Fear is a punk: the gospel truth.
Fear is a liar. Fear manifests like a deep knot inside your stomach that tells you to be quiet when you should speak. To hide when you should be open. To lie when you should tell the truth. It often hangs around with shame. Fear uses shame like a sword to cut us into a controllable shape. Fear is a spirit that pushes against our own sense of self. Fear is humanity's oldest enemy, right along with pride. Fear tries to trick us into escapism, denial, anger, self-righteousness, self-pity and immobilize us from any creative action or dignified kindness, even to ourselves.
Fear is not a friend of mine. I’ve been completely surprised at my own recent recognition of how afraid I’ve been for much of my life. I have often been so steeped in fear that I’ve been afraid to admit I was afraid. I didn’t recognize fear because it had disguised itself as sacrifice and submission, which to religious ears sounds noble, even righteous, but to those of us who are embarking on living with humility and honesty we see it like it really is – it’s a liar. A tricky, slippy, small minded liar who twists the truth and uses punishment and conformity like a weapon.
The only way to deal with fear is to confront it. You can’t avoid it, you go through it. And you can’t do that alone. And that is what makes fear a gift. I know it’s counter-intuitive to think of fear like that but it really can be exactly that – an invitation. If you can locate your fear and you decide to get honest and humble, you can confront your fear because the opposite of fear is love. And love is available. Love is accessible. Love is company. Love sticks with you. Love holds you. Love leads you. Love offers to comfort you in the midst of your enemies – even in the middle of fear. Love is a present help in times of need. Love is enough. Love conquers all. Everything can be overcome with Love.
And this is surely becoming clear as I write these words – God is love. And love is God. And those of us who need God and have been harassed by fear from the inside out can call on God and God will be there because He gives grace to those who need help. Because He is love. And we are loved. And that’s what fear is afraid we might discover. And fear should be afraid. Because once you tap into that kind of perfect love, fear is a punk. No longer a stronghold but more of a sorry, pathetic loser trying to keep a hold on some image of power.
Well, the gig’s up. The liar is revealed, the wizard is exposed as a fraud and we are released from the façade of fear and can finally go. It turns out fear is a toothless lion, old and tired but still in charge of the performing circus. But thanks be to God, we are no longer slaves of the show. We are free. And love calls our name and gently leads us home. To where we belong. No strings attached, no price of admission (except the humility and honesty to admit our need), no performance needed, just love. Could it even be true? Possible? You better bet it is.
It’s the gospel truth.