I am home for a snow day today and absurdly grateful for it.
I have been thinking quite a lot about fear lately, and but I am having a very difficult time marshaling my thoughts. I don’t know why fear is so hard to talk about, because everybody is afraid. Fear is probably the most universal emotion–even those who’ve hardened themselves to love and to hate still know fear. Almost every bad and sinful choice any of us ever make is a result of letting fear rule us.
Maybe the reason I don’t like to talk about fear is that I know that I shouldn’t live in it, and I am ashamed that I do. I am ashamed that I am frightened to say certain things or to talk to certain people. I am ashamed that I let others’ opinions matter so much, even when I know they are wrong. I am ashamed that sometimes today and its small, assorted burdens terrify me like nothing else. “You are too intelligent and privileged to be afraid.” I tell myself. “If TSwift and Florence can shake it off, then so can you.”
But sometimes I can’t. More often than not it seems the walls of my heart are eggshell thin and the weighty little fears of the day crush in through them and paralyze and panic me. And then there I am, along with Paul, not doing what I will to do, but instead doing what I hate.
So I’ve decided that I’m just going to be scared. I’m giving myself permission to be afraid, for my face to blanch and my mouth to get dry. When fear shows up I will not try to push him out. Instead, I will send him to sit in the back corner, and speak to him often. I’ll say to him, “I will let you stay, but you must know that while you have the power to make my knees shake and my voice stutter, you have no power over my will. Do your worst. Smash my heart all the way down into my stomach. Force me to taste my own bitterness all night long. You are mortal and weak. And when I hold you up to the light of the Gospel I can see right through you.”
And then, with fear sitting on a straight-backed chair in the corner of my chest, I will go on doing. To be frightened is to have the opportunity to be exhilaratingly brave, so with a fist-sized lump in my throat I will go on speaking. When I become too scared, I will laugh. We are told that perfect love casts out fear, so while I wait for perfect Love to do just that, I will serve Him who gives me “that grace to begin.”
Whew. Thank you.
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