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Entries in fear (6)


Futility is a man's deepest fear.

Image-courtesy Kansas' "Leftoverture" album coverFutility plagues a man’s life more than anything else:

“My life is of little consequence.  My best efforts are in vain.  I will be an obscure footnote in History's appendix.  I long for significance, but suspect my efforts are a pebble's drop into a dark, hollow well.   My life will be a long testimony to failure.”

It is the lament of the writer of Ecclesiastes:

"Meaningless!  Meaningless!" says the Teacher...There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow."  - Eccl. 1:1, 11

We’ve come to expect that breakthrough comes soon and comes at a younger age.  We’ve looked to the exceptions to give us our timeline:  Citizen Kane, Orson Well’s masterpiece was written at age twenty-five.  Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 was composed when he was twenty-one.  Many of Picasso’s most celebrated paintings were done in his twenties.  [What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell]

However, as David Galenson, who has studied our assumptions about creativity points out, there are many other cases in which genius peaked much later:  Robert Frost wrote 42 percent of his anthologized poems after turning fifty.  Alfred Hitchcock directed his films, “Rear Window,” “Psycho” and “Virtigo” between the ages of fifty-four and sixty-one.  Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was published when he was forty-nine, and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe at fifty-eight.  The master painter, Cezanne’s, finest work was done in his senior years.  [What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell]

Malcom Gladwell calls those who peak later in life, “late bloomers.” [What the Dog Saw] For me, it offers an antidote to a man’s fear that his life won't amount to much:  breakthrough is a slow bang.  It is a long fuse that culminates in vivid splendor only after it has burned that slow, steady, coil upon tedious coil of fuse. 

But note:  the fuse still gives off spark and light at each moment leading up to the bang.


"Give us this day our 401K"

My family and I are learning a hard lesson.  We've moved 1,000 miles to a new town, with no job.  It's the way God asked us to do it.  But we still have money flowing out, a shrinking savings, and no sustainable income.  The pressure to give into discouragement and fear is mounting. 

Here's the lesson:  "Give us this day our daily bread."  The manna in the wilderness was for that day

Our culture has programmed us into thinking predominantly long-term:  make sure your insurance policies will cover your needs 40 years from now.  Get that extra coverage on the new washer and dryer, just in case.  Make sure you have a job, any job, because that's the only way that God can provide for you.  (Oops, did I just say that?)  Forget the desires of your heart, your calling, because we're in a tough economy right now and you need to think more pragmatically.

Now, it is critical that we first ask God if he wants us to live without any of the "securities" I just mentioned.  Seek his counsel first.  But you get the point:  we have not been programmed to think of the daily-ness of God's provision. 

"Give us this day our daily sustenance."

So my wife and I keep asking, "Are we alright today?"  ...and the answer is, 'yes.'  Today, we have what we need. 


The full interview - Steve Brown interviews Jim about his book, Recover Your Good Heart


"Fear is so...not helpful." New forum topic 

Share you experience of fear at THE GOOD &  NOBLE HEART Community.  Click here to check out the forum.


Learning how to handle power

God wants to share his power.  Aptly wielded, power brings transformation and healing to the world.  He has intended to share his power from the very beginning:

"Adam, you may name the great variety of animals on the earth." "Adam and Eve, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.".

"What!!...are you crazy, God!? Don't give them that invitation; they'll screw it up!" But God risks because he shares.

Children need a sense of power, which must include the capacity for choice. Of course, the limits on that power must be age-appropriate, but stripping a child of power will wound them: "I am your father and you will do exactly as I say!" Left with only one acceptable option, and the threat of punishment if they don't choose that one acceptable option, a child will be stripped of dignity -- because dignity involves the divinely-given capacity for choice.  Power requires choices. 

What our children need to hear is this:

"Not only do you have an option here, you may choose. Of course the consequences will also be yours, but I will never remove either your choices or their consequences. I love you too much."

As Danny Silk suggests in his book, Loving Your Kids On Purpose, when you strip a child of the ability to choose between option A or B, the only way to ensure they comply is through the threat of punishment. ...and that only leads to fear: "If I don't do what mommy or daddy wants, I will disappoint them... or worse."

"Perfect (whole, complete) love casts out fear." Love and fear don't co-exist well.

God is teaching us adults how to use his power, to exercise it well; and I've been afraid of that my whole life: "But, if I get to choose here, what if I blow it? What if I choose the wrong thing?  Will you be disappointed?  Will I be outside of your will?"  ...and fear wounds the relationship.  Further, I never learn how to handle power favorably; and the only way to really learn is to screw it up sometimes.  You don't learn until you really get the consequences.  But if you live in constant fear of blowing it, you don't learn how to handle power-- You only learn fear.

Our capacity for choice is a bit unnerving.  We're given a lot of latitude when it comes to chosing.  But that latitude is wholly necessary for learning to handle power...and therefore love.  Love bestows power.


"...and please, try not to sin."

I've spent much of the last 43 years trying not to sin.

I think it's because I'm afraid.  There's been an uneasyness with sin because there's been an uneasyness with God:  "Am I really safe? Safe-enough to screw up?  Safe-enough to really blow it and remain highly-favored and in good standing with the Father?  Or will he be...disappointed?

The Church, in a wonderful journey of co-dependence, has helped me avoid sin and to fear it.  We've turned God into a behavior-modification therapist.  Most sermons are about getting people to avoid or discontinue sin.  Avoid the wrong thing, and try harder to do the right thing.  As a result, we've taught people that God is more interested in managing externals, rather than in nourishing, strengthening and encouraging a new internal reality -- the wholly new and good hearts we received when we became apprentices to Jesus.  No wonder we haven't seen the spiritual transformation we're looking for:  you can't get there from here.

Of course it is good not to yield to sin; but if that becomes the point, then most of our energies will be consumed by avoiding something, rather than living in something stronger and more life-giving.

Most parents are afraid of their children's sin and work really hard to manage their kids (think "control") so that they don't err.  As Danny Silk, author of Loving Our Kids on Purpose -- Making a Heart-to-Heart Connection indicates:  "What this reveals is that we are terrified by our children's poor choices.  We try to eliminate as many as possible."  As Silk points out, perhaps the way in which we handle our children is how we believe God handles us:  Be afraid of sin, because this isn't a safe place to fall.

But fear is never an appropriate method of transformation.  It may produce external conformity, but never inward maturity.  It certainly can't produce love itself.

I've also been enslaved to the notion that sin is more powerful than me.  As Silk indicates in Loving Our Kids On Purpose, "We still believe that sin is more powerful than we are.  When children grow up in an environment where their parents are scared of sin, they learn to fear failure."

This fear carries with it the assumption that what's exterior to me has more control over me than what is interior to me.  It's the mistaken idea that what is least true of me (I still have the capacitiy to sin, but no longer the nature to sin) is more true and powerful than an already-present and growing holiness -- a supernatural goodness -- now present within me.  That's the real me.  Ezekiel 36:26 ("I will give you a new heart and new spirit) has come to pass, in me, at the deepest level.

Fear can constrain behavior -- for a while; but it can never restore freedom.