Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. –James Stephens
Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— Psalm 49:5
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!” – Psalm 52 6-7
I just can’t get this whole idea of fear out of my head lately. With the revived debate regarding refugees that has infiltrated life once again the topic is ever more on my mind.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
My latest literary obsession, C.S. Lewis once said “You cannot know, only believe – or not.”
And yet, there is fear again…surrounding the borders of my heart and mind, laying it siege and slowly, slowly choking the life out of me. Sucking the hope from my limbs, and the love from my heart.
I’ve been horrified following this debate amongst people I know…amongst Christians and family members that I know specifically. Their words, generally typed in absurd amounts of capital letters (when did shouting become a thing in the written English language?) just sound so desperately fearful. Jihad this and jihad that and Muslim this and Muslim that…and in the blink of an eye people are lost amongst the labels that others have chosen for them
Yet, I am no different. When I wake up every morning I have to will myself out of bed and out the door and in to work on what I so often refer to as “the trenches”. And every day I am met with the thought that I don’t make enough money, and I won’t be able to pay my bills, and what if I crash on my way to work, or I forget a student in the bathroom, or this or that or the other thing.
And when it comes to refugees, I am afraid too. When I first think of refugees, I think – holy crap, they want to kill us. There is no way we let them live, never mind come here! what if they murder me in my sleep? What if they murder my children? Take me job? Inflate the economy? The list goes on and on.
Yes, my mind is also filled with fear, just like you, who so viciously argue against allowing refugees from here, there, or everywhere in to our great country.
But that is where the similarity ends.
Yes, my mind is filled with fear. I see the danger. I see the potential for harm.
And I don’t care.
I don’t care because that is what God has called me…no, not just me. That is what God has called any person who has been saved by grace to do.
There is no way to sugar-coat this foundational truth.
Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. Ecclesiastes 5:7. This is who I fear. I fear that if I allow my human instincts to overwhelm my heart, I will not be living in the fear of the Lord but will be living in the fear of man. And that same fear for Him who created me and you (and Muslims by the way) calls me to love others. To love very.single.human.being. Even if I don’t want to. Even if it’s card. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means I could die in the process.
So yes, I fear. But I know my life is so much more than sitting in my comfortable little home…so I swallow that fear and carry on.
But so much more than that, I try to understand. So much of the hatred and fear that I see my fellow Christians and family members is simply a lack of understanding. A limited worldview, and a failure to educate themselves.
Marie Curie said ““Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Which is really so perfect for the point that I am trying now to make.
Don’t just belief the things that your father, or sister, or pastor, or favorite conservative radio host, or politician tell you to believe. Really take the time to educate yourself about the facts of other people groups.
Again, here I think that it is fear that holds people back. Fear of the unknown. Fear of challenges themselves and having to change their beliefs and views. Because after all, the familiar is comfortable. I am so thankful for my very public-college education that required me to take two courses on culture and religion. I studied the history and culture of Africa for one semester (which is a rant for another day), and one semester studying Asia and The Middle East.
This was the best thing that I have ever done in my life when it comes to learning about others.
It confronted so many of the stereotypes that I unknowingly held for these people groups ( I refuse to label them). It combated so many of the groundless fears that my mind used to create prejudice and hate. And it opened my eyes and enabled me to see that these people too are just caught in the struggles and trials of everyday life, born into a system that tries to define them. Lost in the rush of this world, yet longing for so much more than their inherited religion can offer them.
So now, when I fear, I remember all I have learned. And then I put myself in the shoes of those refugees. I fight back against the fear-led desire to dehumanize them…and slowly their blurred faces come clearly into view. I imagine them taking up residence is some temporary housing next to my quiet little house, on a scenic little cul-de-sac in small town New England. There they are, heads wrapped in their traditional dress, skin much darker than mine, words so different than mine…living there next to me with their children who bear the physical scars of their life experiences and the mental burden of all that they have seen. Cooking their food, same as I do…cleaning their emergency tent, same as I clean my home, sleeping as I do, waking as I do, breathing as I do…holding their precious little babes same as I do. And they are afraid.
I imagine myself at first being afraid and wary…probably locking all of my doors and windows and making my children sleep in my bedroom with me…after all you just never know. The next day I’d make my husband conceal all of the hand-guns that we own and we would bring them cinnamon rolls or some other traditional American “welcome to the neighborhood” greeting – cuz that’s what my mother taught me to do when you have new neighbors. Of course, we probably wouldn’t understand each other, but in my experience with English Language Learners, sometimes a smile and a kind gesture is all you need. And besides, love has no words.
And slowly life continues, little by little every day, learning to trust, continuing in love. And while this little dream of mine will never likely be realized, and could likely also include my house blowing up in the middle of the night, well, somehow it doesn’t make a difference.
Because I’d rather confront my fears and live in love than remain in my safe little comfort zone.
Not just because I want to be a super-cool person, not because it is easy to do so. But because when I received grace through the death of Jesus on the cross, that’s what He called me to do.
And now, when I think of the complacency of so many Christians that I know and am surrounded by and their scathing remarks regarding the current plight of so many individuals throughout the world it literally makes my blood boil. My heart stops for a moment because the rage inside of me is just too much to handle.
But then another feeling emerges, and I honestly feel so bad for these friends and family members who possess such a limited worldview and who cannot even realize that their lives and attitudes are ruled by fear of man instead of fear of God. Whose attitudes towards their fellow man are wholly void of love and understanding. And my heart breaks for them, that they are so engrossed by fear and so immature in their spiritual walk that they fail to realize the perspective of another.
And I beg God to challenge my faith. So that I never arrive at that place of complacency. Whatever I do, whether I live or die…all the while knowing that in death me, my husband, and my sweet little babes will have achieved the final victory. And though death may separate us for a moment, eternity awaits us. And the words “well done, my good and faithful servant” are worth more than any comfort here on this earth.
And so Kreade and Ellie, I pray that God challenges your faith. I pray that you do not remain complacent in your faith, but challenge yourselves and always seek to gain an understanding of the world and the people around you. I pray that above all, you do not fear man, but fear God instead, and allow this fear to cause you to love all those around you…just as God loves you – without regard for self, wholly and passionately, not matter the cost.
“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.
“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King