When today’s contributor froze with fear on a high ziplining platform, mentally pausing to feel God’s universal, all-encompassing love broke through the fear. Then not only did she participate in the activity; she thoroughly enjoyed it!
Fear is a funny thing. It can seem to completely overtake us and our sense of being. I love the idea of it as an acronym – False Evidence Appearing Real. How true that is… that it is entirely false. In an article By Pam LeBlanc, Alex Honnold – world renowned climber – puts it this way:
Fear to me is my body giving me a warning. It’s sort of like a point of data, like hunger or something. My body is telling me I need to eat at some point. Fear is sort of your body reminding you that you’re uncomfortable. Then it’s up to you to decide if your body is in real danger or your body is being irrational. You’re the guide.
To me I think fear is mental but I love the point that you are the guide and get to decide if the danger is real or if it is irrational or false evidence…. So, you get to decide if you will let fear over power you. But sometimes it doesn’t seem that simple.
This summer I had the opportunity to overcome my fear of heights when I was serving as a Christian Science Practitioner for a high school group at a summer camp for Christian Scientists. I had the opportunity to ride roller coasters and go zip-lining. I didn’t know if I wanted to do either, because for some reason in recent years I seem to really fear heights.
It doesn’t even make sense because as a child I was always climbing trees, walls… being the first out on a high-ropes course and intentionally falling or jumping off… I used to rock climb, and had a pretty big fall when doing a lead climb in Thailand and never seemed to fully recover from it. I tried to finish the climb but had to come down and have one of my group members finish it. Then I went back to the practice wall but never felt as confident, especially on the tricky overhang. When I moved back to the US from Thailand, I had wanted to get into climbing again but never did. Since then this fear has festered, but mostly was dormant because I was not often in a position where it would come up.
So here I was at camp, where the campers in my group were overcoming fears and challenging themselves every day. I was there supporting them with spiritual ideas, but felt somewhat hypocritical, if I wasn’t prepared to do the same. So, I went on a roller coaster…twice. And yes, I screamed my head off the first time… and then laughed my head off the second time (and still screamed a little bit). But it was fun! I felt silly and child-like and free.
Then it came time for zip lining… one of the campers ask if I was going to go. I wasn’t… but then that voice came from inside saying, are you really going to let your fear get the best of you here? So I decided to try it. I paired up with one of the boys and we were going to go on the tandem zip lines together. (Just two lines, side by each and you can go at the same time… and even race if you want to)… So the countdown happened… 1…. 2…. 3…. And the camper jumped of the platform and started off…. I on the other hand was still on the platform. I couldn’t seem to make myself do it. Another count down and some encouragement from the counselors… still nothing. I felt some hands on my back gently nudging me a bit (and I could tell that the person the hands were attached to – a good friend of mine – was debating if they were allowed to just push me or not… I know they wanted to)… I decided that this fear was ridiculous… I didn’t want to give in and look ridiculous … and it was clearly fun because everyone talked about how great it was… so here we go again…. 3… 2…. 1…. Jump! Wahoooo!!! It was so much fun, that on the next one, I decided I would actually race the camper who had kindly wait for me at the platform in between… It was so much fun!!
So back to that False Evidence Appearing Real… and that idea that “it’s up to you to decide if your body is in real danger or your body is being irrational…” I bring up Alex Honnold because I just watched the trailer for the film about his free solo of El Capitan that is just coming out. (Spoiler alert: he succeeds!!) While watching this trailer… my body (and mind/thought) reacted… I because so filled with fear that my stomach ended up in knots, the palms of my hands (and even my feet) started to seriously sweat. I was utterly consumed by the fear for a few moments…. (maybe that’s what the movie folks were going for… but thank goodness the trailer is only 2 minutes long)…
Did I have an actual reason to fear? I looked up from the film trailer and I was of course sitting in my chair with my legs up on the ottoman, and my iPad on my lap watching a video. I was not on the face of a giant cliff… I was in my study… sitting down… watching a video. Also, I paused and looked up Alex Honnold (who I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about before this) to find out that yes, he is in fact still alive…so, there was literally nothing to fear, even for the guy on the screen. But it didn’t matter… in fact, still sitting here in my chair in my study typing up this blog post and thinking back to watching the trailer I’m starting to sweat and get nervous all over again!!
Fear is a ridiculous thing… so how do we conquer it? How was I able to let go of it on the zip line (which now sounds sooo wimpy compared to a giant cliff face with no ropes or safety harness like I was wearing)…
How does that work…? “Perfect love” to me is Divine Love… unconditional, ever-present, all-absorbing, all-encompassing, spiritual love. It is the kind of love of our Father-Mother God that says, I am right here, holding you up, embracing you… and will never let anything happen to you… I will protect you… I will uphold you and carry you and save you.
