Bring On the Yirah


Our world is in transition.

Roseanne Barr does not get to fly off into a racist rant without facing the consequences.
Harvey Weinstein does not get to abuse his power and privilege in hotel rooms.
Bill Cosby is under house arrest and awaiting sentencing for three accounts of aggravated assault.

Night is coming to Light. What is done in darkness is slowly but surely coming to Light.

At the same time, I see Fear flying about—fear of protecting our own, fear of the other, fear of perceived influences, fear of onslaught. So much fear.

When there is irrational fear, there is so very little room for Love.

Transitions rarely come without Fear.

It reminded me of the time when I was about to experience the biggest transition of my life.

It was an ordinary morning—no press conferences or interviews that morning and I could settle easily into the day before needing to head to the newsroom.

But then, suddenly, Fear entered the room. Fear was everywhere—on me, over me, through me, above me, below me, in me. I felt completely paralyzed.

Fear was thick and hovering over me like a blanket. Like a thick fog. I couldn’t wiggle my toes, get up or shake it off. This Fear felt like it wanted to snuff out all life and goodness in my tiny bedroom in Taipei.

I just sat there, unable to move.

My mind began to look for tools—anything to help me make sense of this paralysis.

What is going on, God? I prayed. What is going on?

I couldn’t pierce the fear.

I walked through my mind, looking for the appropriate words to bring to the moment.

I prayed through Ephesians 6—a helmet of salvation, a belt of truth, sword of the spirit, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the readiness to spread good news. I lingered on each image and reflected.

Then I remembered the words in 2 Timothy, how God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.

I said the words over and over: God has not given me a spirit of fear …

God has not given me a spirit of fear …

Why was this happening?

Suddenly it dawned on me: I was about to make the biggest transition of my life.

O, of course!
Of course, I am afraid.
Of course Fear would show up right here.

I was about to make a giant leap of faith. I was about to get on a plane, move to a new country, marry a man I’d known for just about three months and start a new life on a new continent.

I knew it was the next right thing.
I knew it was Love leading the way.
I knew I could choose not to do it and it would also be beautiful and good as I pursued this life of faith.
But I also knew this was a door I wanted to walk through. I wanted to get on that plane and marry Scott and start the new life.

When I finally understood where the fear was coming from, it lifted. I could name it. Look it in the eye. I could see the fear for what it was.

Making a transition requires the deep trust that the Universe will hold us. Would goodness and Love follow me, even to Canada?

I was trembling, but the moment I could name the Fear, see it for what it was, it was like the power had gone out from it.

I breathed. And Peace began flooding back.

I still remember that moment on the bed. It taught me so much about the tactics of Fear. And when I imagine the transition—the giant leaps of faith required of us at this time in history—I am no longer surprised by the Fear.

But I want to name the Fear, call it what it is and not be people who sit on a bed, unable to move towards our destiny.

Pachad and Yirah

In Playing Big, Tara Sophia Mohr talks about two kinds of fear she learned from Rabbi Alan Lew: pachas and yirah.

Pachas is the fear of projected or imagined things.

Yirah, on the other hand, is the fear we feel when we touch the Sacred. It is when we are about to inhabit a larger space than we are used to.

Yirah comes to us before we step out, before we cross over into new territory, before we take a leap of faith.

It is how Moses felt when he encountered the burning bush and was about to step into his destiny.

That day, on the bed, I experienced Yirah. I was about to cross over into new territory and truly, I was standing on holy ground.

It feels empowering to name that fear for what it was. To think clearly and reflect on the challenges that inevitably will come as we step into new territory.

Our world is in transition and we get to name this Fear: will it be pachad, paralyzing us and keeping us small? Or will it be yirah, inviting us into a larger and more beautiful world?

Here, at SheLoves, we want to navigate this transition well. We want to be the kind of people who usher in Love and connection, justice and peace. We welcome more people who see injustice and rise to work for justice. More people who see inequality and become advocates for equity. More darkness coming to light. More Love, instead of Fear.

We are the people who are called to get up, step up and rise up to meet the needs of the world. In spite of our fears, we are called to step into transition with great courage.

Os Guinness once wrote: God gives us dreams in response to the needs of humanity.

Last week, I got to interview Sherry Naron for our Dangerous Women Tribe. Her dream is big—to change the plight of girls and women in India and she is working at it, one center at a time. But we also talked about the years when that dream seemed like an impossibility until she took the leap.

My dream is that more Sherry’s would rise. My dream is that more of us would be honest about the dreams in our hearts—dreams not just for a bigger house and a steaming cup of espresso in the morning—but dreams that would make a difference in the world. Dreams that would solve problems, create community, strengthen hearts and liberate lives.

How different my life would have been if I had stayed on that bed, in that small room, with my cat and bamboo.

In times of change, I say, Bring on the yirah.



As we think about transitions, what changes need to happen in your life?

Where do you need to step up?

Where are facing down paralyzing fear? Is it pachad or yirah?

Can you find one person who believes in your dream?