Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Boogeyman

The Boogeyman.
Public Speaking.
Getting Old.
Being Talked About.
Not Being Talked About.
Being Too Much.
Not Being Enough.

This list could go on and on because the one thing that seems to be limitless in life is fear. Fear takes on many shapes: anxiety, worry, stress, over-analysis, insecurity, and yet it is unlike any other shape in that it leaves a void, never actually ever filling a legitimate need or desire or curiosity.

I have never considered myself a fearful person. When there were nasty insects invading our college dorm, my roommates would ask me to go kill them. If a loved one left on a trip, I’d wish them well and ask for a souvenir upon their return. Paper due in less than an hour? No problem, it’d get done somehow. Shady character down the street? He’s probably just misunderstood.

So, imagine my surprise when the Lord revealed to me the other day that I was a woman who not only had fears, but I was one who allowed her fears to rule her daily decisions. You see, there were certain things that had become so part of the fabric of my thinking, that I merely assumed they were natural reactions to circumstances. It was natural to assume that if my boss was asking in depth questions about my work it was because I was about to be fired. Duh. Oh, I’m feeling slightly different today than yesterday? Then I probably just contracted some fatal disease---obviously. If someone I liked looked the other way, or stepped out of our conversation, it was most likely because they finally discovered that I truly am an ogre. You see, completely rational thinking. No fears whatsoever. Stress meant I was working hard; worry meant I cared deeply; insecurity was merely a way of keeping a check on my pride.

Little did I know how insane my behavior had become. My emotions had become a roller coaster—I could be confident and filled with optimism before noon, only to crash at lunch when I realized I failed to schedule a meeting. Then the failure was quickly forgotten as I got the text to join my friends for dinner, but soon resurfaced as 3 important people I was hoping to see didn’t come out to eat. My smiles began to feel forced, my mouth only opened to pour out complaints and frustration. Who am I? Does anyone else feel as unstable as I do right now?

Then came Sunday’s Bible reading: Mark 4-5. It both comforted and rebuked me. In these two gospel chapters…in only 42 short verses, Jesus showed me four different times how prone the human spirit is towards fear. Four Times. That’s crazy… or is it? So I took some time to listen to what these stories had to tell me, and I found that all different kinds of fear similarly centered around God’s abundance of power and man’s lack of control.

1. The fear of a lack of safety. A lack of being unseen, uncared for, and left to our own devices. You can see it in chapter 4 verses 37-41. Here’s what I noticed:

The problem: The disciples were in legitimate danger; a storm was raging, the ship was taking on a ton of water, and they were working hard to stay afloat. It’s dark, it’s wild, and it’s freaking out seasoned fisherman.
The reality: They were in the boat because of Jesus’s word (verse 35). Jesus was in the boat. JESUS. You know, God? And He had stated that they were going to cross to the other side that night.
The irrationality of fear: God was wrong. God doesn’t know we’re all going to drown. In fact, God is going to drown.
The ending: Jesus yawns, stands up, tells the storm to be quiet and it immediately stills. Then He turns to the dripping wet disciples and asks, “Why all the fuss?” (my own translation) Well, when you put it that way…

2. A fear of the good. The fear of being more scared of leaving the known, as frightening as it is, for the unknown, as potentially stunning it may be. Here it is in chapter 5, verse 15.

The problem: There was a demoniac running around town. Bleeding, screaming, trailing broken chains and living among tombstones. This is what the villagers were used to. Then Jesus comes to visit, and suddenly this childhood nightmare is placid, intelligent, and peaceful. NOW the town is freaked out.
The reality: Jesus loved. He saw the person; he rescued the captive. The townspeople just witnessed the freeing of a man, a friend, one of their own from the evil torment of the devil. They saw sanity, goodness and life exuding from what had once been the most infamous terror in the countryside. Jesus was at peace, the disciples were quiet, the tormented was at rest for the first time.
The irrationality of fear: This calm can’t be good. What is this silence? Where are the enraged shrieks? The howling of pain? He looks… normal. Healthy. Happy. And that is scary, so Jesus must be bad. Power that can alter chaos into calm that quickly cannot, must not, be trusted.
The ending: Jesus heeds their demands that He leaves. When we clamor for the negative because we fear what He might do in order to restore good, He doesn’t push it on us. And THAT should be what scare us.

