I love the actor Will Smith. Since he first came on the scene in the TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early 1990s, I have enjoyed following his career. Smith has been the lead actor in a number of my favorite films like Independence Day, Men in Black, and The Pursuit of Happiness.
Smith also gives great interviews which often become inspirational speeches. It is clear from these talks that Smith is heavenly influenced by his Baptist upbringing. In fact, in a 2015 interview with The Christian Post Smith shared that his Christian faith instruction, especially from his Grandmother, is central to who he is.
Speaking of her Smith said, "She was my spiritual teacher, she was that grandmother at the church, the one having the kids doing the Easter presentations and putting on the Christmas plays, and her kids and grandkids had to be first. She was the most spiritually certain person that I had ever met in my entire life. Even to the point that when she was dying, she was happy, like she was really excited about going to heaven."
Recently I came across a video of Will Smith online where he is describing his experience with skydiving. He recalls how, after a night out with his friends, everyone was excited to go skydiving the next morning. They were fist bumping, high–fiving and goading one another. But when he got home at night, all he could think about was how afraid he was to jump out of a plane. Why would he do that? Frankly, he wasn’t sure he could or even wanted to do that.
The next day, though, he shows up and takes part in all the preflight and jump safety training. Of course, all of this training gives detailed information about the dangers of skydiving. His fear rises up once again, but his pride and machismo won’t let him admit it to the others. That would make him a hypocrite. Just the night before, he was high–fiving with everyone else, excited to have this experience.
Will Smith describes the vulnerability of being harnessed to another human being, someone you’ve met only minutes earlier. He talks about the moments of vulnerability as the door on the plane opens and he realizes that he’s never been in a plane with the door open. He recalls how, standing on the precipice of that open door, the instructor says they’ll jump on the count of three, but before he can get to three, he pushes them out the door so there is no opportunity to waiver with indecision.
Up to this point, the video describes Will Smith’s incredible fear and vulnerability at the thought of skydiving. It describes the massive difference he felt between what he said in the presence of his friends, and how he felt in the privacy of his own home.
What he describes next is amazing. He says that skydiving was the most blissful experience of his life. He felt like he was flying. He felt no fear. Instead it was the opposite; suddenly he felt truly alive with joy. At the point of ultimate fear was the point of ultimate joy.
I looked it up and according to my best Google research the phrase “Do Not Be Afraid” appears 81 times in the NIV version of the Bible. God knows how easily we scare and continuously seeks to reassure us of our ability to do more than we can ever imagine.
And in doing this we can experience greater joy than we would ever know otherwise.
In both a visible and extreme way, Smith moved beyond his own fears to do something that turned out to be one of the most wonderful experiences of his life. When he let go of fear, he felt something he had never felt before.
Near the end he says what he discovered is that God places the best things in life on the other side of fear.
Certainly, fear has its place. I recognize that when there is real and imminent danger, fear can give you the adrenaline you need to fight or for flight.
But more often than not, fear holds us back from experiencing joy, love, grace and the blissful experiences of life. What is on the other side of your fear? Could it be grace? Could it be wholeness, joy and love?
We will know when we step out in faith.
As Dr. King said so eloquently - “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Of course, that step is scary, but remember the greatest joy is so often found there. also remember that you don’t take that step alone, for we have the promise that God is with us. For like Paul – “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So whatever scary thing God is calling you to do remember these words – “do not be afraid.”