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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Choosing to Not Look Away

by Lauren Van Ham

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13, NIV

Goodness knows there’s plenty to feel afraid about.  Real or imagined, we receive a steady stream of messages each day that offer huge helpings of fear: the spread of ebola, the stock market, our relationship with other countries, global warming, the state of education, our childrens’ future, the dangers of diabetes, add your fear *HERE*, and on and on.

How do you work with fear?  I’ve been told, more than once, that fear and love don’t comfortably cohabitate; and that, when I’m feeling fear, I should focus on love. 

Focus on love. 

It’s an instructive prompt, for sure; I like the sound of it, but when I’m in the grip of a well-fed worry or fear, sometimes love feels hard to reach.  In Isaiah we read not only read, “Do not fear,” but the follow up, “I will help you.”
Help?  Yes, I accept!  And, as a good parent or skilled guide, God says, “tell me about your fear.”  What is fear exactly?

Last week, I was devouring the words of one of my heroines, Terry Tempest Williams, who in an interview shared, “You know, a good friend of mine said, ‘You are married to sorrow.’ And I looked to him and I said, ‘I am not married to sorrow. I just choose not to look away.’" 

Sometimes, my fear is sorrow in disguise.  It’s a grief I don’t want to acknowledge because it will be hard to feel.  When I take God up on God’s offer to help me, I don’t have to look away.  I can be a little more curious; I can feel the sorrow; I can honor the change I was resisting; I can trust that whatever it is that is feeling so unpleasantly beyond my control and uncomfortably uncertain, will unfold in Divine Order…or it won’t, but I will have God to help me with that too.

As the Autumn winds kick up tropical storms in the South, and as leaves fall and temperatures drop in the North; as the season’s dark skies grow darker, I feel God’s invitation to receive God’s help and to bring curiosity to my fears. 

What, real or imagined, has you in fear’s grip?  Where is your curiosity greater than your fear?

About Lauren: Lauren lives in Berkeley, CA.  She serves as Dean at The Chaplaincy Institute (ChI), an interfaith seminary and tends her private practice as a spiritual director.  You can read Lauren’s blog at: http://www.laurenvanham.com/

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