Ringing in my ears as I walked through life this week was the grainy recording of FDR addressing the country and declaring this, say it with me, y’all, “The only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself. . .”
In my childhood this quote stood tall and mighty next to JFK’s “Ask not” and MLK Jr’s “I have a dream” in defining who I was as an American. Americans, like MLK, strive towards a more compassionate and unified future. Americans, like JFK, seek to serve. And Americans, like FDR, are not afraid of anyone or anything, no way, no how.
Or, at least, we were.
It is undeniable that we are no longer a nation of challengers, a country full of men and women, shirt tails tucked, chins raised, eyes to the sky ready to face whatever may come our way. We are instead scattering, all pointing to the blue above with one hand and covering our faces with the other while we cry out “it’s falling!”
This is not a political statement. It has political applications, but this is a cultural one.
I keep coming back to this conversation. It’s different people, friends, family members, strangers, people from all walks of life. We are afraid. We are anxious. We are nervous. We have fallen into what FDR spoke of and I can see he was right.
Fear, friends, has it’s claws dug into our backs and it is a terrifying and terrible thing to witness. I’ve spoken into it before, but I will say it again. Fear is the enemy and the enemy is fear.
I’ve been hearing songs lately that say just what dear departed Dr. Klamet told me years ago, that fear is a liar. Fear is not real. You won’t prevent bad things from happening by being sick to your stomach with anxiety anticipating the worst and you won’t actually feel better should those bad things come to pass because you can say that you worried about it being just as it is. Fear can’t change the future, all fear can do is steal the joy of today.
I sat by a river and told someone this a few months ago. I sat on a stage and said the same. I sat in an office and there it was again. And tonight I sat in my bed and typed it to a far away friend.
Fear is a liar.
Fear tells us one little lie and he buys us for nothing. He must only claim to have the payment in his pocket, but he never is indebted to produce the purchasing price. We give the weight, the value, the credit for fear to speak to our hearts and minds when we consider the lie as if it were or as if it could be truth and in that moment we arrange to foot the bill.
It is us who pays. We pay in our health. We pay in our relationships. We pay in our self care. We pay in our appetite. We pay in our sanity. We pay in the weariness in our soul. We pay and we pay and we pay until we are broke and broken.
And what we heard, never was so.
Oh there are things that are terrifying. There are things which sink stones in our stomachs which pull us underwater and threaten to drown us in sorrow.
Which of those is improved by adding fear? Which of those is solved by fear? Which of those will be more easily handled should they be handed to you is you are also clenching your fists around fear? None of them!
But which of those have you seen resolved, overcome, defeated, restored, put out? I know, I am not naive, that it is not always a story of victory with no cost, not always a story of victory at all. But as long as you have seen one wildfire put out, you can believe that this too will be extinguished. And there is truth, absolute truth, that at some point, there was a wildfire that was the first to be put out.
There is hope.
There is hope, friend.
Even if all these things come to pass, even if we are struck from all sides, even if our lives and our bodies are destroy, there is hope. These things of the world….they are just a moment. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, will we live in love or will we live in fear?
1 John 4:16-18 talks about how God is love and how those who have God, have love. It goes right into telling us that perfect love drives out fear. They cannot exist together. It concludes “He who fears is not made perfect in love.”
There are things I hear that stop me in my tracks for a moment. There in the distance I can see the waters rising up, building into a huge wave which threatens to crash on top of me and press me down into the undertow. But I have the choice. I have the choice to say, “I will not be pulled under.” I have walk on water kind of power to make the choice to not believe the lies.
The only thing that causes me trepidation is the idea that I might be overtaken by fear, because I cannot jam perfect love in the same space as complete fear. Cancer cannot press out perfect love, nor can fire or flood destroy it. Evil people cannot silence perfect love, nor can an accident catch it off guard. But love, it cannot exist where there is fear.
We must be on guard against fear.
When the adversary whispers lies…don’t believe him.
There is always hope.
And some may think I’m a fool.
Some might think I am simple.
Some might think I’m obnoxiously and naively holding on to a false belief system that will fail me.
I’m not afraid of what people might think of me for having hope.
I’m not afraid of anything….except fear.