On fear

Fear is going around. It’s a lot like the flu, or strep, or bronchitis, because it’s pretty contagious, and all you can do is take precautions and  wash your hands. But it’s also not really like any of those things, because it’s a lot more subtle, and a lot more dangerous.

Some fears are circumstantial. Fear of a major upcoming decision, an interview or audition or tournament. Fear of having a particular conversation with a particular person. Fear for someone else or fear simply of flying or falling or the dark.

But I think most of these circumstantial, temporary fears that surface according to impending events and then fade from memory are not so intrinsic to themselves as we’d like to think they are. In reality, they are reflections of larger, more innate fears, fears that are not so temporal or transient–the fear of the future, the unknown, fear of failure, fear of not being the one in control.

I think a lot of us, without realizing it, are living a lifestyle of fear. Biologists would call it an evolutionary advantage: fear of dying is what makes you run when a saber-toothed tiger jumps at you. And some fears are healthy–you should have pepper spray in your hand when walking alone in a dark parking lot (better safe than sorry). But maybe we’ve let this go too far. I think we’ve let it go too far when it’s become so ingrained that we don’t even realize it’s there.

Fear is at the root of a lot of human behaviors beyond the saber-toothed tiger and dark parking lot. Fear is what keeps us from saying hi to strangers, from trying something new, from breaking societal norms. But a lot of times, fear is not so much what keeps us from doing things as it is the root cause of why we do do things. Fear is the reason for our anger at the mere mention of an alternate political ideology. Fear is the cause of our desire to hold on tightly to our possessions and keep our finances in reserve. Fear is the source of our intense drive to succeed. Fear is behind our dishonesty, our pride in reputation, our obsession with planning. Fear of being wrong, fear of loss, fear of failure. Fear of vulnerability, fear of being rejected, fear of not being the one in control.

Most people consider fear to be a negative emotion. The recognition of fear’s negative impact is already present. But the danger is that most people don’t realize quite how present it is in their lives. It’s like the disease that spreads without any symptoms until it’s far too late. And I would argue that fear is not an emotion, it is a habit. It is a habit ingrained into us since birth, by our parents (“Don’t touch that hot stove!”), by our peers (“You’re seriously going to wear that?”), and by society (“Buy this or face the consequences!”). But it is a habit that can be broken.

Maybe not completely, because this world is fallen. And maybe it shouldn’t be. The Bible talks about the “fear of the Lord,” a healthy reverence. And it’s probably smart to not touch that hot stove. But the little ingratiating ones, the ones we pass off as merely innate human desires and emotions, such as anger, pride, and ambition? Those can be broken.

It’s not like breaking a stick or a piece of glass. It’s more like chipping away at a rock. It happens slowly, but every strike weakens it. So how do we chip away at fear? Here’s what John has to say on the matter:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.”

Not courage or bravery or boldness or just “sticking it out,” but love. Love casts out fear because, as John says, “fear has to do with punishment,” but “he first loved us,” long before we did anything to deserve it. That’s the kind of love that makes everything else not matter, because we don’t have to fear not being alone. We don’t have to fear not being in control, because he is. We don’t have to fear being rejected, because we are chosen. We don’t have to fear our loss of reputation, because we no longer move with the current. Our feet are planted on solid Rock.

When we fully realize who God is, all of our fears are overcome.

“Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” If our God is for us, who can stand against us? His love overcomes our fears, but more than that, it enables us to overcome the fears of others. By loving boldly, we move past our fear, and preempt the fears of those who receive our love.

And this is a choice. As much as fear is a habit, love is an action. And it can be just as addictive.

Blessings,
Bre

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Cleansing

I need this, as I embark today into uncertainty. I take comfort in knowing that God has a plan, but I guess I still need to…let go.

Letting go is hard. I don’t like it. Because I want control. I need it. I crave it. My humanity seems to starve without it.

But He demands it.

All I want is a little piece. I can try to hide it from him, my little corner of my life that I refuse to give over to him. The area that I continue to hold onto with clenched fists and white knuckles for fear that my grip will slip. But that’s the thing–God doesn’t want just a part of me. God wants my all.

I guess that’s why it’s so hard.

And I mean, I’ve been down that road before. I know that a lot of times, it’s a struggle. It will be hard. I know that a lot of times, following God means the road might feel broken and twisted and thorny–but I also know what it feels like to bask in the light, what it feels like as he chisels away to be made new. And, well, that’s the one thing I want more than control.

It’s beautiful, really. For those of you still searching, take it from me: it is worth it. It is so worth it. And he will come through. That’s the glorious thing about God: God doesn’t depend on how I feel, but on who he is. And he is faithful, and he is in control.

