Fear of Chaos

Image ◊ Good Letters: The IMAGE Blog ◊ Varieties of Hoarding.

Going with the theme right now, this is well-written self reflection by Sara Zarr on how past experiences and fears of their repetition can creep into our everyday behaviors.  The full post is an excellent read when you have time.  The conclusion is heartbreaking, but an opportunity to better understand a complex response to fear.

An excerpt:

Though the home I grew up in never came even close to looking like the homes of the hoarders, and though the particular pathology of hoarding did not touch our family, when I looked at the chaos on my TV screen I got the same feeling that I had growing up in an alcoholic home; a sense of being overwhelmed, everything out of control. Not knowing what to do or where to start.

There was a claustrophobia to my childhood. Physically, we had plenty of room, yet there was no real space or freedom to live, to feel at home and at peace. It was the opposite of sanctuary.

My husband has never understood what seem like out of proportion reactions, on my part, to little bits of what I guess is normal clutter—the shoes, the mail, a few dirty dishes on the counter. It’s not that I’m what anyone could call a “neat freak,” but when things aren’t in their places, I get anxious. I have that same feeling I had in childhood of things being, or threatening to be, out of my control, and I hate it.

The comments section under the full post are revealing as well.  You can find out more about the author of this post at www.sarazarr.com.

Fear. Less.

“Why are you fearful? O you of little faith.”
Matthew 8:26

Sooooo…….I just joined a Presbyterian women’s book study.  Group.

I have a hard time getting out the word “group” because I am not a good joiner.  I tend to like to do things on my own, and my facilitation background makes me antsy when I’m in a group setting and facilitating is not my job.  But my friend sent me an email out of the blue inviting me to the group, and something told me I should do it.

The book we are reading is called “Fearless” by Max Lucado.  I’m approaching my new friend Max with caution, as he seems a little too successful by commercial standards to pass my theological smell test.  I don’t mean for a minute that he’s not a good and decent man; by all accounts he seems like a good guy with kind intentions.  My sensors go off, however, when it’s all too neat and tidy – complete with glossy workbooks and DVD lectures.

All of my skepticism locked on go, my defenses were lowered considerably in the opening chapter:

His most common command emerges from the “fear not” genre. The gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, twenty-one urge us to “not be afraid” or to “not fear” or to “have courage,” “take heart,” or “be of good cheer.” The second most common command appears on eight occasions. If quantity is any indicator, Jesus takes our fears seriously. The one statement he said more than any other was this:

Don’t be afraid.

I’ve been hanging with the church for my entire life, and I have never heard this before.  In my experience, the emphasis on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth has been love and forgiveness; yet here is statistical evidence that, at least as recorded and known to us today, the most frequent lesson was about managing fear.

I’m completely hooked now.

I’m a bit like Anne LaMott.  She says she is a Christian because God came after her and gave her no choice, and some days she’s downright pissed about it (paraphrasing here).  I can’t always give a neat and clean explanation for my faith, which may be why I am suspicious of those who seem to make it so hospital-cornered.  I accept the teachings of love and forgiveness because I have never seen any other way work.  It’s a straight-up results issue for me; but without knowing it consciously before I’ve always felt like something was missing in the practical application, at least as far as it was presented to me.

Now it’s all coming together.

Fear is an impediment to many things, not the least of which are love, healing, and wholeness.  I can draw a bright line from my own fears directly to my failures.  It makes perfect sense that if we are filled with dread and anxiety we are unable to connect and serve in a whole way.  We cannot connect to God or other people, and we cannot give our best to any situation because we are clamped down on it inside.  You don’t teach someone how to swim who won’t get in the water.  The learning to swim is what’s important, life-saving even, but you can’t get there until you get the person in the water.

God wants us in the water.  At least that’s what I’m hearing, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

The women in my group are incredible people.  Multigenerational and diverse, they have come together to trust one another as well as themselves as we dig into the issue of fear and how it affects our spiritual lives, and consequently our lives in total.  One of our discussions centered on separating apprehension from real fear.  When you’ve been punched in the gut by real fear, you know the difference.  I think sometimes we hide behind apprehension as our definition of fear.

(Side Bar: It will be interesting to see if the fear of other people knowing what we are really afraid of gets in the way of figuring out what fear is doing to us.  Oy vey!)

I will never discuss here anyone’s personal stories in our group.  I hope, though, that readers of this blog will be willing to read some of my musings on personal fear and maybe even help me understand this issue of fear better.  I don’t think one needs to be a professing Christian to learn from and analyze the words of a renowned teacher in Jesus of Nazareth; I’m confident everyone has some level of fear, so whatever your source of understanding, feel free to bring it here and share it.

Welcome, all fellow human travellers.  We all know fear, some more intimately than others.  Maybe we can help each other along.

Image credit: 30 Before 30 List