Something I have been thinking about a bit is the subject of "fear". I am a fearful person. I could, perhaps, blame it on childhood and the parenting I received. But, then again, at 60 years of age, should you really be blaming your mum? Perhaps I need to take responsibility for it. Fear stifles my living. It hinders my creativity. Sometimes it makes me avoid relating to people. It makes me stressed out when I have to lead stuff I know I am quite capable of doing. It causes me to procrastinate. It basically can limit how I spend my life. Here are four examples.
I do not have a great list of close buddies. Why? Well I am fearful that close relationships can bite you in the backside. People can hurt you, especially those you love or who are meant to love you. So why set yourself up? I learned this in childhood but around twenty two years ago I had a long standing close friendship, but it bust up. When the break happened, I felt a failure. It hit my personal confidence in a big way. When we see each other now (which is not often and only by accident) we are like distant acquaintances, polite and cautious as we catch up. My readiness to let someone else "in" took a big knock, and even since then I feel sad and hurt about a later friendship. So I have a big list of acquaintances but few close friends, because I am fearful.
My daughter has asked me to assist them in an extension project on their house. I trained as a plumber and have worked on building sites. I have done handy man things all my life. I have put in hundreds of hours on each of twelve Habitat for Humanity houses. But I have been stressing out about taking this project on. What if I don't know enough? What if the building inspectors rubbish me? What if I really make a rough job? What if... what if...?!
We have this dream of starting a venue here at the church. It will be a bookshop, cafe, think tank, support centre, experimental "Jesus centre". I have put it out to the leadership, to the church and to others. There is a lot of work, exploration and planning to get it off the ground. I am convinced it is a worthwhile venture, exploring new shapes for a down town church. In some ways, all of my journeying has led to this point in time. But I am tending to procrastinate! It could cost the church heaps of money? What happens if it's a dud? Have I got the skill to see it through? Do I want to commit myself to this place? I guess if I won "Lotto" and could do what I want with my resources, it would be easier. But I am fearful? I am responsible to others and what if I fail? And it's stopping me taking the next steps!
I have been preaching regularly since 1972! Yet still every Saturday night I get little sleep because I am stressed about Sunday morning's service. I go over it again and again in my mind. After it I am so emotionally drained I head home and bomb out as if I had run a half-marathon. Yet again and again I get feed back that at least I am an above average worship leader. Why am I so fearful?
I need to remember three things.
- The "presence" within, beyond and behind the universe is a loving, affirming, accepting Spirit... ultimately I need not fear.
- "Fearfulness" is not all bad.... I often do a good, thoughtful, sensitive and diligent job because of that fearfulness. Our weaknesses are often also our strengths.
- And thirdly, something my father used to say from his war experience, the brave are not the people without fear. People totally without fear are foolish. The brave, said my father, are the ones who are fearful, yet still go to do what they are called to do.