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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

There I was, congratulating myself that I had finished my shopping in record time. I settled into the driver’s seat and went to take off my facemask. But something was missing. I had lost one of my special earrings, a souvenir from our golden wedding anniversary trip to New Zealand.

While the earrings were not particularly expensive, I was determined to try to find the missing one. I felt around on the floor of the car. Nothing. I looked under the seat. Nothing. I slid my hand down the side of my seat near the handbrake. Again nothing. But then my hand stuck fast—my watch had twisted on my wrist!  I tried to undo the clasp, to no avail. Finally, with a desperate yank, I managed to pull my hand free, but then saw what I had done. The face of my watch was now at right angles to my wrist and some of the links of my watchband were bent out of shape.

What to do? I retraced my steps up to the supermarket, checking on the ground in the car park all the way. To my utter surprise, I found my earring—although the pretty paua shell that had been part of it was broken. But now my watch still had to be fixed, so I headed to our friendly watch repair man and told him the whole story.

‘Wow!’ he said. ‘I can straighten your watch up—I’ve seen others like this. But this could be a warning to you. It’s an omen. You’d better go straight home, before something worse happens!’

At first, I laughed—but then a weird sense of fear crept over me. What if he was right? What if I went and did more shopping and lost my purse? What if I caught coronavirus from someone in the centre? What if I had a car accident as I drove home? I had better get home as quickly and as carefully as I can, before anything else bad happens, just like he said.

But as I returned to my car, I came to my senses. What was I doing, letting such thoughts take hold and control my actions? Yes, fear can be a helpful warning. It can stop us doing foolhardy things like driving too fast or standing too close to the edge of a cliff or being with someone who will do us harm. At times, it is important to listen to that voice telling us to stay safe. But at other times, that voice seeks to bring us undone.

I sat there then, letting various verses from Scripture about fear surface in my mind instead.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Yes, these words bring comfort. This voice speaks freedom. And security. And peace. These words are so much more worth listening to than any weird omen warning, don’t you think?

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The discussion flowed back and forth in our lounge room. Our son had just maintained to us that he does not fear God. What he meant, he hastily assured us, was that while he does stand in awe of God, he does not ‘fear’ God in the way we usually understand this word. God for him is a loving, forgiving Father and a close Friend whom he can approach at any time.

Also present in our lounge room was our new son-in-law, who comes from Ghana. And Kofi was determined to have his say too. He and our daughter Tina had just returned from a few weeks in Ghana, so the memory of what they had seen there was fresh in their minds. In Kofi’s hometown, all the houses have bars around them to stop people breaking in. And any showers, toilets etc outside the houses have locks on them – otherwise if you go out there at night, people can hide there and attack you. Yet virtually the whole town closes down on Sundays as most people go to church – and there are plenty of churches to choose from.

So what is going on here? Kofi explained that when his people still had their old gods, everyone could leave their houses unlocked and nothing would disappear. You see, the people were really scared of these gods and the power they had to bring down curses on you and punish you if you did wrong. But once they had their ‘new’ God, things changed. This new God was, and is, different – this new God is loving and kind and forgiving and understanding. So it seems the people aren’t scared to do wrong things because they know if they confess them, they will be forgiven. In their new-found freedom, they have forgotten about the fear of the Lord – and they have also overlooked what Paul says in Romans 6:1-2:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

But I suspect it isn’t only some people in Kofi’s hometown who live this way. How often have I myself had thoughts such as ‘Well, I’ll just go ahead and say that cutting comment or pass on that juicy bit of gossip. God won’t mind!’? Of course it’s wonderful that when we do repent and ask for forgiveness, God freely gives it to us. Yet surely it is right for us to remember who God is and that one day we will all stand before this awesome God and be called upon to give account for our lives?

Recently I read a comment written by Australian man working in the Middle East: In the West we’ve largely forgotten God’s wrath and chosen to focus on His love. We’ve created a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out God, who can only have one emotion at a time – and only the emotion we like. Yet the Bible continually reminds us that God is angry with those who rebel against Him. Hmm …  And I am also reminded of Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire”.

So may we all continue to live our lives filled with awe of God – but also with the grace of God.  Let’s ‘fear’ – but not fear. And hopefully one day in heaven we will understand fully how God holds both of these in perfect tension.

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Not long ago I was driving home from the city when a large sign painted roughly on a fence caught my eye:

A life lived in fear is a life half lived

I jotted it down at the next red light and then thought about it all way home.  It brought back memories of my own mother, whose life at times was quite overruled by worry and fear about many things and who, as a result, found herself limited in what opportunities she could grasp and what experiences she could fully enjoy.  It also reminded me of a poem by Davna Markova I was given many years ago:

I will not die an unlived life,

I will not go in fear

Of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

To allow my living to open to me,

To make me less afraid,

More accessible,

To loosen my heart

Until it becomes a wing,

A torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance:

To live.

So that which came to me as seed,

Goes to the next as blossom,

And that which came to me as blossom,

Goes on as fruit.

I want to ‘inhabit my days’ too, don’t you?  I want to be fully the person God intends and has gifted me to be and not to be limited by fear of what might or might not happen.   I don’t want to get to the end of my life here on earth and realise how much I missed out on because I was unprepared to take a risk or two and step out into new territory for God.  Only to ‘half-live’ our lives seems such a waste to me – and to be honest, almost an insult to our God who created us.

Yet sometimes when I’m confronted with a particularly daunting challenge, I do feel that old fear I observed in my mother rising up in me as well.  And it’s then that I have to take a deep breath, remember I am being held in the incredibly loving arms of God and step out in his strength, knowing God will never let me falter and fall.   After all, I have the Word of God on that.  In Psalm 34:4, David testifies:  I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears, while in Psalm 27:1, he states confidently:  The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?   

I want the seed of the gifts God has given me to germinate fully, to blossom into something beautiful that will touch and encourage others, and to bear much fruit under God’s hand, just as the poet expresses above.  I might not be the most gifted or the most widely read novelist on this planet, but at the end of my life I want to be able to look back and say that at least I tried.  At least I took up God’s challenge to write, pouring my heart into the characters and storylines I created, labouring as best I could to reveal more of the heart of God to my readers.

And who knows?  Maybe, by God’s grace, there will even be the ones and twos whose lives have been touched and changed as a result.

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