At face value, extreme fear (i.e. Terror) is this overwhelming, draining, malignant dragon. It’s the beast behind not having enough toilet paper, going out in public (or being asked to stay at home when we don’t want to), big social changes, etc, etc. Its terms are harsh and its voice is loud.
It’s only through my experience with fear that I’ve been able to see its gifts. This doesn’t come naturally or easily. This is something I have to strive to see, because if I’m not careful I’ll only know the beast.
For most of my life, rather than listening to the messenger of fear, I banished it. The dragon of terror teamed up with my shame, telling me that if I was scared then I must be weak, and if I’m weak then something is dreadfully wrong with me. And because that line of thinking is too much to bear, banishment it is.
What I didn’t realize was that in banishing my fear, I was also banishing other parts of my heart that desperately needed a voice too.
The harsh terms of extreme fear initially create a two-choice dilemma: either react to it and follow its instructions, or give up hope and live a life of resignation. Resignation is when we choose to hide our heart away because we are afraid of being hurt or disappointed. I was misguided by the urgency of terror for a long time. I was only ever reacting or resigning.
Thankfully, I was shown another way: the trail of faith.
I like to describe faith as an attitude of trust in spite of fear. When we choose to see and hear fear as a message, we can enter into a new relationship with it. This message will then lead us to a place of need. It can help us see that we were never created to live a life of self-sufficiency. That we don’t have to whistle alone in the dark.
A new relationship with fear now means that I invite my messenger in, feel what I’m feeling, and take the time to consider the message. Sometimes the message is clear and pragmatic, such as, “I would be safer if someone held this ladder at the bottom.” Sometimes the message is deeper and invites me into a journey of faith. Maybe I need someone to hold these other ladders at the bottom as well.
Faith is not the absence of fear. On the contrary, I’m learning that I can be afraid and engage faith. My experience has been that without knowing my fear I can’t and won’t know my need for faith. It’s a paradox that passing through the very thing I don’t want to feel will take me to a place of finding my true needs.