Are you one of those people who loves scary movies or books? I am. Don’t’ ask me why, but I love reading a book that keeps my heart racing and my mind on alert. Now, I’m not a fan of the slasher films like Saw but Freddie Kruger? I’m IN!
While this may not be your thing, I know you’re not surprised by this. We have an entire culture that relishes zombies, haunted houses and horror books and movies. Fear is an animalistic emotion. It makes us feel alive and for many of us, we love the adrenaline rush that comes with it. I mean, seriously, why go out for a 5 mile run when you can get your heart rate up watching your favorite horror flick, right?!
Now fear definitely has its place. It’s what alerts to danger – or the perception of danger. Hopefully, this emotion motivates us to action when we’re, say, chased by a bear or standing at the edge of a cliff and maybe since those aren’t typical, every-day experiences, maybe we need the occasional scary movie just to keep that emotion “tuned up”, so to speak, so it will function when we need it.
While I am not a seminary graduate or a religious scholar, I have done enough research and study to know that fear is a subject talked about in the Qur’an, the sacred texts of Buddhist and the Bible. From the Christian perspective, the term “Fear Not” is mentioned 365 times in the Bible – once for every day of the year.
Clearly this is a subject that affects us all and regardless of your faith, the writers of these religious texts – and most likely others – felt was important enough to address.
So what does this have to do with faith?
Well, as I noted in my last post, there were two points I wanted to cover on the baptismal covenant passage preached on at my home church this past week. The passage, as you’ll recall, reads, “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” (The Book of Common Prayer, http://www.bcponline.org/).
In this statement. God asks those who believe in Him to persevere, but also acknowledges that we will fail. We will sin just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
Ok, great. We will fail…but what does this have to do with fear?
I’m so glad you asked!
What tends to happen when we fail in big or small things is we allow fear to overtake our lives. I’m sure you’ve felt it. Let’s say you have been told you did something at work that you didn’t consider to be that big of a deal or you thought you had rectified the problem but you have suddenly lost your job as a result. As soon as the words “you’re being let go” come out of the persons’ mouth, you no longer hear anything else. You’re terrified. What will your family say? How are you going to get another job and make sure all of your bills are paid? Will you lose your apartment? Your car? Your life savings?
Even if you have never lost your job, I know you can relate to the feelings to something that has happened to you. As a matter of fact, I tend to believe that more often than not, the threats that pursue us aren’t physical but rather threats to our heart. We take the chance to fall in love with someone, risk a friendship with someone, or even try out for a sport or some other activity and then, WHAM! We are blindsided by failure when the relationship or activity doesn’t work out. This failure isn’t necessarily caused by a sin but our response to that perceived failure is a sin.
WHAT!? How can that possibly be?
Well, here’s the thing – and the point that rang true to me during the sermon on Sunday.
We are called to be in community with others as well as with God. However, our response to failure or pain is to build distance between ourselves and whomever or whatever hurt us, playing right into the hands of the Devil.
Yes, there is a personification of evil – the Devil. His sole purpose is to steal the joy from our lives and make us focus on the negativity that surrounds. As a result, we turn our eyes from God and focus not on the things of Him, but on ourselves and the things that we feel we are lacking. The more we focus on ourselves, the more we move away from our source of life. And what’s worse, the more we hide from God, the worse we feel about ourselves and our situation and close even more doors. As people try to reach out and help, we are certain they couldn’t possibly understand where we are or what we feel because our sin – our failure – is different. We are different; special. We’re afraid that if we aren’t special, nobody will want us because we’re just like everyone else.
I can relate this to my own life very strongly.
Wounded by past relationships, I have spent years building walls around my heart to make sure I would never be wounded in that way again. I thought I was protecting myself, but instead, I was starving myself of the one thing I needed the most – healthy, loving relationships. What made it worse, I began to see myself as un-loveable because I had tried and failed at finding love so many times. Surely there must be something wrong with me! Well, there was, but it wasn’t my appearance, it wasn’t my compassion toward others or my ability to love. I wasn’t broken, I had merely created a barrier to protect myself and that very protection was keeping love out; making it impossible for love to get to me to heal my brokenness. Not only was this keeping people away from me, it was keeping God from being able to guide me and show me what He had in store for me.
I had become Eve in the garden – seeking something I shouldn’t have when the very best thing for me was right in front of me.
Now hear me clearly. I am not saying each and every one of us isn’t special and isn’t unique. Quite the opposite. Each of us are unique and special – God made us that way. But that doesn’t mean that our problems or struggles are unique. It’s like the old saying about books and film – there are no new stories, just different ways to tell them. God already knows all of these stories and how to fix them.
Faith and community.
Our job is to realize that through opening our hearts to God and faith we open our hearts to community and live as we were intended thus feeling more contented and fulfilled.
Will this solve all of our problems? No. There will still be strife. There will still be murder, pestilence and starvation. But if we choose faith instead of fear, we can surround ourselves with people who love us and whom we love. The fear of these frightening things of our world will no longer be overwhelming and we can work together to make this life all that it could be.