I can see some people saying at this point – yeah but bad things happen, how do you explain that? Well, our life with this Love is eternal… and while sometimes we may find scary or bad things seem to be happening… if even in that moment, we pause and commune, or allow ourselves to be at one with that Divine Love… we can feel a sense of peace… Mary Baker Eddy speaks of it this way in her seminal text Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures… that we can
“feel the unspeakable peace which comes from an all-absorbing spiritual love.”
It is what the Psalmist spoke about in Psalm 23, which Mrs. Eddy writes it this way:
[Divine love] is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [love] is with me; [love’s] rod and [love’s] staff they comfort me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love] for ever.
So when we live or dwell in that consciousness of love, there is nothing to fear – real or imagined. Love is guiding us through each challenge, if we listen and allow ourselves to feel Love’s ever-presences. Love will guide us to break through ever fear.
“Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way,” 
Do you wonder what the future holds for you? Do you every wish you had a crystal ball and could see how it all turns out? I certainly do sometimes… I think we all do at one time or another…certainly when we’re going through a challenge whether it is trying to figure out what’s next in life – jobs, relationships, location, home… or dealing with some form of sickness that seems scary and just wanting to know we will be OK…
I’ve heard people say, “I just want “this” (sickness, challenging situation, sense of lack or loss) to go away. I want healing to come… and I just want to know when and how it will all work out.”
I too have experienced this at times…. This morning I was thinking about the statement from the Bible from the book of Isaiah
and that God knows the future, not only because God is the all-knowing, infinite Mind, but because God knows the present, and is always in the eternal now. This ties in with what is stated in Jeremiah –
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
What does it mean to know the end from the beginning? Well, we know that the Bible tells us in Genesis (which means beginning), that it states “In the beginning God…”in fact, this is the opening line of the whole book, the entire story. And God create man, and everything else, and states that is all “very good.” In fact, God doesn’t declare that it is all VERY good, until the last verse of Chapter 1… not until everything was create and all working together harmoniously.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…”
So, I think that because God created man and the universe and it was/is all very good… and because God is All and Eternal and unchanging, doesn’t it stand to reason that the end will also be very good, as will all the middle bits…? But how? Well, God is good, and only knows good… and it is just a matter of us waking up and tuning into what God is telling us each moment, that we can experience this goodness for ourselves. In Malachi it states And in Malachi –
…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
So the good and the blessings are abundant and constant and consistent and never-ending. As Mary Baker Eddy states in her text Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,
“God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love.”
I’m often tempted to think, but what if…? And when I remember, I try to replace that “what if” with “what is”… What is true about God, good, and me and my life as the image and likeness, or reflection of God, good. What is true of God, who is Love, as we learn in the New Testament… and me, who is loved, cherished, adored and cared for unconditionally, as Her beloved child?
I started thinking about all of this because I was reflecting back on a time when I started watching a TV show… it was a real suspense, thriller, action type of show… it’s one of those shows where it’s almost arbitrary where one episode ends and the next starts because it’s constant action and they just pick up exactly where they leave off and always with a cliff hanger about what’s about to happen next. And because it’s on Netflix, one episode came after another and suddenly a good bit of time had gone by and I got completely sucked in for a little while…
I find I’m one of those people that gets really into a book or movie or show, so I’m usually more careful and choosy about what I read or watch, because it tends to stick with me a bit. Lately I haven’t really watched this kind of show because I don’t like those images or feelings to linger in my thought afterwards… (I used to love the crime dramas, but I’m more of a Great British Baking Show or World of Dance kinda person now… though every now and then one of those suspense shows will peak my interest and I’ll give it a try for a bit…
Well, in this case, I found that after watching the show for a little while one night, I ended up dreaming about it and awakening before my alarm the next morning. I couldn’t shake the desire to see what happens next or find out how it all turns out… I was actually afraid for the main character and her friends…
But what I wanted even more at that moment was I actually really wanted to just stop thinking about it all together and focus on my day… and focus my thought on God and prayer… but I couldn’t seem to break the mesmerism. And that’s exactly what it was… mesmerism.
I realized this was the same kind of mesmerism that had a hold of my thought about a physical challenge that I had been working through. It seemed like a scary one… and I found myself wanting to know how it was all going to turn out for my life and my health… much like the show. I was afraid… and sometimes would think about others I had known who had similar symptoms… or what I had read about, seen advertised or even seen in shows I had watched in the past, where it never seemed to turn out very well in the end for the people who had these symptoms.
