A Faith in Fear Alone

Blog_Faith in Fear AloneFear is the thing holding humanity back from transforming the earth into a place centered around love. Fear is the most powerful force apart from love. In a world bombarded with fear it is easy to allow fear to run our daily lives without even recognizing we are doing so. “I put my faith in Jesus alone,” is a statement Christians often make and I think a large majority of them genuinely believe they do. Faith is not simply belief though. It is in waking up to the fact that if our life is driven by fear, no matter what we intellectually claim to believe, it will be insufficient as a means of moving forward towards something better.

From early on in our lives we begin to adopt fears that over time slowly change our behaviors so we can better avoid our fears. We are abused by a person who was supposed to love us…We fear being hurt again…We lose our ability to trust. We lose a loved one to death or divorce…We blame ourselves…We push people away. We fail…We fear not being good enough…We don’t dare to venture outside our comfort zone. This list arises because of people, events, and past memories and covers a small fraction of the things that could be on this list. There is another dimension to our fears though.

Society thrives off of fear. Without fear-based marketing, public relations campaigns, and advertising, corporations wouldn’t be the center of wealth and power in our culture; in fact, I would contend they likely wouldn’t exist at all. Day in and day out we are bombarded with messages that tell us over and over again, “You are not good enough.” Our bodies are lacking in every way imaginable. Our clothes are no longer in fashion. Our houses are too small. Our families are not ‘put together’ compared to the rest. Our marriages don’t involve constant sex, void of arguments or painful struggles. Our kids aren’t in the best school…aren’t involved in enough activities…or don’t measure up in their academics. Our jobs aren’t prestigious enough. Our neighborhoods aren’t safe. Our world is on the verge of an apocalyptic catastrophe. (Of course, the kind of catastrophe depends on what the media has chosen to splash over their 24-hour-a-day running fear-casts.)

Fear cannot be avoided. It is instilled in us at far too young an age and reaffirmed millions of times a day through media, entertainment, and corporate america. This unavoidable force is not—cannot be—the final answer. Fear will not be the ultimate victor, because its component crushes fear simply by showing up on the scene. The journey to conquer fear in love cannot be a passive one. Conscious strides to identify, call out, and push against the fears that bind us is of utmost necessity.

Looking back on my own life I can identify the very moment at which my greatest fear was realized. I was in my mid-20’s. I had battled drug addiction, a myriad of unhealthy and abusive relationships—which at the time I was still battling against. During this period in my life, I was fond of berating myself in front of a mirror. It felt more fulfilling, as if I could feel more deeply the punishment in which I was afflicting on myself. “No one will ever love you. You don’t deserve to be loved.” For whatever reason, on that day as I looked in the mirror, I was overcome by something I had never recognized before—the thing I had been perpetuating within me all these years was a lie. If it was only found in God alone, I was worthy of love–we are all worthy of love. God is never disappointed in us. God will never reject us. His love is all encompassing. His love is unconditional. And His love is this way, because He cannot be any other way, because HE IS LOVE.

And it is love—this agape love—which Jesus has given us the power in finishing what he began by eradicate fear once and for all.

Within each of us there is both a fear and a possible freedom from that fear. Maybe you can already name your fear/s. Maybe you need to ask yourself what is truly driving your daily actions and life. We must gain understanding about ourselves, in order to use that knowledge going forward. Identify the fear. Label it as a lie (no matter how difficult it may seem). Then start taking notice of when that feeling of fear rears its ugly head. Call it stupid, evil, and unwelcome. Replace it with the exact opposite thought, which can only be one of love. And then prepare yourself to lather, rinse, repeat this process on a daily basis (on some days an hourly basis), because until an agape-centered unity is established among humanity our battles with fear will continue. This is not reason to lose hope! It is the very best reason to stand strong on the side of victory and commit to living out a reality that displays a faith in love alone.

The remedy for fear is love …. Fear is a slow, solidified energy that needs to be unwound with love.” Michael Harrington 

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I Am No Longer A Machine

I realized something today as I was standing in front of my oven, carefully placing eight dinosaur chicken nuggets in a row on a pan.   Both my children were at the kitchen table, happily playing with crayons and blocks.  It was almost noon on a Monday.  It was at this moment it dawned on me that I am no longer a machine.

See as I was standing there, joy in my heart, gazing over their work – encouraging them, helping them, laughing with them – I felt a pang in my stomach.  A knot of anxiety jabbed me deep in my gut.  I knew what it was telling me, why it had graced me with it’s disgusting presence.  I wasn’t producing anything for it.  I wasn’t doing anything that could be formulated into a spreadsheet to display my progress or lack thereof.

