That’s the word I used to describe my spirit the other day in talking to my boyfriend. Not like mentally disturbed. Disturbed like if I was a lake, there would be lots of ripples. There has been a lot inside me that has just been sort of heavy for a couple of months now. Somewhat to the point that I chose escapism by keeping busy with mostly mindless things and not trying to work on it. Just letting it gurgle and churn and fall in whatever pattern it chose without taking a good hard look at it. So that’s where I have been, as evidenced by shallow (but hopefully amusing) posts as of late.
For a while, I was not even sure what was working on me. Probably because I chose not to, but when asked, all I could say was what I told you above: my soul was disturbed, my spirit heavy. If you could get a spiritual/emotional illness, that’s how I would have described it. The Flu of the Soul. Tired, aching. You might think I’m saying I was depressed, but it was different than that. It was, I now know, God urging me to change. And although I am not yet sure what or how exactly He wants me to change, I am more ready and more prepared to change when faced with whatever He has in store because of finally paying attention to the stirring. Tension, my pastor would call it. A call that makes me uncomfortable.
If you’ve not read my post on Ambition, you probably should before you continue or you’ll be starting this journey at its apex. Despite the fact that the apex of a journey is usually its most interesting, and the only thing our fast-food culture has the patience to hear, the meat of a journey cannot be grasped without the whole struggle from start to finish. It means nothing when watching the Lord of the Rings to see Frodo fighting with Gollum and watch Lord Sauron’s ring fall into the fire if you have not seen the treacherous journey before. I guess that this may not actually be the apex. I thought I was finished with this revelation before, but this could very appropriately be called “Ambition II” if I chose.
My mind is still pretty jumbled about how all of the various things I want to share are connected. I’m actually hoping that in writing it down, it will become more clear, even to me. This is usually what happens, to be honest.
I guess I should start with the fact that there were various moments during this disturbed phase when I was acutely aware of my shortcomings. There are plenty of them to choose from, but the one that kept coming up was my individualistic nature. I have always flown the flag of my individualism with much pride, heralding it as a virtue which the masses did not possess. This might be true, but in doing so, I allowed its virtues as well as its vices to take hold in me. Unfortunately, this is possible with any quality. Though good, I placed it on a level higher than it deserved, giving it the chance to root too deeply in my soul. Individualism came to mean alone. Not in the lonely sense. I have not been lonely. But in the sense that very little I did was done with any intent for it to affect another person’s life. I was quite responsible and quite creative and quite busy with various and sundry daily things. But none of these things meant a darn thing in anyone else’s life. I’m sure I will have some say it was not so bad as that. I have friends that tell me they were inspired to do something outside of their comfort zones because they watched me do something similar. The problem is that those things that I did were not outside of my comfort zone. I was doing things that I knew others would think daring and brave, but that to me were not by any means scary. Normally, I would just rush madly into the next thing so as not to have a moment where I had a need to trust God or wait for His guidance on where He wanted me to be and what He wanted me to do. That might be a bit of an exaggeration as well. There was some trust in God required, but not nearly what might be perceived from the outside. The decisions I was making (often regarding careers and jobs or lack thereof) did not require the same kind of stretching of my faith for me as for others. I’m not sure why.
OK, I kind of glazed over a couple of important points in that paragraph. One is that people would look at my life and say that I have done many brave things (not in the sense of soldier brave, but in the sense of life direction brave); things that those people say they would not have had the courage or fortitude to try; new jobs, new cities, etc. I already explained above how to me, that is not necessarily brave. The actions those people would point to were, for me, mostly an attempt to create a little excitement because I was bored. Or an attempt to get out of something I knew I didn’t like into something different. Or, here’s the embarrassing one, an attempt to cause those same people to look at me in awe and say, “Ooooh, look how brave and daring she is.” I like it when people do that, because I can shrug casually and say, “Yeah, it’s no big deal,” and those people just think I am more brave.
Newsflash: I am not brave. Is it bravery to do the things that create no fear in you? It is simply because I do not value career for its own sake or money for its own sake, that I am willing to toss them both away with no hesitation. There is no bravery in that. See my Thirty? Really? post to see thoughts on different kinds of courage.
