What is Your Worst Fear
I truly wish that I could say that fear is not a factor in my life. I remember years ago, sitting a Bible study full of young moms like myself, when our leader asked us each to think about what our worst fear might be. I could see the other women thinking. With all of our minds occupied with naps and diapers and play dates, fear wasn’t something most of us spent time contemplating on a regular basis.
But not me. I didn’t even have to think about it. I knew what my greatest fear was because I thought about it everyday. As we went around the room that morning, most of my friends’ fears were pretty predictable — losing a child or losing their husband, etc. Those fears made me feel jealous because they were remote. Yes, those things happen everyday, and I fear those things too, but they weren’t likely to happen.
My fear, on the other hand, was a 50/50 opportunity. My father inherited a genetic disease that caused a gradual loss of brain function, diminishing his physical and mental ability gradually over eight years. As I sat in the Bible study that morning he was in the end stages of his disease. A year later he would be gone, shortly after his 59th birthday. My biggest fear that morning was that I was the next in line to receive a painful genetic inheritance that stretches back several generations.
This month it will be five years since my father moved into his home in heaven, and I still don’t know if this is in my future. But my fear lingers. I am afraid of the emotional pain I may experience as I gradually lose the ability to think and act for myself, and I grieve for my husband and children who would need to care for me and encounter the same fear that I walk with now.
How to Handle Fear
However, there is a distinct advantage that comes with staring your own mortality in the face at a relatively early age. Losing my dad five years ago resulted in a sudden shift in my perspective on life and faith, and I’m still working out how that has changed me.
Back in 2004 Tim McGraw released a song called “Live Like You Were Dying.” In the lyrics a man explains his response to the death of his father, which includes skydiving, fishing trips, and bull riding. Though I’m not the bull riding type, I can testify to the idea that, when faced with the recognition of your own mortality, there is a renewed desire to achieve all the dreams that you’ve set aside for later. Though I spent most of the first two years of grieving feeling angry, God led me to recovery and to a shift in how I lived with this fear.
I’m now less than 14 years from the age my father was when he began losing his memory, but I have a distinct advantage here. I get the opportunity to look this fear in the face and to learn to live with it, grow with it, even make friends with it. The fear isn’t going to go away. Even if I learned that I don’t carry this gene I would probably question the reliability of the test results. But living with a fear like this has fine-tuned my perspective on how being a child of God should shape my life and how I spend it. Am I walking in faith, or am I allowing my fears to become my motivators? Does what I’m doing on this day, or this hour, or this minute, reflect my role as a witness for Christ? Do my thoughts dwell in darkness or light? Do my children see Jesus in me? Does my life help them see the value of walking with God, even through the darkest valley?
Celebrate and Rejoice
Sometime around 609 B.C., the prophet Habakkuk wrote the book known by his name. Habakkuk’s prophecies are unique in that he did not address them to the people of Israel and Judah, but to God on their behalf. In the process of creating this letter to God, Habakkuk learns of the coming Babylonian captivity, and he and God engage in a poetic call and response as God explains His anger at the people’s unfaithfulness to Him, and Habakkuk laments its result in prayer. And then, just a few verses prior to the close of his book, Habakkuk makes a remarkable profession of faith:
Though the fig tree does not bud
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flocks disappear from the pen
And there are no herds in the stalls,
Yet I will celebrate in the Lord;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
Even after learning that God is angry with his people, and that the result of that anger will be the complete destruction of his home and the exile of its inhabitants, Habakkuk makes the choice to celebrate and rejoice. His words here are a commitment to faith in God’s love for His people, even as they reap the results of their sin. Even in the face of exile and death.
When we look at God’s Word, His love story for His children, Habakkuk’s reaction makes sense, but when we look at the world around us, full of crime, dishonesty, pain, and all of the other forms of destruction that come from our sinfulness, Habakkuk’s faith seems like nonsense. In our faith walks we are faced with the dichotomy of God’s love for mankind and the sinfulness of the world, and sometimes that frustrates me, especially when I see it in myself.
Live Like You’re Dying
I want to reflect God’s love for my children, but I get angry and yell at them instead. I want to speak loving truth to a friend living in sin, but I chicken out. Praise God that His love for us isn’t diminished by my weakness, but that instead my weakness, even my fears, allow His love to be perfected (2 Cor. 12:9).
My faith walk through my fear is now made up of many different pieces. I love my husband, my kids, my friends, and I try to love people in general. I write about my faith walk, and I encourage students who need help with their own writing. I’m learning not to be afraid to let the dishes sit in the sink while I meditate, or read, or just rest. I volunteered to sing for my church’s worship team, and I might even join a rock band. It’s not skydiving, but it’s daring.
You don’t need to be facing death or disease to live like you’re dying. Don’t let fear prevent you from finding out what God is calling you to and doing it. I’m choosing today to live like I’m dying, because I am, even if I don’t know when or how just yet. More importantly, I’m choosing to remember that this world is not my home, and that both little discomforts and huge trials can simply remind me that I’m not there yet.