At a previous corporate position I held, we had “Our Numbers”.  Or at least, that is what we called them in our department.  I’m certain this report had an official name, something like quarterly summery progress report, I suppose.  To the people in my department though, it was the still small voice in the part of our brains – not stemming from the Spirit – but stemming from Corporate America.  It was the voice that reminded us time is money.  It reminded us that we were nothing more than the production we put out.  It reminded us that in order to get a raise, which on a good year would equal half of the cost of living increase, was determined by the outcome of “Our Numbers”.

There is joy in hard work, company loyalty, and work ethic – all of which I like to think I possess.  There is also a time for simply living in the moment.  We were not built to be machines.  We were built to create, procreate, and honor the earth we were given.

I spent almost 45 minutes with Isaac this morning doing two things; trying to get him to say “shoe” and playfully helping him pull his shoe on his foot.  I spent 45 minutes with my child in which the worth of my time could not be determined.  I spent 45 minutes in which I did not produce and no client could be billed for my time.  Isaac will likely not be putting shoes on by himself anytime soon. And when he does say “shoe”, it could have been the exact same day he would have learned this word if I had not spent those 45 minutes working with him on it.

My worth is no longer determined by my production.  It is not determined by numbers, graphs, or progress reports.  My worth, in my home, with my children, is the level at which I am able to love them … a worth that cannot be broken down and analyzed.  The deep longing I have always had to stay at home with my children, is to be given the opportunity to simply love on them more hours of the day.  I am here to love them.  Nothing I do, or don’t do, short of loving them is going to change that.

I am no longer a machine … and this will take some getting used to.

Saying Goodbye To The Cube Farm

So I was laid off from my corporate job today- no apologies are necessary.

These last twelve months have been a roller coaster of changes and adjustments.  The people I work(ed) with, in my immediate department, poured out compassion and grace to me every chance they got.  And still, I knew deep within me, very soon after Matt’s death, that sitting in that cubicle was not where I was suppose to be anymore.  With the mourning, the moving, and the months of ongoing adjustments I made the decision to hold to that job.  I knew that the financial stability was smart.  I knew my ability to discern whether or not another ‘life changing event’ should be placed on our home simply wasn’t there.  Even with all that though, it was a day by day effort.  Waking up and getting to a job that had lost all meaning … working for corporate America … and at what cost?  The nagging feeling that I was leaving my children behind in order to do so.

It was about a month ago, maybe two, that my heart started truly aching.  The desire to step out in faith, to follow God’s calling on my life, and do the thing that most people would view as ‘irresponsible’ or financially risky had reached a point that I felt I was about to crawl right out of my skin.  Depression, of a different source this time, was sinking deep down within me.  I felt I was letting down my children by needing to hold a 9-5.  I felt I was letting down my co-workers, both by the change in my work habits, and my loss of passion.  I felt trapped.

Before Christmas the company I work(ed) for had executive level issues, and it was rumored there may be layoffs.  With much angst over how it could possibly sound to a manager, I requested that if layoffs were to take place that I would be the one to go.  It had been weeks since then and there had been no sign or word that it was ever going to happen.  More recently, in the last two weeks, I began to give up hope on that being the tool in which God would use to release me from my old career path.  I became frustrated with God … what was worse was I tried to take control – to handle it without surrender.  I doubted His ability, or possibly more accurately speaking, His willingness to answer my prayers.

Last night was the ugliest night I’ve experienced in a while.  I paced for hours, I wrote feverishly (in private journals never to be seen by the pages of a blog), I prayed, I begged, and I cried.  I asked God to show me, tell me, make it known what was the correct path.  I confessed to Him.  I was honest about my pride, my need to control, my doubt.  I went to sleep.  I woke up.  I went to work.  But when I left?  I went home with confidence and freedom, the kind only Christ can give.

He is so good.  We say that, don’t we … God is good.  It’s almost as if no word ever could even come close to encapsulating Him, so we just nod in knowing and say, ‘He is good.”  But it’s truth to the core … He has been good to me, so good to me.  Even in my doubt, anger, and unfaithfulness He loves me.

I got home and the song How He Loves came on.  Those first words almost knocked me to the ground …

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Where I had felt alone and angry just hours before I could almost now see his love surrounding me in all my weakness.  Jealous to have my faithfulness back – holy and good He bent me like a branch in the wind of his mercy, goodness, and love.