Facing fears

facing-fears_photo-for-blog_sept-2016
Author Jorge Zetino SVD (third from the right) professed religious vows with his novitiate class and trusted confreres on Aug. 6. They are (l to r) Divine Word Missionaries Hoc Tien Mai, Carl Gales, Luke Henkel, Hai Ngoc Pham, Derek Nguyen, Zachary Smith, Jorge, Theodore Vu Nguyen and Luis Panuco-Carmona.

By Jorge Zetino SVD

Wait, you still don’t have a driver’s license? What is wrong with you?

Over and over again, I heard these questions when people learned that at age 25 and still did not have a driver’s license. I understood their reaction. For many, not having a valid driver’s license is the eighth cardinal sin.

In a society that values freedom and independence, getting a driver’s license at a young age is a must. In fact, for most people, getting a driver’s license was the first taste of freedom.

To some extent, their reaction was justifiable. Contrary to the situation in my country of birth, Guatemala, here in the United States owning a vehicle and having driver’s license is a necessity—not a luxury.

In Guatemala, one can get around easily without owning a car. Public transportation is the most convenient and most affordable way of traveling. In this country, however, in order for one to get around one must own a car and have a valid driver’s license.

Unless a person lives in a big city like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, public transportation in the United States is not always accessible – and one can argue that in some places it is not the safest way to travel. Or, as my uncle once told me, “Nephew, if you don’t have your own car and your driver’s license it is as if you don’t have legs because both equal a lack of mobility.”

For many years, fear of driving has been my greatest fear and my greatest obstacle in life. I’ve been terrified to get behind the wheel. And there is a reason for it—the same one I’ve given over and over in the course of six years.

I was involved in two car accidents—one while I was the driver, the other while I was in the passenger seat. These two experiences left me petrified, especially after spinning on Interstate-290 and having our car crash into the concrete barrier in the middle of the highway twice.

So after many years, I decided that getting a driver’s license was to be one of my goals last year. The Divine Word Novitiate program provided me with the time and resources to set goals and work towards achieving them throughout the year—learning to drive was one of them.

A quote by Mark Twain inspired me: “Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” I became determined that I would not allowed this fear to have dominion over my life. The only way to conquer the fear was by facing it. I put this theory to the test in December when I began my journey to Bay St. Louis, Miss., with fellow novices.

While in the car with three of them, one suggested that I get behind the wheel. Although I had my driver’s permit and was with other licensed drivers, I was hesitant at first. But, with the encouragement of my fellow novices, I got into the driver’s seat for the first time since the two accidents happened.

The encouragement of my friends helped me realized that I could actually face my fear. The beginning of the death of my fear began that cold December morning on the country roads of Illinois. Since that day, I made it a point to not only face fear but to conquer it.

After years of fear, eight months of driving lessons with a certified instructor, and practice with friends, I passed. Hearing those four magical words, “You passed the test” has been the most liberating moment of my life.

Two lessons became clear to me the day I got my driver’s license. One, we can conquer any fear no matter how big or small it might be. Two, we need the help and support of others in order to conquer our fears. We cannot do it alone. If it weren’t for the support of my novitiate community, I would have not been able to find the courage to conquer my fear once and for all.

Canadian author Robin Sharma once said, “The fears we don’t face become our limits.” This is indeed true! For most of my young adult life, my fear of driving became my greatest obstacle in life. It was the only thing holding me back. The moment that I grabbed that valuable piece of plastic, I felt free. I promised myself that I would never, ever, allow a fear to hold me captive again.

So allow me to pose the following questions: What is your biggest fear? Who could help you conquer it? I hope and pray that you find someone in your life who—like my community members—can help you gain the courage you need to face it.

Divine Word Frater Jorge Zetino, who professed religious vows in August, is studying for the priesthood at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This post is his fourth reflection in “Just Words and Divine Word Action.” To check out his other writings, click on Know thy desires, Do you want to be well? and Defeating death is a matter of faith.

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