By Rebecca Roberts
Fear! Imagine standing on the desolate sidewalk with some stranger shaking with excitement and pointing a gun at you while screaming at you to give him money. Another option is to imagine yourself standing on the edge of a massive cliff, balancing precariously with the wind blowing at your back. The fear in these instances is the same as what many of us feel on a daily basis. That gut wrenching and paralyzing feeling that something has gone horribly wrong.
Fear can paralyze. Fear can be absolutely crippling. Fear can make you run. Everyone reacts at least a little differently when faced with fear, but all of us are affected by it. So what went so wrong this year to cause the worldwide fear we have seen? Events unfolded in Wuhan, China last year that led to this unseen virus invading the world as a whole. The virus itself was bad enough but the true fear was generated from the unknown. How bad would it get? How do we protect ourselves? Does affecting the livelihood of all the citizens actually keep people safe? Is the information I’m seeing true or is it fake?
Our information was limited but with what was known, it was decided to basically shut the world down. It disrupted our health...our jobs...our livelihoods...our relationships...our corporate worship...our education...our dreams...our ceremonies...our celebrations. It caused the world to stop and I don’t believe humanity ever thought that something unseen would cause the world to come to the screaming stop we witnessed. Fear is inevitable when something unseen like a virus makes the world stop and disrupts living. It is also reasonable when it awakens injustices. Fear and injustice has negatively impacted our life happiness as well.
Fear can be a perfectly healthy response, it’s fear that keeps your hands away from a fire because you know that the burn will hurt. If you have to reach close to a fire, the fear of the burn reminds you to take the necessary precaution of wearing a heat glove first. Far too many times though we witness fear determining actions and lives through unnecessary avoidance. Allowing fear to be the leading vocals in your band of life, you allow it to dominate your decisions and choices.
Fear left to lead will almost always lead the way to regret. Fear doesn’t tell you your life is enough, it doesn't tell you to keep dreaming, to celebrate every day you have breath, to make a healthy choice, to understand other people, to stand up for what you work for, to be proud of living in a country you can freely crack open a bible, comment on twitter, meet with whoever and wherever. Fear and peace are bitter enemies and cannot coexist. The lack of peace will lead to personal and relational issues, arguments, racism, civil disturbances and hostilities. Fear disrupts humanity from living well.
I was looking into the meaning behind peace. I found descriptions like tranquility, completeness, soundness, civil agreement. Further down I found the verb of peace, living well. That when you act on living well it opens the door for tranquility, completeness, soundness, and civil agreement. The descriptions of peace help explain the perception of peace but living well explains what peace can do.
This has to prompt the question of whether I should be asking myself if my fear levels are healthy or instead should I just be asking how I can find peace? What is living well in a world of job loss, financial struggles, death, restricted rights, protests, riots, injustice. Can you live well in times of fear and injustice?
Before the world changed to what we can now call post COVID, I was blessed to be able to enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity and tour Israel. Our group left from Detroit airport at the end of February and being winter in the midwest, we were trying to leave in the middle of a massive snow storm. After flight changes, redirections, and all the fun that goes with flying I was thankful to safely arrive in Israel. Unfortunately, my suitcase did not enjoy the same blessings I had during the trip and did not arrive in Israel. Here I was, having the opportunity to enjoy a place I had dreamed of visiting and I instead found myself frustrated and angry because I was fearful that my belongings wouldn’t arrive. I was able to recognize what was happening and address my fear directly which allowed me to refocus on my amazing opportunity.
My point here is that when fear is allowed to grow, it will many times become a larger issue than the original issue was in and of itself. It's easy to allow fear to grow larger than the actual problem, just look at how we handled the Coronavirus. Instead of focusing on what matters, fear is trying to tell you to look at the worst case scenario of any issue.
Different things matter to different people. For me personally, I care deeply about relationships, coffee shops, writing/reading, serving at church, traveling, beauty and wellness. I miss the normal of these things in our current world state, but I realize I have peace when I do not let fear keep me from focusing on what matters. I have experienced loss because of the virus. I have had to mourn things in my life because of being shut in my room. We have all had to lose something during this time and many of us have had to mourn. Which we should! I have realized that fear is not telling me that loss does not mean missing out on what matters. That even though I can't serve in a church building that doesn't mean I can't serve the community. Even though I can't go to my yoga studio, I can still go outside and exercise. Even though this pandemic disrupted my schedule, it doesn't mean I’m wasting all my time watching TV. Instead, I can spend more time writing and reading. I can't go on an airplane but I can drive in my car and while I’m in my car I can stop and pick up coffee. Living well is a matter of perspective, you can go on missing how things used to be or you can focus on what you can do. Then do something about it.
Keep dreaming, even though your dreams might have been disrupted or redirected. A setback does not mean that the door is shut, it just means you have to try again. It means making a phone call. It means journaling about what you want the future to look like going forward. It means committing, to keep going. In these trying times, it is hard to keep dreaming and going forward. Life isn't going to get better with you sitting and doing nothing. I realized I was looking at all the threats around me and I stopped dreaming. I was doing nothing. I saw everyone else's fear and I felt paralyzed. Fear paralyzes, it doesn't tell you to commit. Fear does not like dreams, it would rather you focus on the threat. It tells you there is a threat and you should take precautions but it doesn’t tell you that your dreams are worth risking for. Dreaming is part of living well. You have a choice to dream or let yourself focus on losing a suitcase, to miss out what matters.
Try something new! We are creatures of habit but we live well when we have fun and have different experiences. I was having a bad day but I decided that I needed to have some fun with my little sister. The sprinkler got set up and it was put under the trampoline. Her and I jumped around on the trampoline and got wet! You might have to get creative about it. Invite a few friends and make a memory doing something new. I know for me I can let myself get caught up in having a bad day. Seeing that the world has been shattered, makes it easy to get caught up in the what if. What if, is a fear tactic that makes you ignore living well. Fear does not tell you that what if is a reason not to do something new. Not to take a risk, to reach out to friends, to be creative. I tried something new with my sister and it made my day better with the byproduct of also making her happy. I felt peace in knowing that I made a memory with my sister. I could have what if`d all day long but that would have meant not living well.
With all the injustice going on in the world, it is so easy to let fear be worse than the virus. Living well is not easy in a shattered world. We want to pick up the pieces. We want change but we also want our life back. We want to open up the suitcase and pray that during the journey nothing was shattered or broken. That's not what we have found in 2020. It has been full of a lot of fear and confusion, it has caused things to break that we didn't think was possible. It has been full of being stuck in your house for months hoping you would not lose your sanity, your people, yourself. Coming out of all this I hope you realize what fear isn't telling you. That you can have peace in times of fear and injustice. That you have a choice to make to live well, not just for yourself but for the shattered world. I think it is a time to dump out the broken things and put peace in it. To put in what matters, to put in dreams and put in new memories. To not let fear get in the way of what matters most. Living well!