It occurred to me just this morning that it's over halfway through September. The year is ever so gradually coming to a close. If you've been keeping up with my blogs for a while, you might know that I have a theme for each year that I choose from the Biblical Christmas story. This year's theme: "Do Not Be Afraid."
And what an interesting year it has been.
I had no idea how many lessons God would teach me, nor did I have an idea of how He would teach them. At the beginning of the year, I figured God would teach me how to be less fearful or something. I really didn't know what to expect. It's been a journey.
This year, I learned to let go of things I didn't know I could let go of, and I learned to embrace things I didn't know I could embrace. I've learned to say yes, and I've learned to say no. I've learned how to follow, and I've learned how to lead.
I've learned that sometimes you have to gather in faith. I've learned that sometimes God calls you to scatter in faith what He once had you gather. And it's good.
I've learned that when I am weak, He is strong. And you'd think I'd know that one by now. It's funny how we think we have things figured out all right, and then God shows us our pride in a completely different light. He is so faithful to show us our need, as well as His provision, and it's good.
I could list all of the various lessons, the various trials. I could list my victories and my failures and my insecurities. But, honestly, it's been done. If you've ever read my blog before, you should know I'm weak. You should know I'm insecure. You should know I'm fearful.
And maybe the most important thing I've learned this year, this year with the theme of "Do Not Be Afraid," is that it's okay. It's okay to be afraid.
Because all my life people have told me that it's not okay to be afraid. Because people say "don't be afraid," like it's something we actively have some minute amount of control over. They say, "If you fear, then the Bible says you haven't been perfected in love." They say, "Well, in the Bible God and His angels tell us over and over to not be afraid or He commands us to be strong and courageous, so we should never, ever be afraid."
But I have to wake up every morning and stare at the ceiling, facing the unknown. I have to walk outside the door of my house into the world, just praying I don't get too dizzy (due to my neck pain) that I pass out in the driveway. I have to start my car and hope that it actually starts and doesn't break down on the way to work. I have to go to work and deal with people who ever, ever threaten my insecurities. I have to go to social things, whatever they may be, that overstimulate me and threaten to cause anxiety attacks. I have to go to bed at night, staring at the ceiling again, facing the unknown.
I'm freakin' terrified.
And I think that I probably should be.
And I don't think anything is to be gained by pretending I don't have any fear.
Because I figure that overcoming fear and being perfected in love isn't a matter of just praying a prayer and being cured of fear forever and always. I figure being perfected always involves a process. I figure that being perfected in love means you choose love over fear in the millions of little every day issues and problems that arise. When someone hurts my feelings, instead of brooding in my insecurity, I can choose to love and forgive and remember that others have insecurities too. When I'm afraid to talk to someone because I don't know how much commitment that friendship might take, I can choose to risk it and love anyway.
And I figure I haven't been perfected in love. But I figure that I am currently being perfected in love. And I figure that One Day I'll be fearless, but I'm not there yet.
And I figure that if God and His angels repeated His commands "be strong and courageous" and "don't be afraid" over and over and over again, it's probably because we need the reminders. We need them constantly, and not because we're fearless. It's because we're naturally fearful. We can't just pretend that away. If we could pray a prayer or sprinkle magic holy dust on ourselves and be fearless forever and always, we wouldn't need the numerous reminders. God gives them to us because He knows we need them. We're fearful. We're ever so fearful.
And that's okay.
Because "not being afraid" isn't about willing myself to get over my hangups or willing myself to go do something that would normally scare me silly. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with taking risks, but risks should only be taken wisely.
And I'm not exactly talking about worldly wisdom.
Because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. And I'm still learning how to be afraid, but I figure the best way to be afraid is to fear God above anything else. Not in a way that we tremble before Him in constant trepidation--though we should. We absolutely should.
Because of who God is, we should tremble on our faces in utter terror.
But because of who God is, we don't have to.
Because fear has to do with punishment, but we're being perfected in love.
But when we fear God, we're accepting all He is. We're accepting all He's done for us. We're accepting that He is stronger than anything else that we could possibly fear. So what, then, is left to fear? Nothing, really.
But our minds don't fully grasp that, and, well, how could they?
So we still fear.
But He has left us His Word, and He has left us His Spirit. He didn't just tell us "be strong and courageous" and"do not be afraid," He tells us now. He tells us now because He is with us now.
So when I stare up at the ceiling, facing the unknown, I'm not facing it alone.
And I figure the only way to "be strong and courageous" is if we let Him be strong and courageous through us.
In the big things, in the little things, my fear is going to be real. My anxiety is going to be real. And maybe I'd like it if I could be that fearless person that everyone thinks I should be, but I'm not. I can't be. At the end of the day, all I can be is His. That's enough.
One of my favorite musicians, Mitch McVicker, put out a song on his last CD, Underneath, entitled "Danger." I'm posting it below, because it's all kinds of amazing.
If you're afraid, don't kid yourself. Nothing is really gained by that. But in your fear, don't forget that He's here, and He's patiently reminding you not to be afraid.
"Show me Your Love is more than what's dangerous.
Just let me know You're here,
And I'll be brave.