Do you want to know what I fear? People. I am terrible with people. I am scared that I will not know enough to help people or to show people the true God. I am scared that people will not like me. I am scared that people will let me down and not live up to my expectations. Mostly I am afraid that I will look like a fool. Or that I will make God look like a fool by proxy if I try to be His servant. In this fear, I have no stories of bravery to share with you. I have only ever been a success with people when those people pursued me as a friend or confidant or advisor. What I am after is making an impact for Christ, which you cannot do when you live life as a hermit(ess?). In this, I am terrified. And to hide my fear, I substituted flashy things, i.e. my semi-dramatic life choices, that made me look fearless. I faced another man’s fear to hide the fact that I could not face my own.
All of the perceived risks I have taken were never once done for the purpose of, or with any ideas of impacting another person’s life. It was always about me. And this is what I have been looking at, since I did finally gather up the courage to look the tiger in the eyes. I am all wrapped up in selfishness and fear, and until I get over it, I am hindering God’s ability to work through me. I say hindering because I know that He can use even the lowliest vessel, and that no matter what, all of my “righteousness will be as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) However, even the lowliest vessel is more effective if it wants to be used and tries to make sure it is prepared.
I guess I’ll tell you more about the process of this, which consisted of my being constantly inundated with messages and situations that made me feel this sense of inappropriate individuality more greatly. At one point, I was sitting at dinner with three friends, one of whom was saying that she has been influenced by watching me. I don’t remember the context prior to this, but in stating that, I think she thought about it conversely and said out loud, “I don’t think that I have influenced you very much, though.” This is a person who is worthy of influencing me. She has been through some tough things and come through them with a big heart for God. When she said that, it was one of those moments of “tension” inside of me. I knew that her inability to see any way she had influenced me was because of my determination NOT to be influenced by anybody. Apparently, I had taken this to both extremes, meaning that I would not let anyone (or at least very many people) influence me for bad OR for good. I can give you further evidence for this attitude from my “My Space” profile page. The profile asks you to list your heroes. My statement ends with this: “I’ve kind of always been anti–hero. I want to be myself.” What do you read here? No one else has anything to offer me that is worth emulating. This is a wrong and arrogant attitude when exaggerated to this point.
Another situation was that which I wrote about in a recent post, My Journey to Vegetables. In itself, it would not mean very much, but as a symbol it is very indicative of the way I operate. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, basically, in lieu of asking a friend for a favor, I spent 4 hours of my day off to do something it would have taken someone else 30 minutes to do on its proper day, rendering me quite unproductive. Such is my life. I have mentioned this desire for self-sufficiency more than once. In my desire to grow my own food (Letting the Cabin Out of the Bag) and in my desire to know the “basics” of many different facets life (Gettin’ Down to the Roots), there is this underlying message that says to everyone, “I don’t need you. And I don’t want to need you.”
So, now we have, “I am completely self-sufficient” and “You cannot influence me” coupled together in a neat little package. Inviting, isn’t it? I really did not realize how deep this problem ran until I saw that it really goes through EVERY aspect of my life. I have had friends and relationships in the past where people complained that they wanted me to “need them,” because they felt disposable. I knew that I did not exude an air of even comfortable reliance on people. I just did not realize that it was so strongly to the opposite extreme: rather, I exude an air of defiant self-sufficiency that runs so deep I don’t even want to “need” a grocery store.
I am sure that you could call me enterprising or handy or something because I try to do everything myself. And I’m not saying it cannot be an asset in my life to have this quality, as well as the part of me that does not like to be notably influenced by others (which renders peer pressure virtually impotent). Let me just state again that I have taken it to a ridiculous extreme, causing others to be excluded from my daily walk…keeping them at arm’s length so that they can neither help me grow nor harm me. I am so encased in this mindset, that even as I write about it here, I have to keep reminding myself that I am trying to tell you it is negative. I am teetering, virtually by the minute, on the fence of falling back into being proud of this quality.
Follow my relevant journal entries to see how long I have been mulling this:
November 19, 2006: “Ineffectively busy? I do things, but not with people.”
February 18, 2007: “Do I have love? Where are the people who feel my love?”
September 2, 2007: “Stop being individualistic – trying to be innately self-sufficient.”
October 21st, 2007: “Fought fear by being self-sufficient and not needing anything or, rather, anyone.”
