Fear is tricky. In my life, it mostly comes out sideways. During the day it manifests itself in grouchiness, a short fuse and low tolerance for people and things that don’t go my way. Lately, it has also manifested itself in my sleeping hours, or should I say, “non-sleeping” hours. For the past week or so, I have had fitful sleep and outrageous dreams. I’ve had those crazy dreams about having to take a test in a class, usually a math class, even though I didn’t go to the class one time that semester. Another night dreamt I had to take a chemistry test and hadn’t studied a lick. Oh-and here’s a good one-in one of my dreams I spent hours botching every attempt to make a guy an Irish Cream Latte at an Espresso Bar (in my youth-I worked at and later managed an Espresso Bar/Coffee Roasting Company). I think those are about fear of failure. But then there are the more serious dreams, like spending time talking and hanging out with people whom I need to forgive as if our relationships were perfectly normal. I have had several of these types of dreams. I think those are about being too chicken to make amends in real life (translate:fear).
It’s hard for me to identify fear in me because it seems like a little kid emotion; afraid of aliens or the boogy man or clowns (which I actually do find sort of scary, myself). But I have my share of “fears” that I dress up as “concerns, worries, anxieties, and agitation.” I love how the Big Book of AA talks about fear; “this short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it…sometimes we think fear ought to be classified with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble.” Fear is much more subtle than trembling in our boots. If we really pay attention to our emotions and behavior throughout the day, and the night, I think we will find that FEAR is the catalyst for much of our unrest. I feel fear because even though I tell God I trust Him with my life, I don’t live it out by trusting him with the things and people in my life. Listen: My oldest is heading back to college half a country away, my middle child is starting high school AND driving in two weeks, I am starting to work again after being in the hospital and battling leukemia for 5 months, and I am trying to decide what God wants me to do with my new, post-leukemia life. And that’s the short list. All of these circumstances present me with an opportunity: I can trust “an infinite God rather than my finite self” or I can live in constant FEAR (definition: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.) Trust in God is the only solution that can counter, and conquer, fear. Sarah Young, author of “Jesus Calling” says “Your mind is somewhat like a seesaw. As your trust in Me goes up, fear and worry automatically go down.”
If I depend on myself, I have good reason to be afraid. “Why are you fearful, o ye of little faith?”. We may feel as if God is sleeping, like Jesus was when a storm came upon him and the disciples in a boat in the middle of the sea. The disciples ran to him in fear and panic. Then Jesus got up and rebuked the waves and calmed the storm. When I read this verse today, it struck me that he “rebuked” the waves; he did not rebuke his disciples for being afraid. He wasn’t lecturing them or calling them names (“ye of little faith”). I believe His voice was compassionate and understanding. He has been afraid too (ie. begging God to give him some other options as he awaited his own crucifixion). But even though he had fear, he turned it to courage and trusted his Father. “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Again, fear is a common thread that runs through more of me than I care to admit. These words from Bill Wilson help me remember that there is a solution (“should I choose to live in it.”): “All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to out grow fear.” I want to have the peace of mind and spirit that comes from living without fear. That means a life marked by TRUST (boldness, confidence, and assurance that God knows what He’s up to.) I checked the thesaurus and found a fabulous antonym for fear: “hardihood”. Out grow your fear and live in “hardihood-ness”.