A Series on Fear. Part 1 of 2,958,671

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” G. K. Chesterton.

“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” Do you know who said that? Bonus points to those who can “Name That Saint!” (without using a search engine). I’m sure we all remember that game show from the 1970s. I revealed to a person at work that I’d jumped, albeit late, into the blog pool and she was so excited for me. I told her I decided to put aside my fears and just jump in, rank amateur that I am. I was born to do this. I guess I like jumping. I used to jump off the tallboy dresser when I was a kid. “Whee!” Flying through the air onto the bed. I also enjoyed jumping from a plane. “Whee! Oh, the chute is not opening.” True story. A future blog post. Stay tuned. I found I liked jumping from waterfalls too. Terrifying, but great stories.

NOT a Spirit of Fear!

I’m not the most courageous or brave person. In fact, often quite the opposite. So, knowing this, I frequently have to just jump. I do not “just do it”. I just jump. Fear is a real factor. Dealing with fear is a full time job! In fact, dealing with fear can be an entire lifetime. I see God rising from his thinker’s pose on the throne to counter me [cue the booming, thunderous male voice], “But I did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and self-control!” To me, God sounds like Treebeard. Sometimes I have to quote that to myself to convince myself that living in fear is truly wrong, un-Christian, insulting to God and real bondage. And quoting Him to me, and the eavesdropping enemies, really banishes them away and the fear with them.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”,  2 Timothy 1:7, ESV. It says right there on the bottle, “Directions: Quote. Believe. Repeat,”

But What If?

Having a very analytical nature does not help either, but what if? I learned from a friend who does 12 Step that I could what-if myself to death. I liked that. She said I could what-if myself crazy. Knowing there were millions of 12-steppers who also struggled with what-ifs made me feel less alone. I use that what-if line on friends when they start trying to control the future, plan all the bad things that could happen, and play God. I hate it when they act like me. One of them related so well, she confided her husband’s word to her, “catastrophizing.”

Photo by Ian Keefe
It’s very easy to play it safe and seek security. Even Hobbits like that particular M.O. (modus operandi). Stay home, stay comfortable, stay cozy. But if I had played it safe then I would not have had my life adventure-story up to this point. I would have just hid away and stayed bland. And if there is one thing I detest it is anything bland. Blech. I think I took after Jesus in that one way, “If you are neither hot nor cold I shall vomit you from my mouth!” My paraphrase of Revelation 3:16. I like a God with definite tastes. “Bring on the Sriracha, Lord, I know a great phở shop! Ok, maybe not the fire and brimstone grade Sriracha, Jesus.”  Even my beloved G. K. Chesterton spoke about how the Church, Christ’s bride, does not like all the mewling mediocrity in the middle and “has a healthy hatred of pink”. Bishop Barron talks about that in his video on the Chesterton book. It’s either-or with truth. But I digress.

I had to face the fact that facing a blank screen or a blank piece of paper were no excuse for not sharing a blog post inspired by the Holy Boss Himself. So, no blank paper phobia excuses will be sent to the principal’s office on my behalf should I become lazy, fearful, slothful or all of the above. Even in writing, one is constantly facing off with fear. “Who am I to write a blog? I’m not Augustine or Chesterton!” I have to just jump in and do it. I was born to do this. That’s why you are now hearing from a Who out of dusty little Whoville.

Fear Visible and Invisible

I have pondered the fear factor in life ever since I became aware of it. I learned from very holy men and women, such as Fr. John Hardon, S.J., theologian, that often demons are assigned to pester and discourage souls in life just as holy angels are assigned to souls to minister to them so as to make heaven. A wise Dominican priest, Fr. Anthony Rosevear, would preach to us at St. Dominic’s church that encouragement is from God and discouragement is from the devil. Period. Typical of a Dominican, he put everything in black and white. It was simple enough for me to get it. Plus it was definite, not hiding in that middle muddle I so detest. He explained about the French word Coeur, or heart, as the root of that word and truly a light came on in my mind. The “Aha!” moment. The fear I’d always felt as such a burden now made sense! I was being burdened by fear so as to be discouraged and to lose heart! That is not what God wanted for my life. Being fearful is how I lose the path and lose my way. As I write this the words, “Take heart” are again whispered into my mind. Did you hear that?!