I’m not sure how long this has been going on. I have a poignant memory of a conversation I had when I was away at college for a couple of years, and came back home to visit. I ran into my uncle at the mall. He asked me if I missed my family. I remember shrugging, nonchalantly, and saying, “I don’t know. Not really.” He asked me if I missed my friends. I gave him basically the same reaction. I remember saying something like, “I mean, I love them, but I don’t really miss anybody.” I remember him looking at me quizzically and saying, “You’ve changed.” Even then, I knew there was something wrong with how I was interacting with others. I went away from that conversation feeling the same “tension” I mentioned above. There was something wrong with how I was interacting.
That was over 10 years ago, and I haven’t fixed it yet. I didn’t even acknowledge that there was a problem. I even embraced it as a protection…a shield.
My pastor’s message on December 2 brought it all home. It was the first time I have ever seen him broken up through the whole service. I’ve seen him get choked up before, but this was continually throughout his sermon. It was obvious God had really made this apparent and important in his life. I’m not a sports fan, but he was basically telling us to get off the bench of Christianity. I’ve heard that before, and it means something…but what he said that really got me was something like this: “Christians are mostly life-long students, never engaging in the real world applications of what we learn.” Analogies about sports are one thing. Analogies about knowledge and learning are another. I shouldn’t have to hear an analogy pertinent to myself in order to enact it in my life. But, I guess it never hurts. I like to learn more about God, about His word, about spiritual growth. But it is pointless if I never use it. My pastor actually said another thing a while back that is applicable here. He said, “If you never learned another thing about Christianity, you would know enough.” I am inundated with knowledge. There are people in countries where Bibles are not available who build monstrous ministries and only know one verse. I know enough. I SIT on what I know…letting it work in me, trying to become a better person…that’s all well and good, but it is not the goal. It is the means to the goal, and it doesn’t mean that you get to pretend the goal does not exist along the road. Just because you’re not the best player on the soccer team, doesn’t mean you run around practicing during the game and not trying to make goals because you are scared you won’t make it…if it is during the game, you try to make goals, i.e. effect people’s lives for Christ. I’m not talking about chalking up souls so you can get a gold star. I’m talking about showing people the love of Christ. And to do this, I have to get over my fear of being affected by people. Because if I am interacting appropriately with people, I will be affected. I will care, and it will hurt.
I think I have had this revelation before. I remember about 7 years ago, realizing how open Christ made Himself to being hurt. He loved freely and was rejected over and over and over. That rejection will be a natural part of following in His footsteps. Loving someone is giving them the opportunity to reject you. Saying, “I will love you, but I do not need your love in return,” is not valid. I don’t mean that the love is conditional based on the response…I just mean that a response is called for. He wants our love in return. He is asking for it. He does not hang it out there, and then walk away from it for us take it or leave it, no worries for Him. He embodies it, so when we accept or reject it, we are accepting or rejecting Him. In other words, it is not love if it means nothing to me. If I say I love you, but am not affected in any way by your actions, it simply is not love. It is some mind-manufactured system that I somehow feel can fulfill the manuscript written out for me – some rote method I have concocted so I can feel OK when I read, “though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:2 – NKJV)
I am sorry for trying not to love, and for trying instead only not to get hurt. If that is my goal, then Christianity is not my game. (I Peter 4:12-13) If Christ suffered it, it is not a thing that I should avoid, for “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” (Matthew 10:24 – NKJV)
Now that I have worn you out explaining my desire for self-sufficiency, I have another issue to discuss before I get to the answers God has been giving me. This one is back to that whole “Ambition” thing. It’s all related in my mind. I know that at this point, if you went and read my initial Ambition post as I requested earlier in this one, you are now thinking, “Why did I have to read that? Exactly how is it related?” Well, it is. The problem is that my two major issues seem different, but they have one answer that is all jumbled up together. So, I have to go through both things in order for the answer to make any sense. Here goes.
I have also been feeling the same desperation that I used to feel regarding my music, and how, then, I felt that I was lacking something if I did not succeed in it. Only this time, it was much more generic. I was back to feeling overwhelmed with the mundane, and how it seems to take over your life…back to feeling that my existence was uselessly consumed by every day circumstance and necessities. In other words, back to that fear that I would never do anything “important,” and somewhat consumed with this ambition.
