The only thing to fear …

Daily Prompt: 1984

by michelle w. on January 9, 2013

You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.

That’s easy. Since I grew up feeling like I was locked in a room with them – all the time. At night I used to see one in my mind’s eye sitting on the topmost stairs outside my bedroom door. It never looked at me … until I dared to close my eyes. Somehow the covers provided safety. Never mind that I couldn’t breathe while hiding under them. I could hardly breathe from fear anyway. What was a little blanket compared to those monsters? How could a blanket overcome my terror??

It’s nighttime. I’m dreaming the same old dream. I find myself in the middle of the street (what am I doing outside??), in front of my house, barefoot, in a nightgown. I can feel the rocks cutting into my skin. The darkness is a presence closing in on me. No sound escapes my lips … they might hear! They come towards me barking, snarling; as hard as I run I never move. I can’t get away.

It’s daytime. A waking nightmare. I’m walking in the sunshine on the boardwalk with a friend. As the leashed shepherd passes his head turns completely around to watch me. He senses my terror.

It’s nighttime again, only I’m awake. I’m supposed to pick up a book from my friend but somehow my feet will not move me to the front door. My brother keeps yelling at me to go, but I stand frozen to the spot; his voice sounds like it’s far away, echoing back at me from the inside of a well. I can’t see it but the sound of it barking as it lunges for the fence leaves me shaking and sweating in terror despite the cool night air.

Jump forward 5 years. Asleep in my dorm room, I’m dreaming. It’s a friend’s house and the dog is penned. Not the usual rottweiler, shepherd, or doberman, but a beautiful Irish setter. As I leave the dog gets loose. I’m running again, this time over the leafy carpet path of some woods, terrified. Suddenly I stop. This has got to stop. Turning, I become the attacker. The poor animal has no chance to escape from the years of pent-up rage inside me toward him and his kind. Awake again, I realize for the first time in my young life, I’m FREE! The fear remains but the mindless terror is gone. The room has been unlocked, the monster chased away – by me!

The story was that at a young age a dog jumped me. Playing, of course. But apparently someone freaked out and taught me to fear. I have no memory of this. At least not on a conscious level. Funny how the things underneath our awareness creep out as irrational fears.

I heard once that there are 365 instances in which the Bible exhorts us: “fear not”. One for every day of the year. One for every night of terror. My fear was scarier than the imagined threat the dogs posed. It was so powerful – exerting a numbing force over me, able to control my emotions and my body. People would tell me, “Don’t be afraid. My dog won’t hurt you.” It wasn’t the dogs – terror itself tormented me in the locked room of my mind.

I have never been bitten by a dog. I have been bitten by fear. Fear comes in many forms: animals, finances, health issues, Interstate traffic, even other people can cause terror – the crippling kind that leaves you sweating and breathless, reminding you that ultimately, you are not in control of your environment.

It takes a serious amount of discipline to train the mind not to dwell on the things of our nightmares. I have found that telling someone not to think about something only makes the thing bigger, more real. The only hope is a substitute. That’s how the mind works. You can only consciously think about – focus on – one thing at a time. When you find your fears overwhelming you find something else to think about. Better yet, find someone else to think about. Slowly the fear will lose its power over you until you can unlock that door and walk out for good.

It’s a dangerous world we live in. But only one thing stands in the way of you moving forward: your own fears. Scream into that terrorized room that you will find the key to unlock its door. Turn around and beat your fear to a pulp. Walk out the door free from fear’s hold on you. Walk out knowing you are loved. Walk out and find someone else to love.

Perfect love casts out fear.

Truly, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

God in Christ, Reconciling the World to Himself

Daily Prompt: Quote Me

by michelle w. on January 4, 2013

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

I don’t memorize Scripture very well. There. I said it. I mean, I can usually find a verse by searching a few of the words I remember. You know, the gist? And then there’s remembering the ‘address’. Yeah. I can usually get close … let’s see, like “I know it’s in the Old Testament…”

The title of this post is the small portion of the section below which I can actually remember. Here’s the whole thing:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I spent almost 30 years in what I call Evangelical World. In this world there is one goal and one goal only: Get everyone saved. This proved to be a very frustrating goal for me, as it turns out. Early on I found that I wasn’t very good and convincing people that they need saving. Apparently, I wasn’t very good at ‘praying people in’ to the Kingdom, either.

And then something really amazing happened: God blew up my theological box! What’s a theological box, you ask? Well, everyone has one. It’s the framework you have in your mind that forms your understanding of who God is (or is not). Even if you are an atheist, you have this box. Your box just happens to support the thought that there is no God. This is a theological box none-the-less.

