Fear of the Irreparable

As I’ve meditated on what I’m really afraid of versus what I just tend to get anxious about sometimes, I think I am getting closer to some inner layers.  I am trying to increasingly think about what issues are real spiritual growth blocks, not just worries.  The idea of “the irreparable” is coming together for me as a major wall between me and God.

By the irreparable I mean a relationship or a situation that is so far damaged that it will never be the same.  I have a fairly good record of being able to “fix” things I want fixed.  I have also known situations that, even when I wanted to fix them, I could not.  Where this dials into my deepest fears is where I feel I have done something by choice that has forever severed the repair I may seek.  Something being unfixable.  Permanently broken.  All options gone.

Often I hear my perfectionist friends agonizing over making mistakes.  This fear of the irreparable is beyond that.  I make mistakes all the time.  It’s actually part of my personal philosophy that it’s straight up crazy to be neurotic about making mistakes.  We are human, it’s our nature, it’s not realistic or reasonable to truly expect that we won’t make mistakes.  My fear is about being responsible for doing something that takes away any possibility of healing or repair to a situation.

What if in carelessness I say or do the one thing my spouse can never forgive?  What if a friend is counting on me to remember something important that I completely forget about?  What if I drop the ball and colleagues don’t feel they can count on me again?

As I look at that list, however, I notice that each item hinges on someone else’s response to an event.  Yes, I did or didn’t do something, but how others respond to that is my fear.

My faith tradition tells me that God’s response to me will be consistent and reliable.  Nothing is irreparable.  Nothing when my heart and mind are focused on seeking redemption for mistakes I make.

And ay, there’s the rub……

I know myself to get quite weary with the forgiveness process.  I’m all about it until I’m not.  Sometimes it just wears me out.  I want to say I don’t care anymore, I’m tired of struggling through complex issues of right and wrong, I just don’t care.  Leave me alone, Universe.  If you don’t like what I did, tough.  I did it.  I may do it again.  Get off my case.  I’m putting my chips on the bet that I’m not alone in this.

I think we have to be willing to get back in there.  We have to do it with our human dynamics if we want peace in our lives, and we have to do it in our spiritual development for the same reason.  I almost think knowing I am forgiven by a higher power makes it harder sometimes, because there is nothing to fight about, no argument to “win” and no real opportunity to say “I’m tired of you not wanting to work on this” because the only one putting up that B.S. is me. I truly believe the choice of finding peace and forgiveness and a clean slate is right in my own hands.

And that’s what I’m afraid of.

Image credit: Indian-Designers

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