Faith or Fear: Our Choice
~ C.S. Lewis
In every given moment we can either choose to stand in faith, or we can choose to stand in fear. We cannot exist in both at the same time. We can certainly ping pong frantically between the two, and often do just that, but we can never truly exist in both realms at the same time. The choice, once we become aware, is always ours to make. Always.
What does the situation look like when we choose fear? We become overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, racing thoughts, and dread. Fear tells us: everything that could go wrong will go wrong, there is no way out of this, our worst nightmares will come true, and we will feel like this forever. Can fear be trusted? If we're being chased by a bear then most definitely yes. That, however, is instinctual fear and not the kind of fear I'm referring to. I'm talking about the kind of fear that tells us we will never be enough, that we are unlovable, that we will not get something we believe we need, or will lose something, or someone, we believe we cannot live without. At this point I'm quite certain a few of you just thought "but I lost someone I cannot live without," I would ever so gently and lovingly point out "and yet just look at you, living and stuff." It may not be as pretty as you would like, it may be messy and painful, but you are living. This in no way is meant to discount your grief. It is merely a reality check. Our beliefs are so powerful. Fear is neither inherently bad or good. It just is, until it isn't. It does, however, have the power to make us pretty flipping miserable.
It's important to point out that there is a world of difference between fear and discomfort. Discomfort is our friend. Discomfort is a little, and sometimes an enormous, red flag that we are meant to see, acknowledge and then move forward. It is our call to action. Think of normal human development. Watch a baby just before it learns to crawl or walk. Pay attention to the behavior of a toddler on the verge of learning to talk, or an adolescent learning to differentiate between themselves and their parents. Does their behavior reflect peace, joy and satisfaction? Not even a little. They are restless and irritable. Internally they are experiencing a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a frustration from not knowing what comes next. The baby rocks on its knees before crawling, the toddler points frantically and tries out different sounds before speaking and the adolescent argues, and then argues some more, before differentiating. All of these are actions in the midst of the unknown. Growth requires discomfort. It does not require fear. Fear paralyzes. Discomfort urges.
And what of faith? Faith is action despite not knowing what's on the other side. What does our situation look like when we choose faith? It is peaceful (sometimes) and full of possibilities (always). To clarify, I'm not speaking of blind faith. I'm speaking of choosing hope. Faith is not about certainty. In fact the presence of certainty leaves no room for faith. Certainty is ego. Faith is humility. Faith tells us: we have zero idea how this will turn out, but we can choose to "left foot, right foot, breathe" through this crap storm. If we choose to suit up and show up, life will unfold exactly as it is meant to. We will be okay. We will be better than okay. Faith attracts people around us and, importantly, it aligns us to others that also live in faith. As such, faith enables us to surround ourselves with loving and compassionate people; the people who choose to live in faith. Fear encourages either isolation or surrounding ourselves with others who live in fear and feed our anxieties. Fear is our problem and faith is always our solution. Always.
About 15 years ago I had a fairly significant health scare. It appeared there was a decent possibility something was horribly wrong and would not end well. My brain went into overdrive imagining my sons growing up without a mother, missing their weddings, not being able to hold my grandchildren. My husband being left a widow way too early. And then one day, in the midst of the storm, a precious, loving friend of my mine reached out, in between my sobs, and gently said "honey, if the sh*t hits the fan there will be more than enough time to fall apart. How about, until that moment comes, or doesn't, we choose faith?" I hung up on her. Who needs that kind of love and rational thinking in the heart of a crisis? I didn't speak to her again. I mean until later that day, and every single day that followed until I discovered what I feared most in those early moments was not to be my destiny. It was serious, but I wasn't going to die. My friend continued to pull me back into faith. She continued to pull me back from the edge, and in doing so helped me find some peace and joy. Besides helping me hold onto my shriveling sanity the real gift she gave me was this: If those were to be some of my final days they were not going to be spent paralyzed in fear, but rather lived in faith. She gave me permission to be in my life fully, well mostly fully. I think sometimes we experience this almost subconscious belief that if we get a really good running start on grieving and fearing that somehow we won't hurt quite as badly when it hits. And yet, it only steals that precious time from us, and what we fear almost never comes to fruition. And P.S. we cannot outrun pain. When we lose it hurts and it should. Grief is an expression of abundant love, of a heart beautifully loved.
It can be incredibly helpful to take our fears out with another trusted soul and examine their origins for contextual sake. However, if we spend too much time with them we can become more fixated on dissecting them than on dispelling them. Here's the analogy I have often used with both clients and loved ones. When we are paralyzed in fear, in pain and suffering, it's like we're sitting in the middle of a room that is on fire. The very last thing we need in the situation is anyone saying "let's pull up a chair and figure out how this fire got started." How about we focus on getting you out of that room? By the time most of us figure out, if we ever do, how that fire got started it's origins are no longer relevant because we have moved into love, into joy, into peace, into hope and into faith. We have moved into our lives. What a beautiful thing. What a miracle....
Peace & Love Always