So I haven’t quite gotten to why this verse moves me. It’s simple, really. In Evangelical World only a select few get in to God’s Kingdom. Only a select few will make the ‘right’ choice and find their way into God’s family. And in that world view penal substitutionary atonement is the prevailing (usually only) understanding of the atonement. As you can see from some of my other blogs about the atonement, this view basically says that our sin made God really mad (Evangelical World refers to this as ‘God’s wrath’). It also teaches that God is morally perfect and because we have sinned (missed the mark of perfection), God requires some sort of payment. They believe that Jesus paid God off by dying in our place. But these few verses turn that idea entirely on its head.

In them we see God’s real plan – the reconciliation of the world (as opposed to a select few). We also see that instead of the idea that God is mad and Jesus is loving (kind of like God the Father is wanting to spank us in a serious way – snuff us out – because of our sins, but Jesus stands in between God and us saying, “Don’t hurt them, Father, punish me instead!”), we see here that the Father and the Son are united in their quest to reconcile everything (and thus, everyone) to them. I mean, you cannot get any more intimate than to be ‘in’ someone, can you?

God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

This moves me because it speaks a word of hope – something Evangelical World has completely neglected, even lost. As long as the Gospel remains available only to a select few, the world (Greek word ‘cosmos’ – the entire creation!) will be left out of the equation. As long as Evangelical World understands the Gospel in terms of the Law rather than Grace, they will have no hope to give.

Our God is a God of hope, love, peace, joy, and, above all, reconciliation. He Himself reconciled us (not because He was angry and needed a sacrifice, but because we didn’t believe He loved us). When man sinned, God did not change, we did. In Christ He showed us that absolutely nothing we do can turn aside His love for us, for His creation, for His beloved children.

That’s why this quote moves me. I hope it has spoken a word of hope to you as well.

Flirting with Danger while Coming of Age

Daily Prompt: Use It or Lose It

by michelle w. on December 31, 2012
~                ~               ~               ~

July 9, 2005, a banner day in our family. What better way to celebrate my eldest daughter’s upcoming 16th Birthday than a Mother-Daughter hike up the Kolekole Pass? So, with lunch cooler and camera gear in hand, off we went. The day promised memorable adventures, but who would have thought when that clear Saturday dawned that we would have the adventure of a lifetime? Everything started out ordinarily enough…

Image

The hike wasn’t a difficult one, and as we began we walked with ease, chatting happily while admiring the scenery along the way. The wide trail soon narrowed, winding through trees, becoming root-strewn and steeper as we went. We could see blue skies through the needle-laden limbs of the little pine forest we passed. The landscape surprised us by opening suddenly into a wide, grassy clearing where we decided to rest and eat our lunch.

Image

Filled to the full with food, water, and the beauty of our surroundings, we continued our hike. We had the trail to ourselves as we forged ahead. Slowly the path became steeper and rockier until we had to use the tree roots for secure footing. Ahead I spied the steepest incline yet and above it a rope that resembled a hand-rail. Below us were innumerable trees descending a treacherous slope.

The rope ran horizontally between two of the smaller trees. Leaves obscured the path ahead, but we doggedly pressed on. One of the things I adore most about my eldest daughter is her unflagging cheerfulness. Quick to laugh, she never seems to be without a smile. She also possesses the grace of a ballet dancer, clearly seen in the way she skipped across the rope-bordered path. Supported by the tree on the other end, she waited for me to take my turn across. 

Image

After about 3 steps I knew I was in trouble. The ground was literally slipping away beneath me! Knowing instinctively that my only hope was to lower my center of gravity, I quickly sat down to stop the downward slide my feet were taking. Trapped in the middle of the path, unable to go either forward or back (any small movement started the landslide all over again), I had a flash of memory.

Stationed in Hawaii the summer of 2003, I never thought I could love a place as much as I did the balmy island we then called home. I knew it was a temporary (3-yr.) duty station, and we had recently learned the Army would take us from there 6 months earlier than expected. At that time, I had been saying, “I could be buried here” simply meaning I’d love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life on this island paradise. But that day, celebrating 16 years with my daughter, struggling to hang onto a melting path, looking over a precipice I knew I’d never survive, I laughingly prayed, “This isn’t what I meant, Lord.”

Survival mode kicked in. Putting the camera bag on the ground beside me to provide even more stability, I instructed my daughter to sit down next to the rope and follow me back to the other side (I still wonder how she had managed to skip across the nonexistent path in the first place). She obediently complied and very slowly we inched our way to the first tree, breathing a sigh of relief when we finally had firm ground to stand on. The time spent on that path felt like hours, but, while likely only moments, it is still firmly etched in my memory some 7 years later.

Looking at my daughter, alive and well, I apologized for celebrating her Birthday by almost bringing about her death. The climb back down was uneventful except for the laughter that accompanied our banter. We were very happy to be alive and unharmed from our recent ordeal. Back home we smiled as we told the story animatedly, but the truth is I thought we’d never come back from that one! In spite of the dangerous circumstances we were in, we will always be able to say we remember well how we celebrated my daughter’s coming of age.