Archive for the ‘Fear’ Tag

Facing Fear

 

photo courtesy of centertechnews.com

photo courtesy of centertechnews.com

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~ Pema Chodron

When I first heard the above quote by author and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, it didn’t make sense to me.  As I thought more about her words, I realized I was putting them in the context of, “There’s a grizzly bear in front of me!” or some other situation where fear is a useful, maybe even a life-saving, emotion to have.  But that’s not what Chodron was speaking about.  Let me put it in the context of my recent venture back into the academic world, not as an instructor, but as a 52-year-old student.

I started my master’s degree in English and creative writing through an online program this past August.  It has always been something I wanted to do, but up to this point, I had managed to make enough excuses to keep it on the back burner.  Each time I thought about it, my heart would rise up in excitement, like an eternal “YES,” until my mind would fill with thoughts about time and money, or how I would juggle other competing responsibilities, and most of all, whether I could handle the work and do it well.  Essentially, FEAR.

I wish I could say I had a formula worked out for overcoming this fear, but I think that what spurred me to act when I hadn’t in the past was that I told people (specifically, I told my boss) that I was going to do it.  So when fear began to creep in, filling my mind with doubts, I had to follow through.

I can’t say that once I was accepted into the online program I wasn’t afraid.  I was; in fact, I still am every time I sit down at my computer to type another assignment.  At times, I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write, or any outline I have seems stupid and sketchy.  Once again, FEAR.

Each time I feel this fear, this unworthiness, this feeling of “not good enough,” I press on, not because the fear goes away, but because I know I’m moving toward my truth, the person God created me to be. Fear is just an emotion, an ego-reaction that is seeking to undermine the Holy Spirit’s prompting to move toward joy.

What is your truth?  What has the Father, Son, and Spirit given you to do that brings you joy and makes your heart leap? This fear we feel is not from God, but from ourselves.  It is easier to play small and low-key than to rise up and be completely authentic from the inside out. By facing our fears and living in the truth of who we are created to be by God, we open ourselves to fully participating in whatever God is doing in the lives of those around us, and we become an encouragement to others to live authentically, too. The joy I have experienced as I’ve moved closer to my truth, the truth of who God created me to be, has far outweighed the uncomfortable feelings of fear that try to hold me back.

 ~by Nan Kuhlman

The Waiting Father

Luke 15: 11-32, for me, is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture describing our Father’s love for all humanity.  It provides each one of us the foundation to stand before our Creator with no fear, no shame, no guilt, and no doubt.

A number of years ago my family and I were flying home from a vacation trip.  I entered into a rare moment of deep meditation, lost in my own thoughts.  A vision flooded my mind when my mom and I were waiting in the parking lot for my dad.  It had been years since I thought about those trips to pick him up from work to take him home.  I remembered very clearly, how, as a young boy, I would wait for the doors of the RCA plant to open at the 4 p.m. bell.  I eagerly waited to see my dad in the crowd, on his way “home.”  I remembered the joy of seeing him.  Although it brought a smile to my face, I didn’t know why I was recalling this, until I felt God’s presence speak to me.  In that moment, it became clear.  I heard God say to me, “that’s how I feel toward you.  I get the same joy of seeing you just like you did in seeing your dad come through those doors.”  I immediately broke into tears with an awkward hope no one was looking.  It became a very touching memory and metaphor of the Love our Father has in seeing and waiting for all of humanity, all of his children, “coming through the doors of life on their way home.”  He always smiles with joy at seeing you and me, just as I did, when I saw my dad.

Commentators have called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, many things.  The one I love the most is, “The Waiting Father.”

Breaking into the story, when the son requested his inheritance, his father had an amazing reaction.  There was no imposition of fear, or shame, or guilt, or doubt.  There was no anger, or punishment. He simply gave him what he asked for and let him leave on a trip leading to a life less than zero.  The son gathered what he had, left home, and “headed for Hollywood.”

Verse 17 begins with a beautiful line, “When he (the son) came to his senses…”  Because of God’s love for His creation He sent His Son to unite us forever and included us (and the entire cosmos) in Union with Him.  When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”  Our Union in Him is accomplished forever, and is irrevocable.  For any one human being to cease to exist, Jesus would have to cease to exist.  It is an accomplished fact. Unfortunately, most of humanity is included without a clue, until we come to our senses, believe, and come home.  When we do, we find a Waiting Father.  A Father who doesn’t wait for a moment, or a few years, or just in this lifetime (as some Christian friends may tell us) but one who will be waiting for eternity, as long as it takes.

