It’s been a while since I last blogged about fear. Quite a while.
The place was packed. I’d never seen this many people at Union Church, even close to Christmas. There were extra seats and everything, and even the extra seats were being filled – every single one. A few minutes after I arrived, they said to give the people around you a hug. The lady to my left had said “Good morning” instead of “He is risen indeed,” so I figured she was just a Christmas-and-Easter Christian and simply shook her hand. Then I went back to sending text messages to all my friends and a few acquaintances that said, “They could kill Him, but they COULDN’T KEEP HIM DEAD! HE IS RISEN!” After a few rounds of this, the nice lady beside me tried to shut my phone, smiled warmly, and said, “Stop texting! You’re in church!” (She really was smiling warmly, and wasn’t being old and mean). I flipped down to the message I was sending and showed it to her, grinning larger than was necessary. She smiled and left me alone after that. I slowed down the texting to sync with slower parts of the service… but wow. It was mostly worship songs after that, and it became increasingly difficult to send out text messages with my hands in the air. I accidentally bumped into the upraised arm of the nice lady to my left while I had my hands raised and eyes closed. Guess I’d made a bit of a happy mistake. She loved Jesus, too, or so it seemed.
I actually wasn’t planning on being at Union Church this morning, but because of the Dining Commons, Wendy’s, and Burger King all being closed, I ended up in a long line at McDonalds and heading toward being a half hour late for the church I’d intended to attend. That meant that, because this was one of those multiple-services-that-all-have-to-be-short churches, I’d miss the worship. I didn’t want to do that, not on Resurrection Sunday.
On the way to the other church, I saw a sign for N 200 E, where I’d have to turn to go to Union Church. I have no idea how these things work, but I just had a feeling or decided (I never figured out exactly which) to go to Union Church today. Maybe it’s just because they started at ten and it was now 9:57, but who knows? I slowed down fast and made the right turn to go to Union Church.
They sang a lot of songs. The service was about freedom. They performed the “Set Me Free!” skit, then the pastor came up and said that the theme for the morning was freedom – freedom from whatever it was was holding you, and then listed off a bunch of things that can hold us humans captive. He preached for a while, then gave an invitation.
They were giving out broken chain links to take home, as a reminder of spiritual broken chains, to everyone who went forward. As usual, I assumed that the invitation was not for me, but for somebody else, and that I would cheer them on. I didn’t have anything I needed set free from. God had already… …Crap. The whole process of going from”I’m-okay” to “okay-maybe-I’m-no-okay” took about five seconds. I had a chain I needed freedom from. It was called Fear.
Fear. My prayer journal of late has been laced with Fear’s fingerprints. It’s a sort of certain fear, a fear of the known more than of the unknown. A fear that my past sins will come back to ruin my future. It’s mostly a fear taking a chance – not because of a fear that God isn’t faithful, but a fear that I might not be. A fear that I could fall back into former sins that wrecked my life once already. A chance that, to take it would put the stakes for maintaining my freedom so much higher. …As I was writing this, I suddenly realized that the stakes already ARE that high. Failure to take the chance is simply POSTPONING taking the chance, or assuming that it won’t come. I’ve been getting fed a pack of lies!!! Wait to take the chance. Wait for what?! ‘Till later, when there’s… still a chance that sin could screw up my life? As long as I am physically alive here on this earth, there will NEVER come a day when I could live life without a chance of sin messing it up. There will NEVER be a “right time” to take this chance when the stakes for my freedom wouldn’t be raised. Maybe it’s time for me to trust God with not only protecting me from sin, but with handling the consequences of sins I’m afraid I could commit – sins that He’s kept me free from for over a year and a half now.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.
I had a talk with Jaye Beatty a while ago. She said that I could be missing out on what God wanted to give me. That there were consequences to my decision to not take a chance – that I’m missing out on joy that God may have for me because I’m too scared to claim it.
