In writing this blog, I have often felt the need to remember that this is not intended to be an "overly academic exercise," but rather an attempt to take my fears captive to the truths of Scripture in hopes that by exposing darkness to light, I will find freedom. With this in mind, I have been thinking about my list of fears and trying to find a pattern or overarching theme. Here is the sample of the list as a refresher:
- Any body of water in which I cannot see to any substantial depth
- Roller coasters
- Public speaking
- People in masks
To be perfectly honest, lizards still throw me for a loop so it is, for now, simply a wildcard that I have yet to really understand. If anyone has some insight, I would love to hear it.
For every other fear I find two major categories: the fear of death and the fear of man.
The Fear of Man:
When I was in undergrad at Texas A&M, I was required to take a public speaking course. I cannot recall the exact number of students enrolled, but I remember it being a rather large classroom. The first few weeks were spent discussing the syllabus, textbook, and various other logistical matters, but sometime after this initial introduction to the course my professor called my name to give an extemporaneous five-minute presentation on Halloween. My hands began to sweat, my mouth suddenly dried up, my stomach temporarily tabernacled in my throat, and adrenaline turned to nausea, dizziness and light-headedness combined with a sudden weakness in my knees as I attempted to stand. I wanted to hide.
As I rose from my desk and began the slow march to the front of the classroom, I desperately wanted to be covered. If only I could stand behind a podium, put on a costume, or speak with an accent, something, anything so that it was not really me up there.
I finally made it to the front of the classroom and stood in front of my classmates, felt the weight of the stares, turned 90 degrees to my left, and walked out of the building and to the registrar's office. The irony is that in my desperation to avoid the embarrassment of being the guy who rambled for five minutes, I found the humiliation of being the guy who walked out of the classroom without saying a word.
The fear of man is not merely evident in our anxieties over public speaking, but also in the way we dress, the cars we drive, the way we speak, etc. It is also known as "peer pressure," "people-pleasing," and "codependency."
The Lord has been really good to me in progressively sanctifying this area of my life. I still get somewhat nervous in front of crowds, still feel some degree of shame, still care what others think of me, but I am no longer plagued by the obsession that once paralyzed me.
One of the books that we recommend here at The Village is "When People are Big and God is Small" by Ed Welch and I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with this fear.
The Fear of Death:
It is not water that I fear and it is not even the things that lurk under the surface. It is not really heights that I fear, but rather the damage done by a fall. It is not really clowns that I fear, but rather homicidal clowns who pull people into sewers and then morph into abnormally large spiders (It sounds rather silly when I write it like that). In some sense I am still afraid of death.
The fear of death is a universal reality. Hebrews 2:15 speaks of the "lifelong slavery" that accompanies this fear, but it also speaks of the deliverance that is found in the destruction of death accomplished by Christ in the cross in one sense (Colossians 2:15; Timothy 1:10) and at the consummation of all things in a final and full sense (1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:14).
I confess that I still struggle with the residue of slavery here. I know that Christ has defeated death and I know that joy is found in His presence and yet I do not yet feel fully free. For now I struggle: that is, I do not passively accept this fear, but rather actively engage it with the gospel promises.
I wrote last week about the relationship between fear and exposure and I think this link is critical to understanding the dynamics of fear in general and our own individual fears in particular. Within this fallen world we are uncovered and thus exposed: spiritually exposed to a God Who adamantly opposes our sin, emotionally exposed to the prying eyes of our neighbors and physically exposed to the preying forces of nature. Our innate reaction to being uncovered is fear. Fear is thus intended to drive us toward true covering.
One day all fear will be swallowed up in perfect love for God, but for now we are to use it as it is directed to do, to lead us toward this love until we finally find peace and protection there.