you, again for expressing so beautifully the words I feel but cannot give life to.

  7. A Simple Country Girl

    As you know, we are the same page here. Literally.

    Is my vanity blocking my view? It is almost deafening when all my ideas get to chatting at the same time…


  8. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    My deep thanks to each of you; your words buoy my soul.

    It is the cry of my heart that I walk in His way and seek His will.

    Kelly — Your words are of great comfort. Thank you, dear one. In my heart, I know the truth. But, my oh my, it takes a heap of reminding to get the promises through this thick skull.

    This life is a constant battle of the flesh and the spirit — at least for me it is. It's that whole saint/sinner thing. Saved by grace … but still stumbling my way home.

    I thank God that He has paved the road Home with grace, or my knees would be a lot more skinned up than they already are.

    Thank you kind friends. (And thank you, Jesus.)

    (And Angel — I send you a big hug. I know that cry. I really do…)

  9. Julie Gillies

    I understand this fear, Jennifer, and I think in a way it's a healthy fear. I think as believers we universally long to hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant."

    But I also believe that God propels us forward into His will and our destinies–if we allow Him.

    May He grant us continued grace and excitement as we follow hard after Him, and seek to accomplish His will and His plan in our lives.

  10. Stephani

    Thank you Jennifer. There's a lump in my throat as I fight back the tears, knowing I fear the same thing.

  11. jasonS

    I know exactly what you're talking about. There was a time, ending high school and first year of college, I became fairly paranoid that I was going to blow it and miss out on God's best. The problem was that I had seen many good people walk away from God and I said, "how am I any different?" Then in the spring of my freshman year, I went on a 3 week mission trip and somewhere on a train in the UK, I had this deep sense I was going to make it. I can't even explain it.

    When I get overwhelmed with fear now and wonder if I should give up, I think of those moments and force myself not to think in the general but say "what decision do I make right now to stay close to Him." Perfect love drives out fear and He lavishes His love on His children. I don't have all the answers, but I do pray for you. Stay strong, one decision at a time.

    You are such a blessing. Thank you Jennifer.

  12. Susan DiMickele

    You have put my heart's desire in words. Thank you. I just want to hear "well done, good and faithful servant." Most days I fall so short. I don't want to miss it either! Yet through my mistakes and my humanity, He always shows me that He is at work, in spite of me. I'm confident you won't miss Him –He is your calling! (After all, isn't the title of your blog getting down with JESUS?)

  13. alicia

    I know this feeling that you are talking about…you did a beautiful job of using words to express youself.
    Blessings to you today!

  14. Amy Sullivan

    I love the idea of leaving your burdens at the cemetary. what an appropriate place for them to die.

    These pictures are amazing.

  15. Jennifer

    Feeling held back by toddlers this week–wondering how I can find my mission when my day moves from one diaper to the next. Yes–I fear I won't hear God's call, that I'll miss it, that it'll be too late.

  16. Cassandra Frear

    How beautiful. Simply beautiful. To see your heart shining there among the stones and trees and etched marble. He saw it, too.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Sandra Heska King

    "When the sun melts orange across my life . . ."

    Oh, my word. You have so captured my heart. I'm not so afraid of dying as of not living. Well.

    And a cemetery is my favorite place. So many stories. Of those who have carried out their callings. And, sadly, those who have not.

    Simply. Beautiful.

  18. Lea

    One of the most inspiring entries I've ever read. You "nailed " it and as I embark upon the sixth decade of my life, I think about this a lot. But, thinking is not where it's at, it's in submitting to Him right now and making these next years count for HIM! Thanks Jennifer! Hugs!

  19. Valerie Lynn

    I use to be afraid of dying, then as I watched my mother in her last hours and seen how peaceful she was before she left this earth, I knew without a doubt that she was at peace within her soul. She was going home to be with her Father. I do not fear death any longer. It is only our fleshly body which perishes, but our spirit will live on within a new body designed by the Master Creator Himself. What a beautiful day it will be!

    Awesome post Jennifer!

  20. ~*Michelle*~

    He must become greater;
    I must become less.
    — John 3:30

    oh, how I love that Scripture

    Once again….I leave your place with a happy heart and a smile…..and plenty to think about.

    thank you Jennifer.

  21. Melissa Runcie | Madabella

    This was so heartfelt and vulnerable. Up until my dad died in june, i didn't think about death much…now it seems to be ever present and God gently turns my chin to refocus my view onto him – up to the hills – to the clouds past the horizon…

    …and i love what kelly wrote – there is no plan b…that is so true. i realized that in my own story of redemption and mercy…

    beautiful words.

  22. Connie Mace

    Beautifully said, Jennifer. Today I was reminded that we are but dust. Same thing He made the gnats from that plagued Egypt!

    Again and again, His Word reminds us that He knows we're going to fall short. That's a given. I Corinthians 1:26-31. We're foolish, weak, poor, base. And yet…He chose us.

  23. elaine @ peace for the journey

    Me too…

    a hard reckoning this night.


  24. Bike Hampton Roads

    Good cemetery art. – McNarney


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