‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…so begins verse 2 of that well-known hymn, Amazing Grace.
Do you and I know how to be afraid? Fear 101 wasn’t part of my education and my guess is that it wasn’t part of yours either. Yet fear has been with us since the amygdala came into being…and is here to stay. It’s so automatic and pervasive, especially now, in these COVID days, that we don’t stop to notice it, name it, and learn how to do it well.
Without exception, everyone has experienced fear. Fear, also known by other names such as anxiety, overwhelm, worry, dread…is that constricting energy that wants you and me to run away, or call in the National Guard and wage war (attack) whatever/whoever we fear…or to freeze, hold our breath and not move a muscle.
John Kabat-Zinn, a teacher of mindfulness, talks about what he calls the “double arrow”. With fear it goes like this. First we have a fear thought/feeling. That’s arrow #1. But then we incriminate ourselves for being afraid. That’s arrow #2. It’s like first being wounded and then immediately inflicting more pain onto the original wound. The double-arrow makes it even more difficult to acknowledge our fears and practice our faith.
*Un-Mask the Fear by Julie Elliot at: https://mailchi.mp/
Recently, Gerhard and I experienced mandatory mask-wearing on a BC Ferries trip that has brought to the surface of my/our fears, many of which we have been able to outrun until now. I am a supporter of wearing masks, but I became even more aware of how restricting they can be. Voices are muffled. I can’t hear and understand clearly what people are saying nor can I easily make myself understood. And the fact that I cannot see full facial expressions just increases the frustration. For me the result is feeling disconnected, isolated, vulnerable, and fearful.
Our masks hide a lot of things. Literally they hide the voice and facial expressions of the people behind
them. But figuratively, the metaphorical masks we wear can hide both our fear and our faith. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not let them be afraid…Fear not…I am with you…My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give…Do not let your hearts be troubled…believe in God…believe also in me.” Jesus doesn’t say never be afraid. Buck up. He says rather something like don’t let fear be your “go to”, your default. A great invitation to put our faith and trust in Jesus rather than the “Caesars” of our day.
In the video clip Grace and Fear (https://www.theworkofthepeople.com/grace-and-fear), author/researcher Brene Brown says she has learned how to be afraid…that everything meaningful and worthwhile that she has done in her life has been born of fear and vulnerability: giving talks, writing books, having/raising kids. It’s all scary. But grace has taught her heart how to be afraid, [so that she moves into the meaningful things even when it feels scary.] But, she says, grace has taught my heart how to be afraid, [so that I do the meaningful things even if I feel afraid.] That is true of my life and my guess is it’s true of yours.
I am tempted every day to live in fear. To let it rule my life. Yet grace wants to teach my heart to allow the fear to move me to faith. To learn to trust Jesus’ promise to be with me/us always with his peace, love, and encouragement. To give me grace when I need to do something important and meaningful that feels vulnerable and scary but is exactly what I need to do in order to participate with Jesus in the healing and mending of the world. I don’t think I’m alone in this, so if this is true for you, let’s allow grace to teach our hearts to fear well…and reveal the faith that keeps us living in the Peace that Jesus gives.
The Peace of Christ be with you.
by Bruce Sanguin
we yield to your gentle guidance.
Like a shepherd, you provide all that we need:
you know when we should lie down and rest,
and when we should rise up and be on the move.
Help us to trust the rhythms of the spirit;
lead us away from compulsive action
and the false peace of apathy.
You restore our souls.
We gaze into the still waters
and see ourselves clearly now:
reflections of your image
looking back with love.
You lead on the paths that are right for us
and for this planet.
We trust your guidance.
Even in the darkest valleys
and most treacherous passes,
the ground beneath us is firm,
and our confidence is great
that you are with us.
You, Great Shepherd,
the ground of our being,
do not desert us.
Our cup overflows with gratitude.
May our lives be filled with compassion
this is all you ask in return.