3. The fear of death, of loss. Of Jesus being too late to make a difference. This shows up with Jairus and his daughter in chapter 5: 35-36:

The problem: Jairus’s little girl is sick. In fact, she’s on her deathbed. He comes rushing towards Christ to ask for a miracle. Hope pushing out of the soil of fear. Here’s the thing though, as Jesus is on His way to Jairus’s aid, He stops to heal someone else and talk with her. Doesn’t He realize time is of the essence??
The reality: Jesus knew His strength did not lay in the timing of events. He knew death could not defeat His will. He recognized faith in a broken woman, and He was gracious enough to tend to her, as He was moving towards His resurrection plan at the house of Jairus. But all Jairus could hear was that he was too late; his daughter had just breathed her last.
The irrationality of fear: Death- what can stop death? It’s too powerful, too large, too FINAL for anyone to change. God can hear, God can heal, God can prevent, but God cannot bring to life. The Creator is unable to restore breath.
The ending: Jesus, in His sweet manner, cuts off the fearful thoughts before Jairus has time to utter them out loud. “Don’t fear; just trust.” And Jairus and his wife were first hand witnesses to the bringing back of their little girl from her grave. They were on hand to testify that here is One Who will not be defeated, even when the clock has run out and the buzzer has sounded.

4. The fear of the monotony. Being afraid that life will never look any different; that this is the role you were forced to play. So I skipped this one, because this one ends up showing evidence of the GOOD kind of fear. You see, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, and this woman, the one found in verses 25-34, embraced this type of fear. Look at this:

The problem: Twelve years of intense suffering. 4,380 days of pain, humiliation and financial stress. This woman had been bleeding for this long, and this disease not only hampered her health, but cut her off from society (refer back to the Levitical laws of when a woman bled). She had nothing to hope for any longer because every medical resource had failed. Her days stretched on and on, looking exactly the same. Yet, she allowed hope to draw her near to Jesus. Perhaps, just perhaps He could undo the painful reality of her daily existence.
The reality: One touch of Christ’s hem changed everything. More than a decade of disappointment and despair was wiped away in an instant. Jesus already knew she sought His healing; He already understood that His kingdom power would be bestowed upon her battered body and hopeful spirit. Note that He recognized the touch of faith. Observe that He looked around for her.
The rationality of fear: Now here is where the cool part of fear comes in. He asked for her to show herself, and she came, fearing and trembling because she knew what had been done in her. She trembled with the knowledge that she was about to stand before pure grace, undiminished power and overwhelming love. Her fear drove her to Him, because He was the wonder of her soul.
The ending: This woman walked away from that crowd with God’s praise in her ears and God’s wholeness in her body. She entered society again complete and renewed. Jesus turned towards Jairus’s house with a lighter step in the joy that His Father’s kingdom was at work. And Jairus could well dare to hope in the words he heard in the midst of death, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.”

So after these stories, I look back at my original list and I fear that I have been afraid of the small stuff. You see, trying to control life makes my circumstances seem large because I hold them in front of my face and block my Father’s. But, if (and when) I choose to look into the heart of the One Who calms storms, rescues men, raises the dead and heals the bloody, then all of a sudden I rest, knowing that my moments, my relationships, my dreams, and my situations are completely surrounded in the powerful hand of a good, good God.

I won’t be perfect in this pursuit to let go of fear and to instead trust in the control of my Savior; however, I will be relentless in changing my natural inclinations of stress, anxiety and pessimism to ones that require surrender—a resting surrender to the limitless power of Him who desires gospel life for me. To do otherwise would indeed be crazy.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Leah!

    I really liked this blog post. It is obvious that you are getting valuable, life changing insights from your reading of the Bible.

    Thanks for Sharing.