A few months ago for some reason every single time I left the house I got nervous. Is everything unplugged? Is the lock on securely? Is the gas for the stove off? Did I close the balcony door, the windows? I would walk down the street to get the bus with this almost sinking feeling just praying for God’s protection over our house. I even started hiding my computer some days in case anyone managed to break in. It was ridiculous. There is, comparatively, little crime here and neighbors are always out on the street watching what goes on. I talked to my housemate after it had been going on for a little while. She was doing the same things. Experiencing the same fears. They were sudden and out of nowhere.
Around this time in something I was reading it talked about fear being a sin. That’s right. Worrying isn’t a bad habit, it’s a sin. Fear is the opposite of faith. It is the opposite of trust. Two things that are absolute bare bones essentials in a life following Christ. There is not a whole lot we can actually control in this life. But I can choose not to fear. I can control that.
Around that same time I started have issues with creepy men again, specifically on the bus. When it was an issue earlier in the year I started tensing up immediately when a man would sit next to me or when I walked by a group of young guys on the street. I would repeat over and over in my head “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. Leave me alone. Leave me alone.” The stress of it would almost make me tear up sometimes. So when it started happening with frequency again I was like, “No, you know what? Beth, the power in you is greater than the darkness in the world. Hold your ground. Do not fear.” I started speaking up. I reacted. Maybe I don’t always do it in the right way and I’m probably still awkward sometimes, but dang it I’m not scared anymore. And I think that has to be honoring to God–heeding his commands. Trusting in the power he promised is within us.
I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if I’ll get a return visa for next year. I don’t know if I’ll be robbed our our house will go up in flames again. I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything that matters. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married and have kids. Maybe the boys’ at the centers will hate all my ideas and think they’re stupid. Maybe the centers will be shut down. Maybe more of my friends will be imprisoned or kicked out of the country. Maybe the protests from this week will continue. Maybe they will spread, maybe not. Maybe the government will change. I’ll probably be treated inappropriately by men at some point in the week…maybe even every day. Maybe I’ll never see loved ones again! Tomorrow is not promised to us. But whatever may come or doesn’t I will not fear. I will not fear, I will not fear. I will speak the truth, even if my voice shakes. I will praise, even if it means sacrifice. I will trust. Even in disappointment and dismay.
In Ephesians 6 it talks about putting on the whole armor of God. The helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit, all that. Someone recently pointed out to me that the armor leaves one place unprotected–your back. In old tribal warfare if someone got shot in the back with an arrow it meant they were a coward, because the only way to get shot in the back is to turn tail and run away. Lesson: Don’t run back! Take courage! You’re well protected!
I don’t think that you need to feel scared in order to respond to fear. I think a lot of fears are much more subtle than that. Sometimes it can come as a facade of wisdom. Making decisions based on wisdom and the good sense God gave us is one thing. Making decisions based on fear is a whole other ball game. Once I started thinking about this I started to see the subtle fears in my life. And once you start hearing them, how do you silence them?
Prayer. Prayer silences the voices from the world in our head. The fears, worries, gimmies, naggings, to-do’s. Like the old hymn says, when we turn our eyes on Jesus the things of earth become strangely dim. Sometimes when I get really frustrated I stop, talk to God, even just to tell him I’m aggravated (as if he didn’t know), and it starts to silence that too. It is a great gift to have access to our Maker all the time. He is never out of reach. Never far away. Not waiting for me to ritually wash or sacrifice before I can talk to Him. No, he is always there. Christ busted open that door for us to have that kind of access to God. What an amazing gift. Everyone needs to know!
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who will stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise against me, yet I will be confident…I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:1-3, 13-14
I love The Message translation of these verses, too: “Light, space, zest–that’s God! So with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. When vandal hordes ride down ready to eat me alive, those bullies and toughs fall flat on their faces. When besieged I’m calm as a baby. When all hell breaks loose, I’m collected and cool…I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”
“Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.” Dorothy Bernard