But surrender, it does have to be intentional. These feelings of closedness, these walls around my heart–I have to lower them on purpose. Sometimes I hold onto my own pain just because I want to feel something, not wanting to risk letting him in even though I know that he brings something so much greater. Something holy. Something powerful. Something that will make me whole.

Sometimes I call it love.

But these are the same feelings I was having a month ago when I wrote this poem. It’s not much of a poem, really; it doesn’t rhyme or anything. But I need this, as I embark into my mission this summer, sharing God with kids all season–I need a cleansing. I need to know my heart is whole and wholly his. I need his refining fire to make me pure. So I let go, and call down the Name of God in this place today. Change me.

Take all of your guilt;
hold your shame in your hands–
and squeeze.
Draw out your fears,
and condense all your grief.
Take hold of despair
and crumple your worry,
hidden in your clenched fists,
like a ball of newspaper.
Throw your sin on the pile too.
Hold them.
Gather them and cup them in your open palms and shape them into a leaden ball.
Heavy.
Dense.
Compact.
But at least, at last outside of you.
Feel it’s weight–
and like a lantern, let it fly.
Release it all into the sky.
Relax your tight and desperate grip.
I know you’re afraid to lose it,
for it feels like all you have.
You thought it was a part of you,
and, yes, it was:
it’s made you stronger.
But now it’s started crippling you.
And it’s time
to let go.
Release.
Light it up and watch it disappear
like a blue balloon.
And now,
breathe.
Unfold, and let your colors loose upon the world.

Blessings,
Bre

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Letters to Me

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I found a letter I wrote to myself more than a year ago:

Dear Bre,

I know you’re scared and depressed and so desperately in love that your soul is screaming at the thought of losing it all. I want to tell you that there’s so much more than this out there. God has a plan, He’s in control, so no matter what you do, no step you take is irreparably wrong. You have a purpose, you’re meant to be, you have a wondrous destiny! All you have to do is let it go! “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Offer Him your everything. Rid yourself, ask Him to take it all away. These idols, these lies, these voices that hide inside, they’re not from Him and you don’t have to obey.

Train yourself now in the way of the righteous–form a habit of holiness. Teach yourself by letting Him teach you. Pray constantly, pursue persistently, speak purely, love sincerely, live passionately: fearless and free. Let the truth wash you clean.

Throw your whole heart into His will. Rid yourself of the weight of these worries, these fears, these questions, lies, and tears, and trust in the one thing that remains when all else is stripped away. Clear the stage. Smile, and let your heart believe in joy, hope, light and peace, an infragile truth that will never be taken away. Dedicate yourself to the Lord, and train yourself in His ways with diligence. Don’t be deterred. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into it, and trust.

You want control, you want answers, you want surety of self. You seek pleasure and delight, a greater fate and yet want easy. Let it go. Give it up. And watch the magic happen in your very own heart. Let him chisel, even when it hurts.

When I say hurt, you put up your walls. Barriers return. Knock them down! You’re scared now and apprehensive and full of doubt and fear and frustration and worry. But you know you will find the light and rejoice. Only one thing remains. So be strong and courageous–fear not–do not be discouraged! For the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go!

If you tell yourself something often enough, you start to believe it. Don’t ever, ever believe you can’t.

Take in all the little things around you, and take joy in them: the way the rain patters on the roof, the ink flowing from your pen, the way things have their quirks and inconsistencies. Notice.

Don’t let things bother you that shouldn’t. Be patient with your siblings. See past the masks and respect people for who they are without deindividualization.

Set your values and strive toward them with all your beautiful heart. Know your standards and stick to them. Fill yourself with joy. Remember that what you put in is what will come out. Never forget the things God taught you–in Philly, at camp, through trials and hardships: these lessons are part of you. Keep learning them every day. Pray often until it becomes a habit. Knock down the walls and destroy the idols. Don’t forget to seize the day. Be a dreamer, a maker, a seer, a changer.

Love the heart of God.

Knowing God has a crazy amazing plan,
–Bre

Wow. This is amazing. I have been struggling a lot over the last few weeks, with a lot of different things. Well, really a lot of different life things that are really all one internal issue, I guess. I can’t yet share the most recent thing that happened, but it’s really weighing on my heart and I don’t know how to deal with what God might be asking me to do. It’s something I’ve done once before, and I really, really don’t want to go through it again. I’m really scared. I’ve been asking God for help trusting him, but–it’s hard. It’s really hard. Especially with what this means for me. And while this doesn’t make it any easier, it is a reminder that He’s still faithful. And I’m grateful.

Wishing all the mothers out there a happy day, and with a special gratitude for my own mom–I don’t know what I would do without you. If I can ever figure out this whole life thing half as well as you have, my kids will be pretty darn lucky.

Blessings,
–Bre