By nature, I am a fearful person. For instance, years ago I sat up crying most of one night when my husband was off somewhere for military training because I thought I heard someone in the back of the house. I wouldn’t leave the bedroom to go check, call the police, or evacuate the house. I just sat there terrified and paralyzed, imagining all sorts of horrible endings to that night. In those days I often operated—or failed to operate—out of fear.
Do you remember the Star Wars spoof, Space Balls? (My daughter tells me this is wrong--it's not Space Balls, but Austin Powers. However, I've not seen Austin Powers, so I must have seen a clip of this somewhere.) There’s a scene where a steam roller is heading toward one of the minor characters. The man stands screaming in terror for ages while the machine creeps forward and eventually flattens him. When I think back to some of my less-than-shining moments, I realize I was a lot like that silly character who could have controlled the panic and simply taken five steps to safety.
The Spirit has really done some work on me, praise God, though from time to time my initial impulse is to react in fear.
I often encounter people who are reacting in fear to some aspect of life. I recognize this sort of thing when I see it, mind you. And two things stand out.
First of all, it seems to me that the greatest fear most people have is that of being truly known (paradoxically, it is also our greatest desire). We plaster on a smile or a sweet tone or stay incredibly busy or talk the religious talk in an effort to hide how we’re really feeling or what we’re really struggling with. We’re simply terrified that people will judge us and reject us. (See my October posts “Facing the Truth,” “Funny, isn’t it . . . ,” and “God is Enough” for related thoughts on this topic.)
Secondly, I’ve intentionally used the phrase “react in fear” rather than “act in fear” because that’s what we fearful types do. When we let fear overwhelm us, we don’t take positive, strong action. We react in anger, weakness, or temporary insanity. We let whatever we’re afraid of control us.
In recent years it has become very important to me to live fearlessly. Not because I want to be strong, but because I want to live like I believe God is strong. And if I believe he is—if I believe he is all-powerful, and all-good, and all-loving—then I cannot be fearful. Fear and belief do not go hand-in-hand.
It’s true that sometimes people do judge and reject us when they know our deepest heart or darkest secrets. And sometimes what we fear does, in fact, come to pass. But shrugging off the bonds of fear is one of the most liberating, life-giving experiences available to us.
I will be praying today that you release your grip on fear, whatever you fear.
By the Spirit, I am not a fearful person.