In verse 20 we find that Waiting Father (waiting for his son to come home)…”but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him.”  The son had worked up a repentance speech to make his way back home into the family just as a hired servant, but his dad didn’t allow him to finish his speech.  He restored him to full fellowship in the family as if he never left.  His dad didn’t allow sin to separate him from his son.  He had been his son, and the relationship with his son had never changed.  He had always been his son.  But when the son came to his senses and came home, the son’s relationship and fellowship changed toward his Father.  His Father never moved, never changed his love for his son, and remained…waiting.  For us, just as with the son, it is always our move, because Jesus made the first move toward us when he brought us home.

Just as I would wait with anticipation for my dad, our heavenly Dad waits with anticipation for us.  Our loving father waits, and waits, and waits, and will forever wait until all humanity comes to its senses, and comes “home.”  While He is waiting, He never loses His sense of joy and feeling toward us, despite what we may think.  When humanity comes through those doors, comes home, one by one, our dad will be standing there with open arms.

~by Craig Kuhlman

Fear & Facebook

                After the tragic earthquake in Japan a few weeks ago, the following post kept popping up on my Facebook from some well-meaning Christian friends:

                Sept. 11th (New York), Jan. 11th (Haiti), and March 11th (Japan)…Luke 21:10-11 – Then Jesus said to his disciples:  “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven”…Jesus says, “For behold, I come quickly.”  So ask yourself r u ready?  Sad to say, many won’t repost this message.

                Several things about this post bother me, but my biggest concern is that it promotes fear, not love and assurance.  The motivation behind such a post is to spur the reader to pray the sinner’s prayer and get saved.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the concern that the posters have for others.  I’m just not sure that the Triune God wants fear to be the motivation for a relationship.  Love is the basis of any healthy relationship, and our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is no different.

                Here’s what the Apostle John had to say about love:  “God is love.  When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.  This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day -our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s.  There is no room in love for fear.  Well-formed love banishes fear.  Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love” (I John 4:17-18, The Message).

                My husband and I are approaching our 25th wedding anniversary.  I remember when he asked me to marry him on bended knee at an intimate French restaurant.  Can you imagine how he would have felt if I would have responded, “Yes, I’ll marry you, but only because I’m scared to death that you’ll punish me if I don’t.”  That’s the sentiment that this Facebook post sends about the Triune God – if a reader doesn’t choose to pray the prayer, make a decision, and get saved, God will make him pay.

                The truth is that the Triune God desires a relationship with each one of us but isn’t willing to coerce us to make it happen.  The freedom to choose is God’s gift to us, just like a lover desires to be chosen by his beloved.  Either way we choose, the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit remains unchangeable and ever hopeful.  Their desire is for reconciliation and relationship, not punishment.

                So if I were to rewrite this post, this is what I would say:

                Sept. 11th (New York), Jan. 12th (Haiti), and March 11th (Japan)…John 16:33 – “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (NLT).  Thank you, Jesus, for never leaving nor forsaking us even in our deepest, darkest despair.

~by Nan Kuhlman               

Fear and Trembling

Why is the Old Testament so concerned with telling us to FEAR God?

After all, John teaches us that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4.18a). We could chalk this up to an Old Covenant vs. New Covenant thing, but I don’t think that quite works.  The fear of God is also taught by New Testament teachers, from Peter and Paul (1 Pet 2.17;  Eph 5.21;  Phil 2.12), to Jesus and his angels (Lk 12.5).

Certainly John is right in saying that love casts out the kind of fear that “has to do with punishment” (1 Jn 4.18).

But there seems to be another kind of fear, one that is beautiful and good.

I can honestly say that I fear my wife.  It’s not that I’m afraid of her hitting me on the head with a frying pan (as much as I occasionally deserve it).  It’s not that kind of fear.  It has do with my knowledge that I have absolutely no control over this woman.  Sometimes she does things I like, sometimes she does things I don’t like, and I never know what’s going to happen next.  It’s not about her doing good things or bad things; it’s about her being a distinct person from me.  It’s what makes relationships risky and thrilling.  It’s what necessitates that glorious experience we call “submitting one to another” (which, interestingly enough, we do “out of our fear of Christ” (Eph 5.21).

We all know that falling in love is a terrifying experience, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  This is a fear that love doesn’t cast out.  In fact, there is no such thing as love apart from this kind of fear.  As my theology prof Leron Shults likes to say, “love is a delightful terror and a terrible delight.”  And that’s the way we like it.

To fear God is to accept and deal with the fact that Aslan is not a tame lion.

If we want a non-fearsome easy-to-control god, we’ll have to settle for idols (which is, in fact, what we so often do).  But if we want to face reality rather than fiction, then we must deal with Someone with teeth and a sense of adventure.  We know that He will never leave nor forsake us, but we still never know what He’s going to do next, and whether or not we’re going to like it.

And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

~ John Stonecypher

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