If you did, indeed, go back and read my “Ambition” post, you will know that I went through years of desperation, and even depression because of this fear, only then it was specifically attached to the success or failure of my musical endeavors. It was a fear largely based on the need to satisfy my own ego, and put in front of my love for God. It consumed me. It has been a little over two years, probably, since I wrapped that package up and threw it up into God’s arms. It has been the most free-ing two years I have had in my entire adulthood, because I was just trying to become a person and not a persona. But somehow, I let that fear creep back in. It was wearing a new cape this time, though, and I did not recognize it. It was not clothed in my desire for musical acclaim, but only in a general desire to be someone or do something important, and stop the mundane cycle of work/sleep/cook/clean/errands/laundry, etc. which I, obviously, think I am above.
The thing is, I thought I was done with ambition. Like I said, I got rid of that burden a couple of years back. I thought. Now, I can recognize that I only got rid of it in one form. My ambition was a cancer, and I only cut out part of it. I still, in the back of my mind, had this vague notion that if I gave up that ambition, that God would grant me some bigger, better thing to do so that I could feel good about myself. I really just told Him that it was OK if He did not use me in that way. So, now, over two years later, the problem is that I am still here. Still doing unimportant things. No big break-throughs or obvious paths He wants me to take. I was getting antsy…thinking He didn’t come through on His promise that if I would lose my life for His sake, I would find it. (Matthew 16:25) I didn’t figure that out, though, until I was talking to my boyfriend one day. I was telling him that I was feeling frustrated with feeling like I was stuck doing unimportant things all of the time (in many more words than that). He said something to the effect of, “You just need to give that up and trust God with it.” And I said, “The thing is, I thought I did that two years ago.” That was when it hit me that I didn’t really do it. I only kind of did. That fear was still fully alive and well in me, just focused in a new vein. The fear of being nameless. I want to be recognized. I thought I only wanted to be recognized musically. Turns out, I didn’t really care how as long as I was. And THAT is what I need to give up. The need for others to look at me and say, “Look how cool that girl is, and look at all the cool stuff she’s done.”
Here is where the two meet…my two biggest fears.
1) Being rejected, hurt, disappointed by others
2) Being a non-entity, ineffective, unimportant
When I look at it this way, I kind of think they are all mixed up together. To get beyond one, I have to get beyond the other. I have a feeling that until I learn how to interact with people in a Christ-like manner, i.e. opening myself up to hurt, rejection, disappointment, I will remain ineffective, a non-entity and unimportant to the Kingdom of God. If there is such a thing. I realize that God loves me just as much regardless. I don’t mean that He will love me more. I mean that He will be able to use me more effectively.
The answers started coming in, oh wonder of wonders, when I started studying my Bible diligently. God has this way of putting in my mind exactly what I need to read before I even open the Bible. It just pops in my head, “I’m supposed to start reading Jeremiah.” And this is what I read.
“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say, “I am a youth,” for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth….'”
My first fear of people was immediately addressed when I opened the Word of God. God has called me, because He has called all of us who follow Him, to share Him with others…to BE Him to others. I cannot do this until I let my fear go. God basically tells Jeremiah (and me) not to give Him any excuses. But, He then tells him (and me!) that there is nothing to fear because God would give him the words. If God is giving me the words when I am faithful to speak them, then I truly have nothing to fear. All I can do is speak, and the rest is up to Him. Sort of takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?
Immediately after this, I resumed reading a work by G.K. Chesterton on St. Francis of Assisi. He first discusses how Francis’ emerged at the end of the Dark Ages, and was part of the beginning of the reintroduction of poetry and nature love (not nature worship). In this section, Chesterton contends that the Dark Ages were, at least possibly, necessarily employed by God. The Dark Ages are known for their lack of any great literature, art or really anything of any beauty. Chesterton theorizes that the culture prior to the Dark Ages was so inundated with paganism in any of its artwork, literature and in its nature worship, that God was forced to remove those things from an entire age of people in order to “purge the system,” as it were. That, at that stage, humanity was so conditioned that it could ONLY view beauty in conjunction with its paganistic connotations, and had no capacity to enjoy it purely as God created it to be, as a reflection of Him and His goodness and power.
Whether it would be necessary for God to plunge whole civilisations into such a void for hundreds of years in order to cure a spiritual sickness or not, I do not know. I DO know that the concept is applicable and validated in my own life. I have even imposed this type of treatment on myself at times, although I did not connect it quite so largely as a broad method at the time.
