Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Facing Our Fears

Wow! Warnings about 'gators and snakes just a few yards apart!  It was an eerie kind of welcome to Louisiana yesterday afternoon. In spite of the warnings you can see that it is a beautiful spot. Normally in the face of such beauty I would want to explore a bit but bayous give me the creeps. I am unreasonably afraid of snakes and the idea of one dropping down on me from above is just more than I can handle. So, though I know that there is stunning beauty in the bayou, I will settle for the PBS version of this extraordinary scenery.

This is what fear does to us - it reduces our experience. Too many fears translate into too little experience; a life that is less than the abundant one God promises. (See John 10:10)  It is sad when our fears lock us out of experiences. It is even sadder when our fears lock our children out of their experiences.

Most of us will face down our fears for our children:  we eventually let them jump off the high dive, go places without us, and even drive cars. I once petted an incredibly huge snake just so my daughters wouldn't be afraid of it (and it worked!) This is one of the ways love becomes real: facing down our fears for the sake of another person.

Most of us also, without intending to, give our children fear. Fear about what may cause us to withdraw our love. I see this fear in kids all the time. Kids dropping art classes because one of their parents went on and on about how "you can't making any money doing art." Kids playing sports they no longer enjoy because "dad would be so disappointed if I quit."  Worrying that my parents will "just kill me" if  I do or don't do thus or such.  The fear of losing their parents' love locks them out of experiences that might contribute to the abundant life and calling God envisioned for them.

None of us deliberately sets out to stifle our children's experiences. We restrain them because we want to protect them. We can reasonably predict physical hurts: jumping off the roof can lead to broken bones, swimming in a bayou can lead to being eaten by a 'gator. We also want to protect them from emotional hurts like failure, regret, and being humiliated. The problem is, we can't predict what the outcome will be in the emotional arena. So how are we to decide?

I think the key is to evaluate who is afraid. Imagine this: Allison wants to try out for the school play. Her mom is really resistant and brings up a lot of reasons not to audition: it will take too much time, Allison's schoolwork will suffer, all the other kids have theater experience and she probably won't make the play and be disappointed, etc. All of these fears are fantasy fears - things that could happen. Allison hasn't had those experiences yet so she doesn’t worry about them. She is simply thinking that she might enjoy being in a play. Now, ask Allison's mother if she has ever done any theater. Guess what! She only did it once in high school and she froze on stage, forgot all her lines, and was humiliated. Whose fears are keeping Allison out of the school play?

May love, not fear, rule your decisions this week!

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