As fears go, it was a little bit ridiculous.
I was afraid of yeast. More specifically, of baking with yeast.
You won’t find this fear on any list of documented phobias. I know—I looked.
But as irrational as it sounds, it was real for me.
I’m a good cook. I don’t shy away from trying new recipes. As much as I loved the idea of making homemade bread or yeast rolls, though, I never once tried it—not in more than three decades of baking.
I didn’t know how to do it. I thought it was too hard. I thought it was a skill reserved for women whose mothers had baked before them, and their mothers before them.
What if my water wasn’t the right temperature and the yeast didn’t activate? What if I didn’t knead the dough properly, or long enough? What if the bread didn’t rise?
What if the whole thing was a complete and total disaster?
Honestly, it was easier to buy my bread at the grocery store and leave this culinary chemistry experiment to someone else.
That’s how I used to feel, anyway.
Then earlier this year, something happened. Another fear—one I’d harbored for quite a long time—actually materialized.
This was not a silly, irrational fear. This was the fear of a specific something hard happening to a specific someone I love.
I dreaded the possibility for years before it was actually confirmed. But as the reality of what was going on sunk in, I started to see a way forward. One step at a time, one visit at a time, one prayer at a time, one day at a time.
I began to do the next thing, and the next. Even when it was uncomfortable or difficult.
And somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t as afraid of it anymore.
The fear was losing its paralyzing power. And not just in this particular situation, either.
I started to look at other things I had always avoided in a different light.
What’s the big deal? I thought. Why I am I so afraid of that?
Suddenly, baking bread—facing my fear of yeast—didn’t just seem like an item on an ambiguous bucket list. It became something I needed to do. Something I actually wanted to do.
If I messed it up, so what? If the bread didn’t rise, who cares?
It wouldn’t be the end of the world. Life would go on.
I wanted to conquer my fear of making bread on my own, so I didn’t tell anyone what I was planning to do. Not even Randy, who used to work in a bakery, knew about my little project.
I can do this, I thought.
Then one morning when I had no other pressing plans, I got out all the ingredients and plunged right in.
I made bread—all by myself.
And it wasn’t scary at all. It was fun.
While the loaves were rising in the pans, I had to make an unexpected trip to rescue a sick girl from school. But even without me eagle-eying the clock, the bread rose perfectly. It baked perfectly. It smelled heavenly.
I did it.
These last few months, here’s what I’ve been learning about fear. We spend an awful lot of time thinking about it, being afraid of it, beating ourselves up about it.
Fear can almost become an idol, I think.
Then God, in His infinite wisdom, gently places us in a position where we have no choice but to face our fear. Shutting down is not an option. We have to move forward, straight into the thing that we feared so much.
Don’t let anyone tell you fear and faith can’t exist in the same place. They can. Nobody would ever take a leap (or tiny baby step) of faith if they did not.
But believe this too: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
He’s also given us His presence. Right there in the middle of the fear. Right there in the middle of the mess.
His presence is what gives us peace. It’s what gives us strength to do the next thing.
It’s like following a bread recipe. You don’t start at the end. You start with the first step. And you keep going until you’re done.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)