Every Sunday our closing prayer begins with the above words. Yet all of us struggle to find the place of safety and comfort that will make it possible for us to live without fear. Our world makes the point very well that there is much about which to be fearful. We look at those that we label "other" and we are taught to fear them. We do not always find it easy to know all of the deepest and darkest parts of ourselves and many times their discovery creates fear for us. We are challenged to reach out to our neighbors, but we fear many of them and sometimes it is even difficult to discern who to see as neighbors.
My last blog was about a stray cat and her four babies, which she brought to my patio. Among the many lessons that they have illuminated for me is a very powerful lesson about fear. These little creatures play very happily on my patio until they hear the lock turn in the door for me to go out to feed them and then they run as fast as possible to the safety of my storage closet. They are very afraid of me, though I feed them and agonize about having to take them at some point to the no kill shelter so they can be adopted. They have no way to understand what I will do later as a measure of protection for them.
How many times have we found ourselves in situations that we did not understand and allowed ourselves to be totally immobilized by the fear generated by the situation without being able to stand back from the circumstance long enough to remember to live without fear. I know that many of us take seriously the words of Timothy which tell us that, "God has not given us a spirit that makes us afraid, but a spirit of power, love and self control" (2 Timothy 1:7 RSV). Those words which were meant to help us face whatever comes our way are often furtherest from our minds when we face our most serious fear challenges.
Most of the times when we suspect that we are about to lose a particular image that we have held of ourselves create the most fear for us. Along with the confrontation with ourselves and our inner unknowns is the challenge of those who are not exactly enough like us for our comfort. We use fear as a prescription for facing those things that are actually trying to challenge us to look deeper and to work more on becoming the person that we came to the earth to be. Those who don't look like us or act as we do, those who are in a different socio-economic class, those with cultural difference and racial differences, those who have different physical or intelligent abilities from us, those with a different sexual orientation and those who simply don't share our philosophical or theological positions can call forth great waves of fear as we try to stabilize our sense of being challenged.
I wonder how God perceives our fear based responses when the plan is for us to live without fear and to carry the message to those around us that fear is not the answer to any challenge? Fear undermines our capacity to be peaceful and that simply helps to provide more energy for the amazing amount of unrest that already exists across our world. I think that I have caught a small glimpse of God's perception as I have tried to be attentive to the way that I long for my little cat family to trust me and to stop bolting to their perceived place of safety when I come out to feed them. I am sorry to be the source of their great fear and deeply desire to find a way to help relieve them of it. God must be so anxious for those who live a fear based life to find the path of release from their fear.
One of the greatest tools in helping to create a life that has an intentional focus toward peacefulness and a sense of courage and wellbeing is the work of developing an authentic self and learning to face all parts of ourselves without shame or guilt. The work of developing greater
consciousness makes it unnecessary to be afraid of the "other" no matter where it is found. It makes it possible to embrace whatever comes onto the path without fear. The more authentic we become the less likely we are to be controlled by fear based cultural constructs and their messages of fear. We have a steady diet of fear messages and as we move through this election year those messages are more plentiful.
Each person will have to come to terms with their own fears in their own way. The most helpful first step is to have the intention to live without fear and then to seek every path that will help in realizing that intention.
Taken with permission from HuffingtonPost.com/Religion