Friday I posted about the other “F word” in our family.
On reflection I think there’s more than one “other”. There may be a whole slew of other “f words” that lurk around like stealth ninjas ready to take us down.
So here’s number 2. Fear.
I don’t think I’m a particularly fearful person. But I might have slept in the car instead of with the bats in a mountain cabin once upon a time. And Maggie and I might have told the producers of the Amazing Race that snakes were a no-go for us when we were auditioning.
I’ll admit I AM afraid of heights, failure, suffering, looking foolish in public, and dying in an airplane crash to name a few. But so is everyone, right?
(John, not me, bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, Zambia)
If I’m honest, what I’m really afraid of is losing control. At least the illusion of control.
And if I’m BRUTALLY honest, I’m afraid of following Jesus (because that’s crazy-out-of-control).
There, I said it.
I fail at following Jesus every day because of fear.
What if He doesn’t really have the whole thing in His hands?
And even when I do step through the fear to follow Jesus, things often don’t work out the way I want, or the way I expect, or the way that’s most comfortable. Kind of like a scary movie that that turns out in the end, but just not the way you think, like the end of that Bruce Willis movie…”I see dead people…” And you say, “Ahhhh, now I get it and it’s not as scary anymore.”
The other day I took a step that I thought was a following Jesus risk. Scary, but also, (I thought), pretty predictable.
I went public, letting people know I was praying a huge, ginormous prayer, thinking it was a slam dunk that God would want to answer it exactly as I envisioned it. And by that I mean just like I told Him to do. And then I figured I’d give Him all the glory and we’d do a little God-and-me kingdom victory end-zone dance.
Well, not so much.
It was a massive fail of epic proportions to my way of thinking. Every fear of embarrassment come true. “Jesus don’t You care??? This is about Your reputation too You know!”
I didn’t understand, and I wasn’t in control and I don’t like either of those things, thank you very much. I’m still waiting for the “Aha! Now I see what You’re up to, you clever God!”
At this point you might be saying (in your head), “This is not helping with the fear thing, Laura. Fear + Obedience = Failure? Confusion? Where are you going with this?”
This is a messy post because God is faithful, but He doesn’t fit our formulas.
I got to thinking…Moses was afraid of leading the Israelites. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel. Peter was afraid of standing up for Jesus. As I was thinking about them, here’s what I realized:
1. These guys (heroes of the faith for Pete’s sake!) were afraid. So we’re not in bad company.
2. Sometimes their fear paralyzed them and led to wimpy choices. It’s gonna happen. (Again, we’re not alone in our fearful loserdom) God let Peter experience the consequences of his marshmallowy choices and then went to work. His fear didn’t disqualify him from discipleship.
3. When they DID take a risk and respond to God’s leading, God didn’t act as they expected.
God parted Red Sea at the last minute and provided crazy manna, not a victory parade on a paved highway and steak. He spoke to Elijah in a still small voice, not the dramatic wind or fire. He drew out the drama of Esther in a way that forced her to trust Him through a beauty contest with a drunken king and undercover spy work.
He put Paul in some of the places he was most afraid of (think: Gentiles, and jail ) and then used him to change the world!
4. Bottom line: God showed up as God and expanded their view of Him (eventually).
After the fear, and the shaky “Ok I’ll jump and follow you off this cliff Jesus”,
and before the “Oh, I see a little more clearly, thanks for expanding my view of You Jesus”,
there’s often the “Holy buckets what have I done Jesus, and are You really in this?!”
When Peter stepped out of the boat…When Esther approached King Xerxes…When Paul was sent back to the disciples he had persecuted after his conversion…
Think they were afraid? Yep. Think they understood what was going on? Heck, no. But did their view of God expand? Eventually, I bet it did! And I’m praying mine does too.
What are you most afraid of? How has God stretched you in this area?