One example of this was when I ceased praying and reading my Bible for a time, because I realized that the only reason I was doing it was because I knew I was supposed to. Based on II Corinthians 9:7, which states, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver,” I recognized that I was only “giving” grudgingly or of necessity. I made the conscious decision that if there was no love or true desire for Him in my actions, that there was nothing really to give. I needed to “un-learn” the religiosity I had associated with those actions so that I could regain the purity of them and enact them with their real purposes as my motivation. My friend at Zephaniah 3:17 discusses this same topic in his “Ought” post.
Another, less spiritual application of this concept has to do with black coffee. I am a coffee-drinker, to say the least. There was a time, in the past, where I put an inhuman amount of sugar in my coffee. I made a decision that I needed to significantly reduce the amount of sugar I put in my coffee if I was going to continue to drink it at the desired quantity. However, of course, I didn’t like it with less sugar. So, in order to train my senses, I made myself drink only black coffee for two weeks. Amazingly, when I began putting sugar in it again, I required less than half of the amount I had before in order to enjoy my coffee. I’m sure you have seen this employed in some way in your own life. You want to regain a sense of the meaning of Christmas, so you do not give gifts one year. I’m sure there are other common examples, but I have not thought of them yet.
The point is that censorship of some good is sometimes necessary if it has become associated with only perversion and/or done with wrong motivations. When the good is all mixed up with the negatives, maybe the good needs to cease for a season in order to regain its innocence. I could not regain my love for reading God’s Word and spending time in prayer or understand the value and meaning of those things until I lost the idea that I had to do them in order to earn His love. I could not learn to enjoy sugar in its appropriate quantities until I ceased using it altogether for a time.
The point is that I believe whether THE Dark Ages was a mechanism for this or not, I believe we must all go through our own personal “Dark Ages” if God is to use us. I have mentioned this somewhere else in some post, but you can also see this in artists of all kinds, who often report a desertion of their creativity after they come to believe in Christ. If your gifts or your dreams have an inappropriate place of importance, or if they have some perverted motivation, or if they are strongly associated with some sin in your life, God must remove them if you are to put Him in that place of importance, or re-evaluate your motivations or cut out the associated sin. How fast you get them back, or if you get them back at all, is, at least according to my theory, dependent on how readily you allow God to fill the void they have left. Unless we are super-smart and wise, and then God doesn’t have to do that, because we give up all of our dreams and attachments willingly to Him. “Giving up” sounds so negative to us in this world of “take charge.” I don’t mean it in the sense of quitting, and I think most who have gotten this far in this insanely long post will understand that. But on the chance that someone else made it this far, what I mean is that we let God be in control of our lives in their entirety, which means that we are all right with whatever decision He comes to. If we truly believe that He is good, knowing, loving and all-powerful, then that is the best decision we can possibly make. And we claim to believe that. Or, at least, I claim to believe that, and I think most other Christians would as well. Our human natures are hesitant, though, because we are trained to want to be in control of our own destinies. The fact is, we are not in control of them anyway, so we are better off letting Him worry about it, since we don’t know what in the world will hit us next. It is quite free-ing when you actually manage to apply it, which is what Christianity is supposed to be about. Unfortunately, some never manage to apply it at all, and some, like me, only manage to apply it in fits and spurts.
In other words, I believe the “dark ages” end when you let go of trying to control the things you fear, but then will start up again if you start trying to control it (or another fear) again. Jim Palmer who wrote Divine Nobodies (which I have not read, but seems like it would be great), spoke at my church a couple of months ago. He stated, “What you fear is where you have put your misplaced dependency.” So true. I fear being unimportant, because I have placed my dependency and identity on hoping I become important. I know people who fear never marrying because they have a misplaced dependency on the institute of marriage and family. Again, I hope you can see that I am not saying these things are bad. Marriage and family are great. It is when the desire for them (or anything else) becomes a desperation because you do not trust God with whatever outcome He has planned that there is a problem. Along this theory, possibly God withholds those things until people are capable of putting them in their proper level of importance, which is always, necessarily below Him. This, by the way, does not diminish their importance in any way. On the contrary, it increases it, because I guarantee that God’s rules and recommendations for marriage and family (or, again, anything else) will bring about a better situation than any personal or earthly precepts will, however good the intent.
