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 Have No Idea What I Am Doing!

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The hubby and I were lying in bed the other night. He was watching an episode of The Office and I was contemplating how I was going to write my next blog post on Pierre Teilhard Chardin—the topic of my last few posts. After a few minutes of staring at my screen, I let out a moan and said in defeat, “This is just too big. I have no idea what I am doing! How do I convey in plain language the beauty and possibility Chardin is offering?” For the most part, Teilhard’s ideas are not compiled in one place in a neat and tidy manner. Rather, they are made up of various articles, unpublished writings, and a few documented speeches. Besides the few books that he completed, his works are written from various areas of his expertise, written at different times throughout his life, and translated by different people. The translation piece is worth noting since Teilhard often spoke using a vocabulary that was essentially of his own making. Over time, as I have read and reread his works I began to see things in a new way. I felt a hope and an understanding of a new vision that made sense to the here and now. It was exhilarating. Almost from day one I knew God was asking me to share this hope with others. I am finally at a place in my life I can do just that and I’m at a complete loss as how to go about it. To simply try and summarize his theories and assertions won’t suffice. So I have decided to try it from another angle. I want to use the hopeful desire, which the Spirit has set aflame in me, and paint a picture of how I see it translating into our current world. I know what he is saying, but I have no idea how to say it-—so I will say it the way I can—through my own words, with my own vision, and spurred on by my own hope.

Part of the reason I initially held back from casting this vision from a personal standpoint was, sadly, due to fear. While I regard Chardin as a philosopher first, a scientist second, and a theologian third—a claim he is very forward about stating—part of what I feel called to do is integrate a theological orthodoxy to the foundation already laid. It is not that the biblical narrative doesn’t appear in his works, in fact it is pervasive, but it clearly was not written to be used as a work of theology. I think it can be. My fear in this regard is taking the leap to attempt such a feat. Attempting to create a theological worldview is not only I’ve never done before, but something I never thought I would feel capable or confident to undertake. The foundation from which I am going to build upon, however, is one shrouded in questions and doubts over whether it can hold up to orthodoxy, and furthermore, if it is even something that has the qualities intrinsic for any theological basis. This fear, along with the following one, are the two greatest struggles in Chardin’s life and something that he never obtain resolution to in his life. Part of the reason Chardin didn’t directly use Scripture as his only means of building his theories is because of his heart for all people and of all faith backgrounds. He wanted no one to feel as though the hope he was offering was something only for Christians. I admire and agree with his decision on this.

There is another fear I feel compelled to confess. This struggle is in regards to evolution being at the foundation of all Teilhard believed. This issue is just one of many un-Christ like divisions within Christianity. Divisions that I contend are abhorrent if they revolve around any issue apart from the truth of God’s nature as being love, which is revealed through Christ on the cross. The centrality of the cross should by the center of everything we adhere to. It is here and only here we are able to understand God as love. The most comprehensive definition I know for the love Christ displayed on the cross is as follows: a self-sacrificial, other-oriented love that ascribes unsurpassable worth to another at the cost of oneself. My opinion about the centrality of the cross being the only reason for church division doesn’t negate the fact there is one regarding the evolution vs. creationism issue. But there is simply no way around it. In fact, it would be impossible to remove evolution from the equation here. Teilhard’s experience in geological studies and evolutionary discoveries is what inspired a majority of his work.

My encouragement to those who have a different view of interpreting creation is not to back away from the conversation, but rather to engage in it. I want to leave open a door for us to consider new possibilities among a group of people who may see things differently over certain things. My intention is not to bring conflict or division, but hope and unity. There will be things that will be a challenge on both sides, this I am certain. My aim is to create an environment of openness and vulnerability—a place where questions are welcomed. Questions are vital to any growth process. Doubts are good. Wresting is healthy. The key is for each to be open to change and willing to agree to disagree.

This is where I am at right now and this is where I will be going from here on out. God is so good and so faithful. It is Him who I look to for my words and I never feel as though he doesn’t deliver. So I will now put my trust in the One in which I live and move and have my being. Standing firm on the truth that perfect love casts out fear.

