It’s been thirty years, but I can still remember the fear. A beautiful Fourth of July at the pool with cousins, aunts, and uncles. Everyone splashing and laughing, celebrating the holiday that commemorated freedom.
Everyone except me.
I clutched the smooth sides of the pool as if my life depended on it. With an orange bubble firmly strapped to my back, I should have been free to let go. To take this risk would surely lead to fun and independence.
But fear held me in place. I stayed in that spot for hours. I remember thinking, “The whole party is happening right around me, and I’m missing it because I’m just too scared.”
I never did let go of the ledge that day.
Yet that moment—that feeling of not fully engaging as life went on around me—stayed with me forever. And it began to form my view on taking risks.
Life was precious. How did I want to live it? Was the Creator of this vast, beautiful universe calling me to safety or was He calling me to step out of my comfort zone? To engage in the party and let go of the ledge? To fully live, even in an uncertain world?
But to embrace life in the fullest way possible required taking risks. It required letting go of the side of the pool to swim free—however that might look. For me, it was going parasailing. It was leaving my husband and two sons to board a plane and go to a writers’ conference. It was suffering the sting of rejection after rejection from literary agents—being told I wasn’t good enough—but still taking the risk of trying again.
The heroine in my novel, Freedom’s Ring, lives in fear after the Boston Marathon bombing denied her a marathon finish, crippled her niece, and tore apart her family. She chides herself for her fear. For not being strong enough to make amends with her family. For not being strong enough to run again.
I relate well to Annie. Her refusal to engage in life, especially when it’s hard, reminds me of my refusal to let go of the edge of that pool and swim free.
But thanks to Jesus—for Annie’s sake, mine, and yours—our stories don’t have to end in fear and imprisonment. Because that’s not who our God is. He has plans and a destiny for us that are far greater than sitting on the sidelines.
Sure, we fear taking risks. We fear rejection and losing security. But it’s when we push past comfort zones that we grow emotionally and spiritually. And while we may have an end result in mind, both succeeding and failing are important. Failing builds character. It makes us more human, even more beautiful.
And is that not our calling? To embody the fullest measure of what it means to be human and to welcome God’s plan for us?
We’re called to embrace this crazy life and wrestle from it every ounce of beauty and meaning. But that may require taking a risk: letting go of that ledge in order to swim—or run—free.
by Heidi Chiavaroli, author of Freedom’s Ring
Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated—plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.
Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.
Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.