According to Wikipedia, “fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain…In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it but in extreme cases of fear a freeze or paralysis response is possible.”
Dictionary.com defines fear as a “distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, pain, etc. whether the threat is real or imagined.”
I’ve been disappointed, hurt, felt abandoned and alone, rejected, felt “not enough” - not pretty enough, not thin enough, not fit enough, not thoughtful enough, not smart enough, not…enough. Though I have drunk from the well and received healing for hurts big and small, there are still moments when thoughts of old wounds give way and fears creep in like thieves in the night. They ransack my mind and steal away precious treasures of joy. Leaving tearstained cheeks and puffy eyes and shattered hopes.
Some fears are founded and some are not. I wish I could say that I always immediately know the difference and react with confidence in my God who is able to do so much more than I can imagine. But I do not. My initial reaction is one of “quickly pulling far away” or pushing the perceived vehicle of pain out of proximity. For when something is not brought near, there is less risk of pain.
Truth is, life is hard and living and relating is hard and to really do life the way we should, for our good and the good of others, we must become vulnerable.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” – C.S. Lewis
I am often tempted to “hide my heart away” and push aside the things I want most when there is a perceived threat of possible pain, to busy myself with hobbies and habits, a full schedule leaves no room for closeness and vulnerability. The reality is, as I distance myself, my heart is not hidden away at all, it is slowly breaking, I’m not hiding it away in a casket as C.S. Lewis says of the hardened heart, I’m becoming more fragile because I know that I was made for community and closeness and vulnerability and the only way to truly become all that I was created to be is to enter in to the unknown, push the fears aside and accept the possibility of pain that comes with embracing the fullness of joy. I know that I have a new heart, a fleshy heart:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26
Because I have the spirit of the Lord in me, my heart can never become hardened, it may be broken at times by others or broken by my choice to isolate myself from the community in which I’ve been placed. But my heart will not be hard. I will be drawn in to this life and care deeply for the people placed in my path, I will feel and I will love others, I will dance with them in their joys and cry with them in their hurts.
My prayer is that only one type of fear will impact my interactions. The one Merriam-Webster defines, “to have reverential awe of God”.
Father God, awaken my soul to your presence. Like Jacob, show me your nearness: Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. – Genesis 28:16