Onion or Fortress?

Last week I said I would write about fear this week. We’ll see what happens…

Most every morning I read the devotional, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. https://www.jesuscalling.com/ Last Thursday it read in part, “Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold.”

I had an arrogant moment, thinking I didn’t really fear things. I mean people tell me I’m brave a lot, they’ve done so for years. Apparently I have made some decisions in life that others would not have, and that seems to be called bravery. (Or people might just be using it as a euphemism for crazy, stupid, irrational, or irresponsible)! After my arrogant moment passed, however, I did think of a few things that I feared.

Another book I have been looking at recently is DailyOM: Inspirational Thoughts for a Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling Day. https://www.dailyom.com/book/offer.html On that same Thursday, DailyOM was likening the process of moving past fear to the peeling of an onion: one goes through our own layers to find the cause or origin of said fear. I saw those readings as conflicting, if not exactly contradictory. As in, Believers ward off fear, while Spiritual Seekers seek out fear? Which one was I supposed to do?! Was I an onion or a fortress?

I’m going to have to refer once more to the message provided today at Friendship Pasadena Church. Pastor Nick Sherman gave quite the sermon today, braiding together the experience of graduation with the ongoing revival of Friendship. And he differentiated between renewal and revival. Kinda like, are you just trying to extend your stay on the farm team for another season, or are you ready to move on to the majors? (The LA Dodgers fever out here is contagious)! Pastor Nick also reminded us that every era ends. Which can be scary, right? Even — or maybe especially — when something amazing is sitting right ahead of you.

I once learned that runners in a race often slow down once the finish line is in sight. I use this metaphor a lot to encourage my students to keep going at the end of the semester when they — and their professors! — are pretty much over it. Apparently, in the book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, by Gay Hendricks, he makes reference to this principle. Note that I said “apparently,” which means I did not read the book, which is what I am trying to help my students understand: you can’t say you read a book when you didn’t! But I did find an article that references that book, which references the principle in question, and because this is a blog and not a college paper that will suffice. On a website called 99 Walks, the unnamed author writes:

“…author Gay Hendricks theorizes that we all face what he calls an ‘upper limit problem.’ He believes that each of us has a level of success that feels comfortable and that when we reach that upper limit, we will subconsciously self-sabotage to stay there.”

https://www.99walks.fit/blog/2019/6/23/why-we-slow-down-at-the-finish-line

Whoah. But then think about it. Ever stopped short of some stuff? Maybe you don’t even know what you missed. Or maybe you slowed down in one proverbial race, but the next time you powered through and got that “success.” When it comes to churches — and so many other organizations — there are certainly folks who become more fearful as that finish line approaches. Or should I say that start line. Because, as Pastor Nick reminded us, endings can really be beginnings. So if we are to “live in revival,” as Pastor Smith is exhorting us to do, then there can be no slowing down, but only the speeding up of our commitment, our excitement, and our faith. How are we going to “discover our gifts” if we stop before the race is over and just say, I’m good over here. I don’t really want to know what else I am capable of. Thanks anyway.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7 

Even if you don’t think (a) God has provided you with what’s inside you, do you think we humans are on this planet to be afraid? I mean humans created societies, figured out out to hunt so we could eat, even figured out how to have kids so there’d be more humans! There’d be no us if our ancestors had lived with spirits of fear.

And here’s where I’ll finish up, where Pastor Nick really got me. You know those words you hear that kinda shoot right through you? Like, “how’d you know to say that” kind of words? Well he did this great history lesson about Passive King David, his selfish son Adonijah, and finally the wise (and somewhat wistful) Solomon. He summed it up with a great parallel to Pastor Smith as King David, but you really had to be there. More generally, Pastor Nick noted that one generation fights battles so that our next generation does not have to. It’s what we parents tend to do for our children, sometimes without even knowing it. My daughter recently explained to me that the way I handled a particular issue as a woman was why she was able to navigate the same issue she faced in her young life. I was over there apologizing to her that I hadn’t spoken about the subject enough and it turns out that the fact that I fought/was fighting that (inner) battle, provided her a level of peace I had not had. So, yeah, there are a lot of ways to fight a battle it turns out.

Fear. Do we ward it off with faith, or do we look within to see where it came from? I think the important thing is to acknowledge it. We spend too much time trying to avoid fear, performing around it, turning away from it… While fear is there because we are human, also because we are human we have the free will to face it, and to move forward. That’s usually scary. But the pay-offs can be oh so handsome.

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