And, by “pure coincidence” (yeah right), I’d come upon notes from the 2009 New Year’s Day service in my Bible earlier in the service. The notes sheet was in Numbers. What I was doing there, I have no idea. Tell me if this sounds suspiciously convicting:
God has something VERY special for you in 2009 – some of you are FEET away from the promised land, but are afraid of going in.
The Lord has blessings for you that you can’t even imagine.
THE THINGS THEY DID WRONG
1) They lived by fear, not faith. They worried. (v.2) “Scout out the land of Canaan I AM GIVING YOU.“ Some of you, all you have to do is go out and get it.
2) They lived in disobedience. God said go, they said no. They were so adamant about disobeying God that they went BACKWARDS.
3) They would not go forward; they lived in the past.
THE THINGS WE MUST DO DIFFERENTLY
1) Live by faith, not fear. 2.Tim 1:7, Phil. 4:6
Don’t be paralyzed by great pain in the past; let Jesus heal you.
Suspicious? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. This was prep, reminding me of what I needed freedom from, softening me up for the invitation…
So I caved. I turned to step out into the aisle… but the nice lady to my left was between me and the aisle. She had her eyes closed in worship and I couldn’t get past her without leaping over her chair or asking her to move. I stood there grinning. I didn’t have to go forward… though I kinda still wanted to anyway. All of a sudden, this girl on my right started moving toward me. Here was my chance to impose – not for myself, but for another person – and still get out into that aisle. I tapped the nice lady on the shoulder, and she saw what was up and moved out of the way. I followed the girl to the front of the church, smiling. I nearly always smile when I go forward. I figure I’m going forward to get rid of something I don’t want, or get something I do want, or both. I prayed. What incoherence I prayed, I’m not sure, but I think it went something like this:
God, I’m not quite sure why I’m here. I’m not even sure if I believe in this [quick-fix, go-to-the-altar-and-be-healed-immediately] stuff anymore. Doesn’t it take all kinds of counseling and stuff? But I’m gonna take a chance. I’m not gonna say this is where and when I let fear go, just to freak out when it comes back again. But I am going to say that this is a step of faith for me. By faith, I’m saying that I’m letting go of this fear in this moment, for the first time. This may not be the only time I’m letting go of fear, but it’s a great starting point. [In retrospect, it wasn’t the first time, either. Oh well.] So God, help me trust You. I’m Yours.
And then I went back to my seat. I stopped to give Troy a hug and explain that I’d been going to another church for the past few months but just… felt like I should drop by today. And that it was a God thing.
Before they dismissed the service, the folks up front told the congregation that the youth were giving out little devotionals about freedom, and to get one. I walked out of the service, and on my way out, sure enough, a nice, well-dressed young man handed me a miniature book. I read the title and rolled my eyes. “God, You’re a brat,” I said. I’d been had. You know, every now and then I get the feeling that God has set up a situation just for me, just because He can. This is the book they handed me.
So, as it turned out, the whole issue with two fast-food restaurants being closed so I’d have to wait in line at McDonalds and be super-late for the worship service, the whim to visit Union Church, the fact that I’d forgotten that I was going to try out Life Church this morning, and even the finding of the random sheet of Sermon Notes paper in my Bible, was all a plot. A sneaky plot by God to get me to a place He’d been trying to get me to. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’ve taken some steps. When they handed me the book, I knew God was laughing.
What is God actually up to, you ask? Why did He give you this?
…That’s for Him to know, me to suspect, and both of us to find out. Meanwhile, the broken chain link sitting on my desk represents to me both the chains that held me in my past, and the chains of fear that held me TO my past. By the grace of God, I want to begin trusting that my chains ARE gone, I HAVE been set free… and that I don’t have to be afraid of them anymore. Dang, I’ve been living for way too long like I’m still wearing them chains of the past!
Resurrection Sunday is a good day to choose to be free. But, now that it’s over, so is today.