June 22

What do you fear?

This week I searched the internet for the top 10 fears of Americans and came across interesting findings. One particular site said this isn’t an official poll (such as Gallop), but it is based on research from internet searches. So, the rank of these fears isn’t written in stone, but they are definitely some of the most popular fears. Listen to this interesting list and note whether any of them connect to you… flying, public speaking, heights, dark, intimacy, death, failure, rejection, spiders, and commitment. (Steve M Nash’s Self Help Collective.com).

I found it fascinating that spiders fell in the middle of failure, rejection, and commitment. Maybe that’s a sermon for another day! Did you find any of your deepest fears on this list? I know, we are in hard-working, stubborn, perseverant German country, so some of these fears are not something that we would publically acknowledge.

So let me share a fear that I faced and overcame this week. Gracie gets locked in her kennel when I am not home. I haven’t developed trust in her to stay off my couch where her claws could easily tear the material. And while she has never had an accident in the house; that is not a chance I’ve been willing to take. When she is locked in the kennel, I know she is under control.

But this week with VBS, I didn’t have any visitations or meetings out of town. So I stepped into vulnerability and kept her kennel unlocked when I went to church on Friday. I came back to check on her twice and found her laying quietly in her kennel. Then I stretched my comfort zone a bit further, leaving her kennel unlocked throughout the night. Everything turned out fine. My worries were unfounded and Gracie is living in a new freedom that I had prevented up until now.

What was the fear that had me worried? Was it really about the welfare of the couch and a mess on the carpet? Partially yes, but it was more about letting go of the need for control. Why do I feel the need to be in control? What if I’m not? What if life doesn’t go the way I want it to go? Ruth Dennis says it regularly, “We’re out of control.” Meaning that we can plan but we don’t have the final say.

What fear has control over you? If you get defensive or angry about particular issues, it might be related to some kind of fear. I’m no different from anyone else and experience it personally. Are we afraid of being rejected or failing? What if we are both? Everyone experiences rejection and everyone has fallen short at something. It’s called being human. And it is the foundation of GRACE; being found lovable and forgiven by Jesus Christ even in our messes.

Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” What is the greatest threat in humanity? Do something or you will be killed. That’s a significant threat that will instill fear in most people. But Jesus said not to fear death, because HE has already conquered death and promises the same for us. So if we don’t have to fear the greatest threat known to mankind, then what do we have to fear at all?

What fear is preventing you from experiencing joy in this world? Is there someone that you struggle to forgive? Why are you afraid to forgive? Are you angry at someone from a past experience? Why are you afraid to let it go? Are you afraid of rejection, failure, or spiders? Why?

In many cases, we struggle to separate ourselves from our actions. If we fail, we might see ourselves as failures. If we are rejected, we might see ourselves as rejections. And on the other hand, if we have success we often see ourselves as deserving. But nothing is further from the truth! Everyone fails and succeeds at something daily. Your actions do not determine your worth as a human being. YOU are a loved child of God, forgiven through Jesus Christ. He doesn’t determine an amount of love for you based on your actions. He loves YOU for who YOU are, separate from your actions. Here I stand with all of you, a sinner in need of his love and grace daily.

In our baptism we are claimed by God as his, even though our journeys will be imperfect, even though we will make mistakes, even though we will live in fear of acceptance, worthiness, and having enough. The Gospel message that needs to be heard and repeated is that you don’t have to live under the burden of proving yourself worthy, acceptable, and lovable. The God of creation loves YOU and is already present ahead of our fears. Let’s trust God enough to follow his promise to guide and provide for us, by putting our fears at the base of the cross. Amen.