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

blessings, Conquering fear, hope, humanity, Magnify the good

Know the end from the beginning, it’s very good…

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

… to know the end from the beginning[1]

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.[2] 

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…”[3]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.”[4]  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…”[5]   

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.[6]  

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.”[7]  

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.”


[1]The Bible – Isaiah 46:10

[2]The Bible – Jeremiah 29:11

[3]The Bible – Genesis 1:1

[4]The Bible –  Genesis 1:31

[5]Ibid.

[6]The Bible – Malachi 3:10

[7]Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy p. 2

Love

Lessons from a dog walk…

I was out walking my dog, Tillie, by the lake yesterday morning, as I often do.  And one thing we are working on is her reaction and response to other dogs. Sometimes she walks by perfectly fine – keeping quiet and carrying on… other times she barks loudly at them while wagging her tail like she wants to play… and then there those times that she barks aggressively and pulls at her leash…  As a human, it is often difficult to discern which reaction we’ll get when… or why… but from what I have read, it seems dogs primarily respond aggressively out of fear.

This particular morning, we started out our walk and already the barking and pullingTillie by the lake started.  It made me frustrated and not want to continue the walk. But after pausing at a bench looking out at the lake for a little while and enjoying the stillness of the water, I decided to carry on with the walk.  I was praying about this issue as we walked… and trying to think about it from a spiritual perspective. I realized that for one, I need to forgive Tillie for just being a dog, and not harbor frustration or fear about the situation…but I also have to affirm that Tillie IS a good dog, inherently good and that that is her true nature to be good and live harmoniously with others.

I quietly declared to myself, and sometimes aloud to sweet Tillie, that harmony is a law … it is a law of Divine Love and that it is governing us and all our actions and everyone (and every dog) around us.

Often when we are coming up to another dog, I will give the command to stay quiet.  Sometimes, if it seems necessary, I will ask Tillie to sit and be still, and to stay quiet… and I remind her that she is a good girl.

I was thinking about how these commands we give our pets (and the ones we hear, if we listen, from God)… are firm commands, demonstrating the control and governance of omnipotent Principle… and yet reflect the tender and pure nature of omnipresent Love…  This is what is governing or ruling us and our actions… and our loved ones and everyone…

This particular morning, I was overjoyed that in the second part of our walk after the quiet moment on the bench, she did not bark at a single dog (and there were several on our path)… it was great to see the law of harmony in action… and this joy led to a breakthrough with another situation… which I started to see more clearly from a spiritual perspective.

This past weekend, I acted out of fear and “barked” aggressively and unkindly at someone… and I have been regretting it and feeling terrible about it ever since.  It seemed so much like the unpredictable nature of my dog, who will pass by several dogs calmly and then seemingly out of nowhere will bark aggressively at one coming along…  That was kind of what this was like… I was going along my day with this friend calmly and then seemingly out of nowhere got really upset and said some unkind, and actually untrue things… and by untrue I mean that I accused of them of things that I know in my heart they would never think or do… instead of assuming the best, I assume not just the worst but something so false and out of character of this person, it is rather ridiculous…

Since then I have been in a funk of guilt and shame, regret and remorse… replaying the incident and the various events before and after and trying to figure out how I could have gotten so upset… and envisioning the scenario a thousand different ways that would have turned out so much better if I had acted and spoken differently…

So as I was walking along with Tillie, I started to think about this again… and I so wish I had listened to the angel messages that were likely speaking to me all along but I missed them…  the message that would have been telling me to me to “sit“… or to be still and calm… to “be still and know that I am God”, as it says in Psalms 46:10…  and to get some perspective on the situation to see it for what it was… and knowing that my friend’s intentions are always good and pure and that there is no reason to assume anything less…

Because if I were still, I probably would have had heard the angel message that was likely there telling me to “stay quiet“…  or as the Bible says “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1: 19)… for “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  (Prov 17:28)… and “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov 18:13)… well, I was the fool here and have been filled with shame at my folly ever since…

I also wish I had heard the angel message to “be good“…  and to know that I am inherently good…and so is my friend…  that is our true nature, because we are created in the image and likeness of God as it states in Gen 1… and God is all and only good…  as the Bible says “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)… which I take to mean not that you must (or should) be this way, or else… but that you must be that way because God is that way… you couldn’t actually be any other way… because you reflect God, your maker who is perfect and good…   I was also thinking about that command… or that angel message that I missed, to “be good” … to mean it’s all good… it will be fine… don’t worry… but I missed that message and as a result I acted in ways that were less than my best self.

One of my favorite hymns in the Christian Science Hymnal came to mind as I was walking, “Speak gently, it is better far To rule by love than fear”…  and thought about it this way — when we are ruled by Love rather than fear, we do speak gently… we don’t bark aggressively or say unkind things we don’t really mean (and instantly regret)…  it goes on to say “Speak gently, let no harsh word mar The good we may do here.” (Hymn 315)….

I have heard it said that every action or word spoken is either done from love or is a cry for love … or put another way – out of a fear of the loss of love or a sense of lack of love…  With my harsh words, I was acting out of fear, not love, (as apparently my dog does too sometimes)… because of the situation we were in, I became afraid of a potential loss of love or the potential for lack and became overwhelmed by that fear so much that I no longer heard the angel messages that were undoubtedly being sent my way… but this fear is never true or real  because we live in Love… we are never for a moment separated from Love… we are always encircled in ever-present Love… and that is true for every single one of us… And when we are ruled and governed by Love… by Divine Love…so there is no room for fear. “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18)… And when ruled and governed by love, we can speak gently… and be patient and kind with one another… as it says in 1 Cor 13: 4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. … It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

So, with this lesson, I began to feel uplifted and break out of my seeming funk of regret … knowing that I am governed by Love, not fear… and that I cannot fear a lack or loss of love… because Love, Divine Love, our true source of love is eternal and ever-present… and with that unfailing love we can all abide by the law of harmony that is always at work, and hear those angels messages when they are speaking to us with words of wisdom and tender words reminding us to love and that we are loved… and this love brings healing to any situation.