No Fear: 101

What do you fear?

We don’t always know. A teacher of mine has said that when we are scared of something specific, we call that “fear,” but we often are scared of ambiguous, or not specific somethings…and we call that “anxiety.”

We live in fearful times. We live in highly anxious times.

If you watch the evening news, you’ll be familiar with the “fear” segment. Every night there is an entire news piece dedicated to something we should all be “afraid” of. Children abducted; unethical corporate practices that result in poisoning, fires, or other household disasters; “unsafe” neighborhoods; new discoveries in the ongoing search for “surprising things that cause cancer.”

Life in this “#MeToo” moment is a huge source of anxiety for many people. Men who have previously never had to bother thinking about their decisions, or their actions—past or present—that might have a negative effect on another person…men are increasingly terrified of being challenged, being “called out,” being named a perpetrator of a crime they don’t remember committing…being blamed for hurt they would never intentionally cause had they “known better.” After the events of the last week, Women have a lot of anxieties of their own…the prevailing feeling that things might never change. Women have been used by men since the dawn of time (yesterday in worship, we reflected on the story found in John 8, a story of power-hungry men trying to annihilate a woman accused of adultery…while her male adulterer was nowhere to be seen), and now that women and survivors of sexual assault are coming forward to tell their stories, they are seeing how the highest seats of power in our country will do whatever possible to ensure that these stories don’t matter…that they won’t change anything…that men will still have the freedom to decide and act as they pleased…regardless of the effect they have on others. This is a highly anxious time.

There is not a day goes by that I don’t see a post somewhere on social media, a post of some kind that lists the bad things happening in our nation and in our world, and ends with a very quick command, “Be afraid.”

Our ancient texts found in the Bible say something else, however. Every time someone in the Bible has an encounter with the Divine, or with a messenger of the Divine, like an angel, every single time, the first thing that is said is, “Be not afraid.” When Moses is leading his people through the wilderness into freedom, the first teaching he offers is, “Fear not.” How many times are people instructed to “be not afraid,” and “fear nothing” other than God? According to blogger and spiritual leader Soul Shepherding, there are more than 365 instances of this in the Bible…one for every day of the year.

Every day we are given reason to fear…and every day our God encourages us to not be afraid. I don’t think this means we are forbidden from ever experiencing a very natural human emotion. I think it means we are being called to be Courageous. Courage can only exist in times of fear. Bravery isn’t the ability to “not be afraid,” it’s the determination to act as you know you have been commanded even when there are reasons to be fearful.

We are called to Love our God, Love our Neighbor as Ourselves…which means LOVING ourselves…and we are called to do that every minute we are alive…no matter how anxiety-provoking that may be.

So I say to you friends, Be Not Afraid…Fear Not…Be Courageous. Be You.

Brian Gruhn