Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

Lost in Translation

Between appointments yesterday I made a quick drive to a local shopping mall where I would return a new set of lacrosse pads that didn’t quite fit my son as expected. 

Crowds, Consumerism and Food Courts!  Having turned the corner around Halloween, we’ve just launched into high season of shopping mall madness.

I managed to navigate the early afternoon crowds and traffic reasonably well, but when I was trying to find my way back to the car (no small task…when will malls start utilizing amusement park signage to help me remember where I parked?) I saw a young Chinese woman hesitantly approach me. 

Photo Cred: Anubhav Saxena

Photo Cred: Anubhav Saxena

I’m not great on age estimates, but she was likely somewhere between 17-23 years old.  Dressed plainly in jeans and a fleece jacket from a few seasons ago, she carried a neon-orange backpack snugly over both shoulders as if she had been, or was expecting to be walking for a while.

She walked carefully toward me with her iPhone held out slightly towards me in effort to suggest she wasn’t searching for handouts…just a little bit of help.

The screen was filled with Chinese characters, but with the Maps app open, the subtext of Walmart was visible. 

The next few minutes was a painful back and forth of misunderstandings.  Me clumsily asking compound questions and receiving unknowing blank stares in return with an occasional affirmative head shake that betrayed it’s true feelings. 

The best I could tell, this young lady had a friend at Walmart she was trying to get to.  I think she had walked about 20 minutes from her home and thought someone around the mall might be able to give her a ride the rest of the way.  However, the Walmart she wanted to get to was a good 20 miles away in an area of the city with unsavory business establishments.  There were too many scenarios that made me uncomfortable to take her that far…not the least of which was taking her beyond the ability to walk home from a potentially worse situation than she was in now.

As we pressed through difficult communication boundaries, I was trying to ask her if she was safe.  She seemed to understand and say yes.  She wasn’t a panicked girl…not completely lost.  Just out of ideas and unable to find someone who could understand her.

I asked if she was leaving home.  She said yes.  I asked ‘Forever?’…and tears started coming down her face. 

The story goes on.  First she offers me a handshake in thanks for my help.  I put my hand on her shoulder and give her a card with my phone number to call if she needs help or gets stuck.  Feeling safe for a moment, she reaches out and gives me a quick hug…more for herself than for me…before returning to wiping away the tears.

Whether she understood much of what I said or not, I’ll probably never know…though it seemed she understood more than what she could say.

What I do know is that whatever she was leaving behind in that moment…she believed it was time to go and worth the risk of getting to where she hoped to be.


Have you ever been there?

Desperate to get somewhere, an idea even…not even sure where ‘there’ is?

The only thing you are sure of is that there is a friend…a voice even, that is humming the notes your soul was made to sing.

You aren’t sure of the way.

You aren’t sure if you will make it.

But to stay is to die a little.  One moment at a time.

To ignore the longing would be to cease playing the lead character in your own story.

And so you go.

And sometimes you might find yourself alone and out of ideas.  Unable to find someone who understands what you are going through.  Someone who understands the longing in your heart to be fully yourself and free.

You might be sitting at a desk in the job that has served it’s purpose well, but now stands in the way of your dream.

You might be in a relationship that you wandered into, not realizing your heart and dreams would be disregarded.

I once found myself sitting alone outside a Waitrose grocery store in England…with a banana and bottle of water because it felt familiar…tears coming down my face in public…wondering where we would live when my family arrived…wondering if the cost of this dream would prove to be too much.

You might find yourself in a parking lot…risking conversation with strangers because you are desperate for help.  And you might cry…not because they have the all the answers…but because they saw you.  They heard you.  They touched you.  And they cared.

I don’t know what it will be for you.

What your question is.

What the dream in your heart is calling you towards.

What I do know is that it’s worth following the trail.

It’s worth asking the questions.

Worth risking the awkward glances of strangers passing by who don’t understand you.

Worth things not turning out the way you expect. 

Worth the struggle.

Worth the risk.

So worth it.


I hope that you will find Fearless Questions to be a safe friend for you along your journey.

A place that you can know you’ll be heard.

Where the wonderings of your heart and life will be respected and honored.

A place and people who, even when there is a little lost in translation, endeavor to do the hard work of understanding each other when the journey looks different than our own. 

A safe place to engage our questions, hopes and wonderings. 

A place to talk about freedom.

Where people will believe for you when it’s hard to believe for yourself.

This is the space I want to live in.

I hope you’ll join me.

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.

12 Replies

  1. Ali

    Jeff this is so moving…so heartfelt…so grateful that there are so many of us walking these paths and can give and receive encouragement and strength as we go. And, so grateful that this girl came to you…she chose wisely…her compass must have been true.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thank you for your kind words Ali. Hearing your experience with this means a lot to me knowing it comes from an artist such as yourself who sees and feels the world so deeply. You and Marc have certainly been those kind of people to come alongside me and Jodie on our journey. We are grateful for you.

  2. There is a common, popular thread this week among people I admire. It is a struggle to get to something better, because the pain of getting to one’s calling is real, and the struggle is worth the effort. It is like a butterfly, struggling to get out of a cocoon. The struggle is real, and necessary because the wings will not develop with strength necessary to survive in the world outside. The struggle is necessary, and the result is beautiful. I know the lady in your story is about to see something beautiful.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      What great imagery Nicole 🙂

  3. Worth the struggle and worth the risk. – Love that. It is easy to stay in the known place rather than take the risk of a better situation……but embracing the struggle is worth the risk.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Embracing the struggle…and looking to people like you for strategic advice on how to get there 🙂

  4. This is so beautiful. Thank you for the encouragement, Jeff. And thank you for being there for the young woman who needed help. I hope she left you feeling a little bit more loved that day.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thanks Kathy…I hope so too.

  5. That’s a beautiful story – you’re right, it is such a gift to stop and truly see people

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thanks for reading Stephanie. Your comment reminded me of the people in my journey who have stopped to see me. It really does make a huge difference.

  6. Sylvia

    Yes! THIS IS Fearless Questions!!

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thank Sylvia…I always like it when someone goes ALL CAPS on a comment 🙂