Which event of the recent weeks has caused you to seriously plan how to run for the hills and hide? For me I hear myself saying that I’m grabbing the grandkids and running for the hills to hide and praying “Come, Jesus come.”
Fear is a constant now just beneath the surface. This is not a good way to live but how do you live when just going to a country music festival becomes something to fear? We’ve crossed over a line here. So we need to find a new way to live.
Because fear cannot rule my life. Fear lies so you start to believe that fear itself will keep you safe and will prevent bad things from happening. You use this fear to try to help you gain some control over your life. When it is really fear that is controlling you.
Of course I’m reading the new Brene’ Brown book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. It is an amazingly timely book on our polarized and fear-filled world we now live in, again based on research like her other findings. I read this “coincidentally” the day after the Las Vegas shooting when conspiracy theories started to run the story:
Any answer to the question “How did we get here?” is certain to be complex. But if I had to identify one core variable that drives and magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions while at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up. Fear. I started my research six months before 9/11, and as I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve watched fear change us. I have watched fear ride roughshod over our families, organizations, and communities. Our national conversation is centered on “What should we fear?” and “Who should we blame?” p. 56.
Fear does help us try to make sense out of a messed up world. Fear leads us to search for certainty somewhere. Hence the conspiracy theories. Surely there is something logical to explain what happened. Like that logical explanation is really going to put your world back to safe and normal. The truth is it doesn’t but it feels like we did/learned something so that we can feel like we are back to safe and normal. This is the exhaustion of fear. It is always lying to us that we are in control of something.
Max Lucado wrote this quote (which I’ve quoted quite before): “When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life. Can the safety lover do anything great? Can the risk-averse accomplish noble deeds? For God? For others? No. The fear-filled cannot love deeply. Love is risky. They cannot give to the poor. Benevolence has no guarantee of return. The fear-filled cannot dream wildly. What if their dreams sputter and fall from the sky? The worship of safety emasculates greatness. No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear.” (Fearless, Max Lucado)
“Fear not” is used 80+ in the Bible. Yes, Jesus does wage a personal war against fear. We have the truth in the Word of God to battle fear.
The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. Fear drives us into certainty no matter who we trample on to get our lives certain again. Fear keeps us out of vulnerability which then keeps us out of loving and life-giving relationships. Fear keeps us out of experiencing life. Fear polarizes us from the other. Fear has us sorting everyone into groups so we feel less vulnerable. Dr. Brown found this also in her new research on true belonging:
The data that emerged from the research on true belonging can start to connect some of the dots around why we’re sorted but lonely, and perhaps contribute new insight into how we can reclaim authenticity and connection. True belonging has no bunkers. We have to step out from behind the barricades of self-preservation and brave the wild. Huddled behind the bunkers, we don’t have to worry about being vulnerable or brave or trusting. We just have to toe the party line. Except doing that is not working. Ideological bunkers protect us from everything except loneliness and disconnection. In other words, we’re not protected from the worst heartbreaks of all. P. 59.
There it is again. Fear does not protect us.
So I am choosing love. Which does expose me to vulnerability. I prefer to dream wildly (with my grandkids!) than to succumb to the exhaustion that fear is. I prefer to try to do noble deeds to help others not let fear control their worlds. I pray. The brave pray. In Rising Strong Dr. Brene’ Brown made this statement, “My faith calls me to practice love over fear.” (P. 210.) I say me too.
But… My “me, too” is a brave statement that is still a work in progress. In this work in progress my brain is changing. From a fascinating book on all this new brain science, it was discovered that God’s method of love and truth strengthen the ACC (anterior cingulate cortex) and calm the fear circuits. This means that the more clearly we embrace love-based concepts and act altruistically, the healthier our brains become. On the other hand, the more fear-inducing our God concept is (and/or life), the more selfish our actions and the more damage occurs. Timothy R. Jennings, The God-Shaped Brain, p. 40
I can do this. I can lead my brain. You can too. Be brave.
(Photo credit: http://indianexpress.com/article/world/las-vegas-shooting-live-updates-police-investigate-reports-of-shooter-near-casino-4870769/)