Friday, August 8, 2014

Fear and Love

 In January, I went through a pretty intense three month struggle with fear. I'd never experienced that kind of anxiety before. I couldn't sleep at night. All I wanted to do was build some kind of bomb shelter and throw my family into it.

As a single gal, I'd often get afraid that someone would break into my apartment at night. But when Jonathan and I got married, I started sleeping the sleep of the dead because I believed my hubbs could take any intruder who would try to break into our home with all of his brute strength.

This time my fears were so much bigger that my husband's presence did nothing to assuage them. Every night my mind was racing with thoughts of all the terrible and morbid things that could possibly happen to us and our children in the future. All of my fears teamed up to virtually paralyze me.

We're living in what feel like very uncertain times. There is an intense clash of cultures in our nation. The political climate is intensely polarized. Even our elected officials are unwilling to compromise.

There seems to be little space for civil open public discourse. So many people have lost the ability to listen, read, or respect others who have opinions that widely differ from their own. Don't even get me started about ISIS and the current crisis in Iraq and Syria--scary stuff.

We are surging forward technologically with little thought about how all this screen time will affect our brains, our bodies, and our relationships. We are living in a time when everyone does what is right in his own eyes. Moral absolutes have been cast aside and people (like me) who believe that God has prescribed a way of life that maximizes human flourishing are seen as outdated and irrelevant.

 As I looked out over the world all I could see was the darkness. I was all doomsday about the future of my family, this nation and even our world.

I found myself feeling jealous when I thought of previous generations who lived and died in relative peace without seeing major catastrophes. The present seemed to me the darkest period of history the world has ever seen.

I was of course conveniently forgetting about all the wars, struggles, conflicts, famines, slavery, abuse and  tyrannical regimes that so many normal people throughout the ages have had to live through.

 I felt like I was standing helpless in the midst of a powerful tide. The truth is that things are bad, but they always have been. Real evil has always been a threat.  The greedy and powerful have always exploited the weak. Technological change is a constant in our world: fire, the printing press, the automobile, the telegraph, the telephone, the light bulb, the radio, and the internet have all changed the way that we live.

This is the story of the world. Power, money, and fame rule the day. The weak, the common, and the powerless are subject to their whims. Yet, it seems that in our day the church has forgotten the story of the kingdom of God.

Instead, so many churches have watered down the the truths of scripture into some kind of moral code we follow in order to be whisked away to an ethereal heaven in the clouds. God created this physical world to be a perfect place full of love and life. Man's disobedience led to death and judgement, but through Christ, He inaugurated a new kingdom and a new humanity.

I'm learning that as a part of this new humanity, I ought to be living a life marked by love--not fear. Reading through the Old Testament has been healing for me. After the Israelites are brought out of slavery in the land of Egypt, God provides for them miraculously at every turn. However, their response when faced with new challenges is always complaining, distrust, and fear.

Christ came to literally save the world. He has not thrown in the towel. As the church, we are His hands and feet in this world. The world ought to be able to look at us and see what He is like. We are here to reach out in love to a world writhing in pain.

In our historical moment, I see that so many of the people of God are afraid (myself included). We are afraid to see beauty in things that are not tattooed with Christianity: so afraid to be tainted by the world that we steal ourselves away instead of wading into the beautiful mass of humanity, kissing the lepers, feeding the hungry, strengthening the weak.

We are so quick to condemn when we ought to be looking for the image of God-- however marred-- in every person He has created. We must remember that we are called to love our enemies-- especially the ones who really hate us, even if that means we have to love them to our own deaths.

The war against evil, suffering, and death will not be won through politics and power struggles. It will be won by loving the unlovely.  

"Since the whole point of God's saving rule, as Jesus understood it, is that it is the saving rule of this God- the God of gentle, generous, overwhelming love, whose kingdom was already articulated in the Sermon on the Mount- it cannot be established by force majeure but only by its proper means: suffering, self-giving love."- N.T.Wright- After You Believe. 

I must believe that I've been put in my particular circumstances at this particular time in history for a reason. To wish away the hours and the moments is to spit on the good gifts of a loving Father.

There are so many questions left here for me to continue to ponder...How can I practically live in the full assurance of God's love and acceptance of me? In what ways am I refusing to trust him and begrudging my circumstances? Who are the unloved and unlovely in my life?

Do you ever struggle with fear when you see the suffering and evil in the world?