May, Day 7: Fear
We've been prompted to write about the things we're most afraid of today. The most obvious answer for me is spiders! Those heinous things give me the creeps. By the way, did you hear Governor Christie is in trouble with PETA, as journalist Esther Lee reported, "after delivering a palm-faced smack-down on an itsy-bitsy spider before a group of fourth graders"? I have a feeling PETA and I would not get along well on this issue....
But, difficult as it is to believe, there are things that have caused me way more fear than spiders have. For a long time it was the dark. I am no longer afraid of the dark...unless of course there is the risk of a spider lurking in said dark, plotting my demise.... I also used to be afraid of walking in grass after dark...again, because of spiders. Oh, and don't even get me started on camping. So you see, it is no small thing to say I have feared something more than I have feared spiders. But I have.
I guess you could call it meaninglessness. Or maybe even death. Anyway, I have at times tended to dwell on all things existential...like, to the point of my own detriment. Seriously. It seems to have been worse in years immediately following great personal loss of loved ones. Like when my brother hung himself. Or when, in a 6-month period between 2009-2010 my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, my uncle fatally overdosed on drugs and alcohol, a previous roommate of mine died of the same cancer my sister was battling, and my dad died. Yeah...that year was a doozie. It seems to take me, on average, about three years to deal with traumatic things like that. I'm doing pretty well right now, but for the last few years I struggled more than I could ever tell with existential questions.
One time I remember even going out and finding an old cemetery where I walked from one crumbling grave marker to the next, for hours, crying over the long-gone life each stone represented as the only physical evidence remaining of that life, and now even it was slowly wasting away in decay. I know that sounds really dramatic...like in a histrionic sort of way...but the feelings had been piling up and that was the only thing I eventually found to help me express the fear and grief I was feeling. (And I never told anyone about it until now, either, so I really wasn't doing it for drama. Just throwin that out there.)
Yep. That's the kind of morbid thinking I have had to deal with, folks...in spurts of several years at a time. Fearing my own impending end...the inevitable loss of more loved ones in the future...failure to procure meaning or "figure out" life....
I think I have recovered quite a bit in recent months. And yes, I find meaning in God...I think I was just in an intense period of grief, so the meaninglessness found its way into my experience despite my faith. That happens sometimes, even to Christians, you know.
And even more, there have been many times in my life when my greatest fear was that I was a disappointment to God. My feelings there have changed, too, though. It's not that I think I have come to a place where I could no longer be a disappointment; but I have realized that He actually and really loves me. I have drawn great comfort for both of these fears (death and disappointment) from 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (NIV). Jesus offers the kind of perfect love that drives out fear.
That makes me smile somewhere deep inside.