Well, to deal with breaking the mesmerism of this silly TV show… I decided to skip to the end. I read the brief synopsis of the final episode of the season and it said they would reveal who was behind all the evil stuff going on. So, I watched the first five minutes. That’s all it took. I found out who was behind it, realized that of course the good guys would win… and that was the end of it. The mesmerism was completely broken… shattered, even. My interest in the show what gone, and I was free. I was able to focus on my prayers and my daily work. But it got me thinking in a new way…
What if I knew the end of this physical “suspense drama”? Would I no longer be afraid? Would I see it for the unreality that it was? How could I find out how it ends? How could I really know…? And that’s when the verse from Isaiah came to thought. But I DO know, I reasoned. Because God is All, unchanging Good… that IS true right now and always… and because God created me, in Her image and likeness, I can only be good, and filled with goodness, right now and always. And God wants only good for me, provides only good for me, sustains me with that goodness… as a friend once said, “every part of us was created to glorify God”… so there could never be any part of me that is not good, holy, pure, true… not now, not ever. And with that the mesmerism and fear broke… and I was then better able to pray and hear more clearly the messages God was sending… messages of love… messages that said,
“I love you, I have always loved you, I will always love you, you are my beloved and all will be well, for all IS well.”
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
As Shakespeare so eloquently put it… and so it is with curiosity.
As a professor and abroad director, I hoped to instill a sense of curiosity in my students… what I hoped for was to see a sincere desire to learn more about the world, other people and cultures and ways of life. I think the more we turn outward and learn about others, the more we can cultivate a culture of compassion and empathy… where we can see our common humanity.
However, I’ve recently noticed that curiosity can also have a negative purpose… and I’ve see this popping up over and over lately. This seems to happen when the motive behind the desire to know something isn’t inspired and then it seems to gravitate from curiosity to fascination or even obsession… This would be cast as voyeurism… or even “morbid curiosity” which an online dictionary defines as a curiosity which is so compelling that the curious person is driven to satisfy it, even though he or she knows or strongly suspects that they probably won’t like what they find, or otherwise find something which is irrelevant or unsatisfying…
I first noticed this notion of curiosity being possibly a negative in some cases from a story book I was reading my nephew called My Father’s Dragon. In the second book in the series the main characters a boy and a dragon end up on an island filled with canaries that were all “dying of curiosity” because the king canary was so sick with curiosity about an ancient secret passed down over generations… anyway, it got me wondering if there are situations where curiosity could be a bad thing…
I heard it once said, “never ask a question if you don’t really want to hear the answer”… and this may be some good advice in a way… or perhaps allow us a moment to check our motive… why do we want to know? What purpose does knowing X serve? Will it help the situation?
You may be wondering what I’m getting at, and thinking that it is always good to know more information than less… but let me give you some examples that may help illustrate my point…
Sometimes I hear friends say they want to know more about their partner’s history with past relationships. I get it, I’ve been there… but at these times, I’ve had to ask myself. Do I really want to know? Probably not… but if so, why? Will it lead me to feel better or worse about myself, about my partner, about the other person? Will it lead me to compare myself to others… and does that ever go very well? (Not usually… either we put someone else down and puff ourselves up, or put ourselves down… and either way the entire premise is off because we are often basing our view of ourselves and others not as the image of Love, a perfect, whole and complete creation of the Divine … but as a faulty human)…
In another situation, someone told me that they had gotten more details than they wanted about someone’s passing and couldn’t get the images out of their head. They said they should have stopped the flow of information, but were just so curious about it, they just let happen and now they couldn’t seem to undo it. This is tough stuff… when someone passes, it’s tempting to want what some may call the “gory details”… but do you really want that in your thought? And related to that, it’s easy to get caught up in the trauma and drama of a tragic event… we want to know why it happened? Who’s to blame? What were they thinking? What are others thinking? Why now? Why this way?
These are all examples of what I am talking about when I say that curiosity can have a negative side… I’m not saying it’s wrong… and some may say “human nature” to wonder about these things… and I am not saying that it is not good to be informed to learn from and prevent tragic events from happening in the future… that’s different.
It’s the bit where fear generally gets us spun up asking these questions… and we become consumed with fear in the asking… but in all of that… aren’t the real questions deeper than all that… aren’t we really wanting to know — am I safe? Is he/she safe? Am I loved? Are they loved? Am I worthy enough? Am I good enough? Are they? Will I be ok? Will they be ok?
I find that it is helpful when wondering “what if” it is good to pause and this about “what is”… What is true about me and my fellow man from a spiritual vantage point right now and always…Well for me that always starts with God, with Good, with Love… which I know to be all-powerful, ever-present and eternal. It begins with knowing that I (and everyone else) am created by God, Good… that I am whole and complete… that Life is truly eternal and that Love is truly ever-present… and that not one of us can ever be separated from Love or Life for a single moment. When I get present to that fact, then the questions fall away… and I feel more at peace.
I find the “what ifs” keep us in the past or the future… and to find a sense of peace and the answer to those deeper questions… it’s helpful to stay in the present… in the eternal now… and declare that Love is present and powerful and wrapping us up and keeping us safe and whole. Paul states in Second Corinthians “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”