Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Photo from London Daily Mail)

Psalm 34:

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.

If you go read the story I linked to in the photo credit, you will see an amazing story of a young seal escaping the clutches of a killer whale. What I find captivating about this photo is that the seal, physically, is safe. The whale makes one more lunge at him to no avail. But the seal's posture is still one of fear, and if you follow the photos in the story, the next picture in the series of frames posted shows the seal rolling over passively to accept his perceived fate--to be devoured.

I think it goes without saying, that for everything we have truly been delivered from, we never quite lose that fear that we were only saved by "a lucky escape" and that killer whale is still prowling below the surface of the ocean, concealed in the depths, ready to strike.

Fear is such an odd critter.

Humans need fear in order to survive. Without it, civilization would have perished.

As children, we are taught to fear hot stoves, busy streets, and strangers with candy. In fact, there is a disorder--Williams Syndrome--where children have a pathological "lack of fear" and this can lead to many challenges in parenting because these children are next to impossible to be able to be taught to fear anything.

The problem, of course, is that in times of acute stress, fear protects us--but in times of chronic stress, fear paralyzes us. "Fight/fright/flight" is the enemy of creativity, the enemy of growth, the enemy of love.

People who have lived through fear and abuse often talk about a "tunnel vision" that develops. That over time, the entire world can only be viewed through the lens of their fear. That the world feels like it is closing in. That the only way they can function is to ratchet down their attention span to the little tiny details. Fear makes OCD people more obsessive and compulsive; it makes ADHD people more scattered; it makes forgetful people more forgetful. The lens of fear becomes an uber-magnifying glass over details that normally would not matter.

There is a piece of us who knows this. There is a piece of us who also knows we are under the protective watch of a loving God. The Bible speaks many times over of the protective nature of God. But we also have stories in the Bible where an angry God, or a jealous God, goes about destroying and smiting the wicked.

We don't always find the two concepts compatible--because of that old bugaboo, the classic saint/sinner paradox. We know we are not "all evil"--yet we know in our hearts we are not "all good," either. We, unlike how we might see Christ, don't see ourselves as being fully human AND fully divine. We tend to view ourselves as a lot more human, and a lot less divine, and tend to be rather intimate with the "un-divine" parts.

Yet, except in the case of pathologic fears, we generally have the ability to put our fears aside many times until we experience a trigger--however, those triggers can take us right back to where that young seal is in the story--ready to roll over and be devoured. We take on an attitude that our previous "escape" was not deserved, we deserve to die, and we run the risk of rolling over and accepting our fate. We might even not do the things we still would be capable of to "save ourselves" as a result of it. I think about how people get dropped off the unemployment statistics over time. There is an assumption that after being unemployed for a certain period of time, you are simply "no longer looking for work." That's not always true, obviously, but we all know of people who DID become so discouraged they stopped looking for a job.

I don't have any great handy household tips for dealing with fear. In fact, I find myself pretty lousy at it, honestly. But I do know one thing--fear is a critter not best dealt with alone. This, to me, is where our church community fits in. This is where that shared meal at the altar fits in. This is where the act of praying together fits in. Even if the other people in that community don't know the details of our fears, they are praying for the needs of that community, and that includes us.

Praying together, even if we don't have a clue what we are praying for each other in individual terms, has value. Sharing the Eucharist has this value. I know when I am feeling pressured in by my own fears, the knowledge that somehow my being in community with others is allaying THEIR fears--that I am somehow helping them in this way--calms my own, even when I can't trust individuals. Perhaps that is the secret to it all.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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