Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real

We are a nation of people living in a culture of fear. We have become encapsulated by fears of job loss, terrorism, war, epidemics, natural disasters, and the list goes on. Fear is a thief that steals our health, finances, relationships, and even our destiny. According to Wikipedia fear is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. It is an emotional response to a percieved threat. Unfortunately we can become consumed by fear, and can become paralyzed by it. Fear is often described as "False Evidence Appearing Real."

There was a time in my life that I lived in fear. It began sometime after my youngest child was born and lasted about three years. It was crippling. There really is no explanation for it. I had always thought of myself as someone who was somewhat adventurous, but not anymore. I had always firmly believed that God had me in the palm of His hand. My faith had been almost unshakeable. There were times when I should have been scared, but I was confident in His protection. But at this time in my life, I was led by fear.

On April 13, 1992, just a few days before leaving The Netherlands to move back to the United States, the strongest earthquake in more than two centuries rocked northern Europe. The epicenter was near Maastricht, a city near where I lived. Tremors could be felt as far away as Milan and London. I remember waking to loud noise and the house shaking. All I could see were the trees outside the window moving in a strange way. When I was expecting my oldest child in 1996, I experienced North Carolina's Hurricane Fran. In North Carolina, we did not have a basement. We were renting an old farmhouse, and we sat in the living room and watched as the storm began to brew. That night we slept in the hallway with a matress folded over us. The next morning we woke to many trees down surrounding our house. Not one touched us. I believed God was my protector. The first verse I memorized when I became a Christian at the age of 20 was Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." I believe that to this day. Why then do I still at times have to fight to get out from under fear?

A few weeks ago I found myself once again dueling with Mr. Fear. I live a life where I purposely try and conquer fear. Oftentimes I force myself out of my comfort zone, even if it means something stupid like conquering the scariest waterslide with my kids. I had been through months of doubting and questioning my decision to continue on this path to a new career. So on this particular day in my fifth year of this new journey, I was traveling for school to my first residency in Phoenix, AZ. Rain slapped my face and the wind stole my breath away as I raced across the parking lot to catch my plane. I was a little late since I stopped at the store for some much needed tylenol and a magazine. Upon entering the plane and finding my seat, I breathed a sigh of relief. We won't discuss how I happened to lose my driver's license along the way and security had to come find me. Next to me was a woman having a full-blown conversation with herself. After a few minutes she interrupted herself and nicely announced that we were about to have a bumpy ride. All courage vanished and I was convinced I was doomed. Take-off was delayed as we had to add fuel because of the wind conditions. Fear crept in. Trying to calm myself I opened my magazine to the first crisp page. I had no idea it was a Christian magazine. "Life-Beautiful." There centered on the page were these words:

When you lead, dear Lord, I venture out into the great beyond with courage and expectation. A protected cove is safe, but you have called me to live with passion. I may encounter risks, but I know your provision and care are enough. Give me hope in your saving me from storms, climbing mountains before me and finding me when lost. I trust in you and I thank you for the adventures in life that make me who I am called to be. Make my way purposeful and glorifying to you. Provide me with all I need for the journey-your perfect peace, joy unspeakable and unwavering faith.

Like always, He showed up. With Him there are no delays. He is the co-pilot of my life. He leads and I follow. He has always been there for me, and yet after twenty years into this journey I am still amazed at His faithfulness. Even the little fears in my life are important to Him. I felt the peace that passes understanding. (Phil. 4:7) My week turned out to be incredible. And while I was there, I feel that all my doubts vanished and it was confimed to me that I was on the right track. I was assigned to a professor that personally trained under the Dr. I have been following. Divine connections.

I am reading "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," by Donald Miller. He states, "Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life." The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is "Do not fear." It appears hundreds of times, so it must be important. We are supposed to fight fear. Do not let fear rob you of passion and adventure in your life.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7.