Conquering fear, Love

Facing fear with love

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.[1]

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)…

Well, in the Bible it says,

“Perfect love casts out fear.”[2]

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.”[3]

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.[4]

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,” [5]

[1]“If you had no fear of heights, would you climb a 3,000-foot wall?” By Pam LeBlanc.  American-Statesman, March 25, 2018. https://www.mystatesman.com/lifestyles/recreation/you-had-fear-heights-would-you-climb-000-foot-wall/gSKgi7BXfJYgDWVnnwNdeL/amp.html

[2] 1 John 4:18

[3] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy p. 264

[4] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy p. 578

[5] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy p. 454