Let’s go back to G.K. Chesterton, and his discussion of St. Francis. He tells another story about St. Francis that magnificently illustrates the whole process I have just been discussing. St. Francis is sometimes viewed as a gloomy character because of his known penchant for asceticism. The stories about his life do not represent a gloomy man of some sort of sad discipline. They represent a man of passion and action. He was just passionately ascetic. This story actually begins before his true “spiritual awakening” if you can call it that. I do not call it his salvation, because he was possibly a Christian before that, I am not sure. It is said that his initial goal in life was to be a war hero. He had a certain thirst for glory which caused him to boast, upon leaving for war, “I shall come back a great prince.” Francis had apparently even had some dreams which made him believe he was to be some sort of lauded warrior. This dream came crashing down around him before he even made it to the battlefield. On the way to the front, he had his second bout with an illness which made him unfit for a soldier. Apparently, he was very much rattled by this, and had no idea what he was to do at this point. It was the only plan he had. And now I shall quote the story from Chesterton, as I do not think I could illustrate it better.
“It was his first descent into a dark ravine that is called the valley of humiliation, which seemed to him very rocky and desolate, but in which he was afterwards to find many flowers. But he was not only disappointed and humiliated; he was also very much puzzled and bewildered. He still firmly believed that his two dreams must have meant something; and he could not imagine what they could possibly mean. It was while he was drifting, one may even say mooning, about the streets of Assisi and the fields outside the city wall, that an incident occurred to him which has not always been connected with the business of the dreams, but which seems to me the obvious culmination of them. He was riding listlessly in some wayside place, apparently in the open country, when he saw a figure coming along the road towards him and halted; for he saw it was a leper. And he knew instantly that his courage was challenged, not as the world challenges, but as one would challenge who knew the secrets of the heart of a man. What he saw advancing was not the banner and spears of Perugia, from which it never occurred to him to shrink; not the armies that fought for the crown of Sicily, of which he had always thought as a courageous man thinks of mere vulgar danger. Francis Bernardorne saw within and not without; though it stood white and horrible in the sunlight. For once in the long rush of his life his soul must have stood still. Then he sprang from his horse, knowing nothing between stillness and swiftness, and rushed on the leper and threw his arms round him. It was the beginning of a long vocation of ministry among many lepers, for whom he did many services; to this man he gave what money he could and mounted and rode on. We do not know how far he rode, or with what sense of the things around him; but it is said that when he looked back, he could see no figure on the road.”
This is so parallel to what I feel is going on in my own life, that I almost do not feel the need to explain the parallel. Almost, but not quite. 🙂 Just pretend I am talking about myself when I expound on this section and use the name “Francis.” (Not that I am pretending I am half as far in my commitment as Francis was, but for illustrative purposes and brevity.) Francis had this grand life dream of being a noted public figure, praised for his important deeds. This dream was destroyed, plunging Francis into “these dark and aimless days of transition that followed the tragical collapse of all his military ambitions, probably made bitter by some loss of social prestige terrible to his sensitive spirit”. I can relate to “dark and aimless days of transition….” This initial dream that was wrecked did not cause Francis the same fear that it caused others. Apparently, he was full of bravado at the thought of fighting in mortal combat, as I am full of bravado at things that other men fear (mostly financial security and career stability). But that was not what God called him to. He did not call Francis to do the things he did not fear. God made him face his REAL fear, the leper (for me, taking risks in forming real relationships with people). His secondary fear (not doing anything important) turned out to be ludicrous. Can you imagine us knowing more about St. Francis if he had been some war hero in the 12th century? Whether the leper did disappear when Francis looked back or not, the allegory is superb. The fear was a sham fear. It was not even real. He just had to face it full-on before he could move forward in God’s plan. And he did.
I guess that is where I must break off from Francis. I have not yet embraced my leper. I feel that God has been preparing me to know what I must do in order to move ahead and grow. He didn’t give Francis as much of a warning. I feel that I know I must be open and vigilant in watching for the moment God tells me, “Here is your fear. Embrace it.” I do not know exactly what that means, but I am strongly compelled to believe that it will mean I will have to be face-to-face with a human in a very uncomfortable situation saying things that my human self probably does not want to say or at the very least, feels foolish saying. I must take an interactive risk with all the possibilities of failure and rejection that I have been avoiding.
God has not left me hanging in the meantime, though. A couple of days after I read this story and acknowledged all of its portent, I was studying the Bible again. I was looking for something completely unrelated to this, and ran across Luke 21:14-15, which says, “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate before hand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.” I’m being told, straight out, not to worry or stress about the coming trial. Again, that God will give me the words. And the wisdom.
God is amazing when I am not running from Him.