Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Growing Faith From Fear

I've heard it said, and I agree, that the opposite of faith is not doubt.

The opposite of faith is fear.

Doubt comes from a lack of knowledge, a lack of security in one's beliefs.
Fear is a lack of trust--in oneself, in others, in one's surroundings, in God.

If the object of my faith was my theology, my beliefs about God, my creed, then doubt would be a great offense. But the true aim of faith is, quite simply, God. Giving ourselves over to fear (for any number of reasons), refusing to trust God, this is what keeps us from being faithful.

Fear is all around us and within us all. Though I am a person of faith, I am also a person of fear.

I fear...


being thought foolish or naive,


not being fully accepted,

not pleasing everybody,

missing out,

wasting an opportunity.

Our fears are often justified. Any time we experience hurt is reason enough for us to fear and protect ourselves next time.

Fear can be paralyzing. It can so constrain us that we never experience the depth and abundance of life God meant for us.

When I choose fear over faith, I show the pretty, intelligent, funny, conciliatory parts of myself to others, to God.

When I choose fear over faith, I choose to do it all--quantity over quality--so I won't miss anything (and wind up not being fully present or experiencing anything deeply).

Recently, I've noticed I choose fear over faith even when I pray. I seek to protect myself even in prayer.

Why would I do this? What is the root of my fear?
That God will not accept me if I reveal my temptations, my faults?
That if I keep my darkness hidden I can fool God into believing I am a polished version of my true self?One with no cracks, no lines, no flaws, no struggles?

"The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

Truly, this is a comforting thought. We do not have to dress up or doll up before God.
On the other hand, this may present as a terrifying thought. God looks at our hearts. Do we really want God looking our hearts over?

I've started thinking about it like this:  God is deep down inside me. So are the thoughts and feelings I try to keep secret from God. God's got a closer look at all my dark corners than I do myself.

God takes up residence in our hearts.

We may not find comfort in our own hearts. We may be ashamed of some of the thoughts and feelings we hold onto down there. Our hearts may be heavy with worry or suffering or grievances.
But God finds home in our hearts--imperfect as they are.

God invites us to open up our hearts fully, to be fully honest with ourselves and with God. To face our fears of displeasing God, of being thought a fraud of faith, of being turned down and turned away by God.

And when we open our hearts fully, when we allow our darkest corners to be filled with the grace and love and mercy and light of God, we come to find a home within the heart of God.

From God, we do not need protection. From God, we cannot hide. The challenging task of faith is to bring our whole selves into the open. And when we do, we rest in the heart of God.

God can change our fear to faith. 

Every time we choose faith over fear, every time we present all of ourselves to God in prayer, every time we decide to risk, our fears of rejection will be proven wrong.

Each time we bring our hearts to the heart of God, our fears lose their reasoning. Our fears lose their hold over us. We are left to rest in faith, in the presence of God.

May our earnest prayer then become one with the apostles' prayer uttered so long ago: "Lord, increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5) Amen.

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