You Can’t Handle the Fruit

The creation story was opened up to me in a new way this week.  In particular, the very source of original sin; the fruit … the tree.  In my life, I’ve pondered how Adam and Eve were suddenly shamed by their naked bodies.  I’ve tried to imagine the fear they felt as they hid from God.  I’ve lived through the curse of painful childbirth … twice.  But up until this week I hadn’t given the name of the tree as much weight as I should have.  I don’t know how I could have missed this, or how in the 32 years of my life (on and off) in the church this has never been exposed in a more deliberate manner.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

This fruit gave them wisdom to [believe they could] know between light and dark.  The incite to [think they could] see what was right and wrong.  The [in]ability to lean on their own understanding of sinful nature.  Adam and Eve literally ate the obsession to bring justice.  They tasted shame, fear, and judgment.  It wasn’t just Adam and Eve though; we are still eating the fruit.  We are ignoring the origination of sin … taking it upon ourselves to play God, to determine, to decide another’s fate.  We have pridefully had the audacity to pretend to know another’s heart condition.

The first thing our gentle, loving creator asked of us was to leave this in His hands.  He knew – as He still knows – that when we feebly attempt to pass judgment, the result will always be the same …. our own further separation from Him.  And worse still, the separation of God from others.  Those people that we should be directing towards Him, not leading away.

Who have I steered away from God?  Who have I led astray because I felt complied to determine their shortcomings?  Upon understanding the depths of this truth, what must it feel like to be a priest in a confession booth … determining the weight of each and every sin, then handing out the answer for forgiveness?  How could a Christian resist repentance in the light of this? What actions have I taken part in that may have drove others away? All due to selfish fear, pride, and this fruit; this fruit which leads to the [mis]understanding that we know what only God can fully know?

Lord, help me to avoid ignoring your first request of us.  A request made out of Truth, out of love, and out of sympathy for our weak minds.  Open my eyes to see when I fall into the sin of desiring to judge another’s life.  Allow the Holy Spirit to refine the sin in my own life.  And give us all the faith to let the Spirit refine sin in the hearts of others as You see fit.

I am just getting started

As I struggle to finish what I started with Pete Rollin’s latest book, for a couple of reasons that have surfaced upon re-reading it, I’m going to jump for a moment to Rob Bell’s farewell letter to Mars Hill. Rob read this letter to the congregation this past Sunday; it was his last sermon at Mars Hill.

I have no critique of what he said, at least none that will be placed on this page. Just some thoughts, some encouragements. I was surprised at how emotional it was for me listening to Rob’s final sermon at Mars Hill. Far more emotional than it has been for me saying goodbye to pastors elsewhere in my life. Far more emotional than I expected. It reminded me of what an impact Rob has had on my life and my learning of Christ. That sense of loss made me sad for what may to come without my standard Rob Bell teaching; which is usually awaiting me by midday Tuesdays.

Rob said something though, at the end of the letter. He said that he felt like he was just getting started. I can’t imagine Rob would have any idea what those words could possibly mean to a young widow who has, since her husband’s death, felt a call towards ministry – started school – began making radical life changes. Or maybe he can.

He gave me courage, not only in this sermon, but in so many sermons I have heard him speak, that God has given us the innate desire to create. I have always felt this desire. He has assured me that to follow this need to create risks must sometimes be taken. I am just starting to take those risks. Those risks can be scary – for me, as well as for him, and others. It is far often easier to tell ourselves that this is the end of what God has planned for us. To think that we are too old to put ourselves out there, or too secure to take such risks. Those are the fears we must put aside.

I, like Rob, feel like I’m just getting started. My life has changed drastically. I will move drastically. I will hear the call of God, and listen it to it. I will try to be courageous. I will lean on Christ when I feel weak, and remember what God has promised to us if we follow this call . . . Grace and Peace.

I pray grace and peace to Rob as well. And I am ever so grateful for his contribution to my spirit journey.