"Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of It. “ ~ Judy Blume
For most of my life I have let fear rule me, it controls what I do but it really controls what I don’t do. It has hindered me in lots of ways. I have lots of fears. I fear flying now after many years of flying internationally. It’s true; I have to do some serious self-talk during takeoff. Also, I am terrified of snakes. Now maybe those are irrational fears and can be overcome (except for the snake fear because I’m pretty sure that is legit) because I still get on planes and still go one hikes in the mountains, but only if I’m on Snake Alert 2015 (or whatever the current year is) I still push through; I just do it afraid.
Personal fears are one thing, but I have been wondering how personal fear affects communities. Every time I watch the news in America after I have been out of the country, I am always filled with anxiety. This is the message I get. The stock market is going to crash, all your savings will be lost and you will live on the streets. The Muslims are coming for you. All your rights will be taken away. Your guns will be taken away. Your healthcare will be taken away. The government is coming for your money, your home, and your family. And finally, your youth will be taken away. You will lose everything. We are just bombarded with messages of fear. But, when you boil it down, it is mostly fear of each other.
Fear sells. Fear is a strong motive, it controls and it separates; it separates us from each other. We become fearful of our fellow human beings. This isn’t much of a stretch because maybe one of my most predominate fears is the fear of other people. What they might think of me? Will they ridicule me if I share my hopes and dreams? Will they despise me if they see all my dysfunction? In the end, can I share who I am, all of me, and still be loved and accepted? And these fears are only surrounding people I know, not complete strangers or people that want to harm me, my so-called enemies.
Recently, we launched a fundraising campaign for our very first project. I am very passionate about this project, a documentary film on the lives of young Palestinian men. It’s ambitious, but we know it’s the right project and the right direction to invest in another person. It’s going to be challenging every step of the way, but stepping out and trying to accomplish something bigger will have obstacles. The first obstacle has been fundraising. It honestly is the hardest for me. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable to put out the idea and then ask people to give financially and to keep putting it out there and to keep asking, over and over and over again. It is a huge fear for me wrapped up in a lot of my dysfunction, mostly shame.
A few weeks ago, a very wise woman told me that fear blocks resources. I pondered this for quite awhile. What if fear does block resources because you’re so focused on your fear and what might happen and worst-case scenarios? I excel at this. Could that mean you are missing opportunities or movement or life or the very presence of God that could be right in front of you? So, one morning when I was feeling particularly anxious about funds, I remembered the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild and one particular scene came to my mind. I don’t want to give too much away because it is a beautiful movie about a young girl making her way through life, through difficult circumstances and finding her voice.
For most of the movie, she is fearful and being followed by mythical beasts. These beasts can represent many things, but for me they represent fear and anxiety about that said fear coming true. Near the end of the movie, these mythical beasts become real and chase her down. Here is the movie clip.
It’s a stunning scene; one that gives me chills. I think for me, watching her face that big, ugly beast so close that it was breathing on her face was terrifying. I think the most powerful part was her short speech to the beasts. She didn’t yell. She calmly spoke her truth. So, that’s what I did in a prayer one very early anxious morning. I prayed that I didn’t have time to be preoccupied with fear of failure or anxiety. I have stuff to do and it’s important so I need whatever it is blocking me to move.
A few hours later a significant donation came in. Within 10 days of that prayer we not only reached our financial goal for the project, we surpassed it. Maybe, it was a coincidence. Maybe, it wasn’t. But, just standing up to my own fear was freeing for me. On a personal level, my anxiety stopped and I felt more like myself. On a spiritual level, I really experienced God’s presence and love. In reality, I think I was the only one blocking my path.
“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”
Maybe banishing fear is a sign of maturity. Maybe it’s a mark of my Christian faith. Maybe it’s grace. Maybe it’s freedom. I don’t know. What I do know is as I leave this month to go back to the Middle East to try to accomplish phase one of a project bigger than myself, I want to be focused on love and on the task, nothing else. I want to be able to offer others Love, to serve Palestinians in Love, to help give them a voice out of Love, and to move this project forward with them together in Love.
To do so, I must be fully formed by love, not by fear.
"Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." ~Yoda