Monday, December 23, 2013

On Fear

(via Pinterest)
There are nights when I don't want to sleep. I feel like this is just a me problem, but something tells me that I am thinking way too highly of my own uniqueness. We are all flawed humans, and there must be at least one other person in this world that has this issue. I need sleep. It's kind of one of the basic necessities of life. Especially today. My head is pounding, my back is bothering me, my hands are screaming (figuratively), "Why, you fool, why?!" I wish I had something valid to respond, but then part of me reasons that if I started talking to my hands, I'd end up in a psych ward. I tell myself that I can write something wonderful; make something good out of this dreadful feeling, but this is either denial or pride, and neither is pretty. Nothing I can make has any value unless it has God's hand in it, so I'm begging the Lord to make something out of this restless night that is worth it.
You who do not share this problem (and you who do) might be wondering, why in the world would I not want sleep? Sleep is wonderful! I agree, I really do, but for me, right now, sleep is hard. Harder than staying up until all hours of the night (this was written after 1:00am on a Saturday night), after a hard day, when my body, mind, clock, and friends all tell me that I need sleep. I've never been good at sleep. I have trouble getting to it, for starters. I can spend hours just laying there, mind running through every past embarrassment, every future aspiration, every random whimsy. My brain doesn't quite know when to shut up. Then there's the pain that sometimes prevents me from getting comfortable. And tonight, the thing that I am most afraid of, is what happens when I finally close my eyes; the world that waits for me behind them.
I have dreamed the kinds of dreams that no one wants to remember.
I have dreamed the dreams that seem so beautiful, but then when you wake up, and they're gone, you find that all you want to do is cry and cry, the whole day through.
I have had dreams break my joy to pieces, and I cannot remember one dream that hasn't made me feel broken myself.
So excuse me if I'm scared to sleep tonight, when my brain is full enough to keep me restless, and the thoughts beneath the surface; the ones I am afraid to think, I can almost feel them knitting themselves into nightmares, and this is what my struggle is. Needing rest. Afraid of sleep. And when I wake up, can I honestly expect to feel better?
This is the kind of black hole that a fearful heart digs itself into. I shovel dirt onto my head and wonder why I find myself buried. I crouch, trembling, in a corner of my pit, and I realize that I have let fear consume me. Because a heart that fully trusts in God has no reason to fear, except the holy fear of a holy God, who has the power to rip the world to shreds, but chose to rip Himself to shreds instead ... to save people who fear fleeting dreams of might-be's and won't-be's more than the all-powerful I AM. I let this sink in for a moment. There is nothing more real than God. The wheels begin to turn, and I remember just who God is. God is the only perfect One. God is love. (He is infinitely and beautifully more than this, but for my purposes, I only had to list two attributes to have a moment of profound realization.)
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."1 John 4:18 (ESV)
Perfect love (aka God) ... casts out fear. Focus in on the middle part of that verse for a second: "fear has to do with punishment ..." I am literally (not figuratively) punishing myself by fearing. I could quote a dozen verses at least that fit in with this subject. The Bible is chock full of wisdom on this, because fear is an epidemic that has been spreading ever since the Garden of Eden. Mankind hadn't even gotten through one generation before fear slipped in. Fear that God wasn't telling the truth. Fear of being caught in their sin, in their nakedness.
When we stop believing in perfect love, fear can take us over, punishing us for sins that God has already marked, "paid for." Only we didn't believe it. At least, at some point, we stopped believing it. So we tremble and quake in fear of things that quite honestly have no. real. power. All because we won't let ourselves sink completely into grace's ocean. Maybe we think we have to swim through it. But what is grace, if we force ourselves to work for it? What is really the gain when we find ourselves merely dripping in grace on some distant shore shouting, "Victory!" when we could be drowning in the overwhelming flood of grace. This grace and victory was never meant to be fought for ... the battle isn't ours. He fights for us. Ours is to simply surrender to the ocean. I am in no ways minimizing what effort, and laying down, and pain it takes to do this ... but it is all so that His may be the fight. And His may be the victory. Because He is all that matters.
Yes, amen, and goodnight.