MY EXODUS FROM FEAR
Fear came to my house years ago I let ’em inMaybe that’s the problemCause I’ve been dealing with this ever sinceI thought that he would leave, but it’s obvious he never didHe must have picked the room and got comfortable and settled inNow I’m in the position it’s either sit here and let him winOr put him back outside where he came from, but I never canCause in order to do that I’d have to open the doorsIs that me or the fear talking?I don’t know anymore-NF, Mansion
I so relate with the words of NF in his song, Mansion, because there was a point in time for me when fear entered my house, “picked the room and got comfortable and settled in,” making it his home. Looking back, it’s not hard to trace its path backwards in time, to when this happened, at least not in my story. In my junior year of high school baseball, I went something like 1-47. Now, if you’re a baseball fan, you’re probably thinking,
“Seriously? 1-47? How is that even possible?”
There was a lot more going on in my junior year of high school than just balls and strikes. There was an invisible war going on within me. I couldn’t hit because I had to hit. My need for validation, my identity, my life, depended on it. My goal had been to lead the league in hitting, yet each swing of the bat verified that I was a failure, I didn’t have what it takes. With every trip to the plate, my fear became bigger, and settled in.
And in my next time at bat after becoming a Christian, my hitting mysteriously returned. I broke out of my slump and all was well. My universe had re-ordered around my new identity in Christ. But THE LIE—that I’m alone and must prove myself—has returned, again and again and again.
Fear came to me again through marital struggle. I’ve heard so many people say, “Oh, the first year of marriage was hard, but it’s been great ever since.” Well, for us, let’s just say our experience was different. The first twenty years were hard, not just the first, and it’s been…better—NOT perfect—just better ever since. We still struggle. I remember on one occasion, after a rather difficult talk with my wife, the image of standing at the plate, striking out, flashed back into my mind. I thought, “I am alone and I must fix this.” And the Fear returned. The subterranean belief buried beneath my facade— that I didn’t have what it takes— began to bubble out of my soul again.
Fear came to me also with a “failed” church plant about twenty years ago. We had moved to Southern Illinois University, with the hopes of starting a flourishing campus ministry. God graciously used us to help a lot of people find Jesus, but after two years, due to the struggle of the sending church, we decided to return and see if we could steady the ship. We did a ton of good there at SIU, but I interpreted it as failure because of the lie I was struggling with. It’s funny how Fear skews your perspective and colors your interpretation of life. We had experienced a great season of ministry, but internally, it only deepened my wounding.
Over time, I have realized that Fear is a chronic, paranoid liar. He looks at life as if it is set against us, as if our hopes are about to crash and burn. I think he’s a friend just because he shows up at my door so often. But he keeps asking, “what if…?” as I ponder all the bad things that can happen while living in a fallen world. I hate that. I hate his effect on me. I hate that Fear turns me away from the night sky where I see the vast stars of our galaxy and am reminded of the greatness of God. Fear turns my vision away from God, and to myself, where my world and my heart simply get smaller.
The title to this essay, “My Exodus from Fear,” may seem a little overstated, as if I have escaped its clutches, now basking in the sunshine of God’s love. And yet, something in me has…healed? Is that too strong? Can it be that the ominous, brooding fear I’ve known for so long has begun to retreat back into the basement of my soul?
Actually, I remember when it happened. I remember the precise moment when it felt like the heavens opened, and light shone down into my consciousness and I saw Fear, for the first time, as a chronic, paranoid liar. It’s as if the One who died for me, looked me squarely in the eye, pointed to my Fear and said, “This doesn’t belong here in your life. Get rid of it!”
I had been reading an episode in Exodus 14 describing Israel’s escape from Egypt. Pharaoh and his army suddenly arrive on the scene, with murder in their hearts, about to ride their chariots over the people of Israel, trapped with their backs against the Red Sea. The people cry out in fear, but Moses cries out to God. And God gives a rather odd response. “Why do you cry to me?” What? Aren’t we supposed to pray? “Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16). Check this out; they are facing imminent death, yet God essentially says, “Don’t worry about this petty little army seeking to kill you. I got this! Divide the Red Sea and walk through it! Stop being afraid and do the Impossible!”
Every person’s story is different, and I don’t want to suggest that you should simply “get over it” in your battle with fear. I only want to testify that God is really, really big. And that Jesus has shown me a new way of living, a new way of interpreting life— with my eyes on Him— and not on me.
July 12, 2017
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May 20, 2017