Sunday, March 11, 2007

Faith vs. Fear

Oh, we are so very happy to be (almost) completely well. Two are still coughing a little, but after Q caught the puking bug, no one else did, so hurray! And part of his feeling yucky could have been, oh, maybe the two teeth he was working on? (Insert: in the hours and hours and hours it's taken me to get all this down, Q is clearly feeling better, and, oh yippee, I went to lay him down on the pillow that is his sleepy-time nirvana, and he opened his eyes, smiling at me while I was settling him. Instead of panicking and thinking Oh joy, here we go, the boy is up and it'll be 3 before he settles again, I told him I'd be back after I started some laundry and did some picking up. I hurried like mad and thought he was starting to fuss. But? BUT??? He was asleep. He nestled in and put himself to sleep. Oh, happy day! This child does not self-soothe. He does not just fall asleep. But he did!! He did. Ahhh. . .)

I hauled us all to church yesterday. Because. Because I could. Because I had to get out of the house before I lost my mind. And because I have enough Purell to simultaneously float and sterilize the US Navy, that's what.

The sermon was about faith. My favorite line from the sermon: "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear." As I heard those words, I felt a sort of quiet ka-booooooom, a sound wave, the hand of God sweeping over me.

I am constantly challenged in my life and I would have it no other way. I am never bored. I always have something sort of unusual or exciting or funny just about to happen. It's odd, I suppose, but I think that it's good, for me anyway. I used to say, half kidding, that I do my very best when I'm a smidge overcommitted. After spending some time in my skin, contemplating who I am and who God would have me be, I think my exciting life (heh) is a combination of my brain working to keep me awake (boy, am I awake) and my willingness to be open to the opportunities God's universe delivers. I love to read. I love to learn new stuff. My brain is strangely like a search engine crawler--always collecting information, oftentimes the oddest things. I tend to notice stuff that other people don't. This makes me a better artist, writer, mom, friend. So this is pretty cool, living in my head. It has distinct benefits. It also means that I have to pay attention to filtering, which isn't the easiest thing for me. I am sometimes lost in all the nifty details, threshing the wheat, bewildered at the chaff whilst grabbing for the kernels of importance. Not only can one not take every opportunity that comes along or notice every little thing that floats by, but seriously, one must sleep sometime.

But. Since the great shake-up, I'm seeing things differently, open to different things, wanting different things, taking much less for granted. Everything seems to have been turned about 45 degrees to the left. Or right, depending on the day. One of the things I've found is that too many of my patterns of behavior are rooted in self-protection, or fear. Some of this is healthy, some is destructive. Healthy would be not stepping outside in a hurricane or laying one's hand on a hot burner. Destructive would be refusing to accept another's point of view because I am the self-proclaimed sole possessor of truth.

After the sermon yesterday, I found myself just reeling that phrase over and over in my head. "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear." While driving home, things sort of expanded and expanded.

Have you ever really wanted something but not been able to admit it because people might think you're nuts? Have you ever thought that you had an idea that could change your corner of the world, or perhaps the entire world, but not pursued it because, if you did, you'd have to give up ________, or you might miss _________, or maybe people might think you're nuts?

Do you think any of the great inventors or philosophers spent much time worrying about what the peanut gallery thought? I doubt it. It's the sort of superfluous activity that impedes progress. There are examples of how they might have given a bit more thought to their families--Einstein, for example. I often wonder if the world would have been a better place, if he would have been able to feel that he'd completed his work here, if he'd been a better husband and father, or if he really was doing the best he could? I guess then my caveat to going off chasing your dreams is that, if you have obligations to people, especially to your spouse and/or children, you need to place the sacred trust of those relationships first. If you struggle for clarity in this, think of how you want your grandchildren raised, then respond to the whiny toddler, the cranky spouse, or the snappish preteen. What you do in your family has ripples that you will never fully realize. Having said that, I don't see why a person can't be faithful to their families, to their spiritual mandates, and to their dreams. Especially if your dream has anything to do with making the planet a better place in some particular way--it seems then that all those would automatically align, right? (One could always make them align. You know, free will and all.)

But what about fear? What about faith? What about trying to go forward into something that seems like it doesn't make any sense, in a traditional way of looking at it? Who are we to defy the laws of physics, right?

Well. I think that's sort of where the fear comes in. Maybe I'm just coming from having the walls blown out of my world, but seriously--what is there to fear? If you are faith-full, what is there to fear?

A saying I've run across lately:

Fortune favors the brave.

Another from a dorm room door on my hall in college:
The more you take on and the more you accomplish, the more opportunities present
themselves. It is the difference between the people who seem never to get
started and those who are uncatchable.

Some favorite verses:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your
heart. Psalm 37:4

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah

I see a pattern here. (Could be just me, though--life has been like that sometimes. Heh.)

The universe is infinite and still expanding, right? I view this as a manifestation of the character of God. As such, how would we, His created beings, expect any less than the same for our own lives? We have pretty big dreams for our kids--isn't the same true of our heavenly parent?

Let me be clear--I don't think this is the same idea as the so called prosperity gospel. "God wants me to have a boat!" Nope. Not that I think we can't enjoy the fruits of our labors. I just don't think, that while our worldwide community suffers starvation, disease, raping and pillaging reminiscent of the Crusades (just switch the religions around for interest, they're all taking turns destroying the defenseless in the name of their particular vengeful god), that we have any business focusing on how much God wants each of us to "have a boat." Maybe if we were out on the Sea of Galilee using our yachts to pull in fish for the masses, then I could see it, but I just can't identify with the idea that some of us are "meant" to have extreme wealth and others are "meant" to suffer the naked effects of evil. Or that all we have to do is believe just the right thing and then God becomes accessible to us.


There was this very nice lady in a particular, awesome Bible study group I attended years ago. She was just on the verge of elderly, and alone. Her niece, who had avoided church of any kind for years, had just begun attending a church which the nice lady felt to be pretty much representative of the anti-Christ. The nice lady, while telling about how welcomed her niece felt there and how the niece was truly seeming to grow spiritually, was wringing her hands about how led astray the poor niece was, how this was going to lead her further and further from the true church. I couldn't help myself. I spoke up. I said, very quietly, that I believe that God meets each of us where we are. If we are truly seeking His face, He does not hide from us. If we are looking for Him, He will find us.

It is not up to us, thank God, to determine anyone else's path. It is up to us, thank God, to do what we can, with what we have, where we are. (I believe that was Thomas Jefferson, though you'd have to check.) I firmly believe that this includes finding little ways in which to raise the bar for ourselves, nudging ourselves on to higher standards in kindness, compassion, personal ethics, and then encouraging others on to the same. Perhaps we create amongst our friends and neighbors a culture of loving accountability. Perhaps we wonder out loud about how we can affect change in our neighborhoods, be they local or global. Perhaps we go looking for the wounded guy on the road, the one who needs one or all of us to be the Good Samaritan. Perhaps we step out of our comfort zone, in faith, willing to be an instrument of His peace, of His grace. Willing to give hands and feet to belief, to give wings to the prayers of those around us.

Perhaps we find ways to be fear-less. To be faith-full. Perhaps we become a part of that expanding universe in ways only it's Creator can envision. Perhaps, in gratitude, we become able to revel in what is while striving for what is possible so that we may reach out, overflowing with faith, ready to take on the responsibility of the yacht on the Sea of Galilee?

(For I know the plans I have for you. . .)

There's Q. Ready to change position on his pillow of happiness. Heh.

What do you think?

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