The Bible has at least eight passages where the good Lord tells us plainly to “take heart.” The one that sprung to mind first was, “…take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 New Living Translation. Just pondering this has again shattered my mental glass ceiling. It made me realize I do not have to fear down here in this dominion of the “prince of this world,” John 14:30, NIV. I looked up the passage and was surprised at the full quotation, “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me.” I never paid attention to that last line, “He has no hold over me!” Have you? Can you hear me mentally shouting, “WOW!!!”? (I use that word so much they’ll have to put it on my tombstone.) Why am I shouting? Because once I heard the words “take heart” I immediately thought of the John 16:33 line about overcoming. Then, I heard myself proclaiming in my mind, “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.” I knew it was related to a bible passage so I looked it up and found what John wrote in 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” ESV. Woohoo! I’ve discovered my super power!

This is so exciting! I’m writing a blog post about fear but, God in His love and mercy is instead filling my mind and heart with courage! I am so delighted and excited I’m sharing this as it comes to me. I love that I serve the God of en-courage-ment! “Yes, Lord, I am taking heart!” Nothing like infused knowledge to get the timid writer fired up and proclaiming from her housetop. “Easy, Frances, your desktop will do.” “Yes, Lord.”

Are you afraid?

I often am.

Biblical Fear Busters

Chew on these slices of Bible bubble gum to bust fear in the chops. They are your Rx for today.:

“Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.”

Matthew 9:22, NIV

At.

That.

Moment!

Think about that! Instant healing! How about instant healing from fear? It can happen—if you believe or even just try.

 “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Psalm 31:24, NIV.

And one of my favorite Psalms that I often sing for Masses and funeral Masses,

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”

Psalm 27:14, NIV.

I love that passage and often find myself singing it to encourage myself. Sometimes the translation says, “be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.” Now being more than half Irish, the word stouthearted appeals to me. It makes me want to strike a superhero stance, take a big chest full of air, puff out my chest, hold it and then blow away all my problems.

Reel Lessons for Real Life

Do you see images coming to mind when you read these Bible passages? Does your mind make up a short movie to help you see the story? If it does, that is called Lectio Divina. It’s a way the Holy Spirit illumines your mind and heart by giving you your very own private screening of the Holy Scriptures. It’s a gift. It might only be a thirty second movie in your mind. If you do not have this, ask for it. God wants His Word to come alive in you! Pretend YOU are the one in need in the Bible and Jesus happens upon you.

Here, try this story on for size. “Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2, NIV. There you are, lying withered on your mat, soaked in ennui, and your friends up and grab the four corners, yanking you roughly to and fro, greatly upsetting you. “Hey! What gives, guys?!?” Then they try to lower you down gently in front of Jesus’ dusty feet but one of them accidentally drops the corner of the slippery grass mat and thump, there you are, looking up at The Face peering over the hem of His garment. And He says to you, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” You are still getting over the nerve of your pals dumping you in front of this famous rabbi when all of a sudden you start to feel a tingling in your feet that travels up to your numb bum and suddenly, the lightheartedness in you causes you to jump to your feet hollering, “Hallelujah!!!!” You do not really know what hit you but, you are so happy you are nearly dancing for joy freaking out all the onlookers. Jazz hands!!!

See? Yeah. That’s Lectio Divina. The movie between your ears. It’s not only fun but, it can heal you of all fear. Casting yourself in a starring role in the Bible can completely upend the grass mat of your life and dump you before a very loving Savior who can then send you off waving your hands and gleefully dishing out awe and inspiration to all who meet you. Ok, maybe not at Annoyance Level 7, but you get it.

Crowd Out Fear

If you want to get over fear, you have got to read the hundreds of Biblical be-not-afraid and take-heart lines and really imagine how they feel. You have to crowd out fear thoughts with good and holy thoughts. When someone takes 5,000 years to write a love letter to you, it would behoove you to read it with some imagination and care. I tell myself this often. Too frequently I find myself turning dry as parchment and dismissing the Bible passages sent to help me, “Yeah, yeah, another Bible quote.” But when I do wake up and partake of the Bible feast, I’m full of Vitamin B for Bible and can sense the changes in me. It’s exciting. You don’t want to miss this, trust me. It’s like Alice in Wonderland eating something you just know is going to completely transform her. And if the Bible holds the key to you kicking your fear to the curb, then sit down, eat, and super-size that helping of the Bible!

Fear In The First Person

Now its your turn to ask she-who-writes-in-the-first-person. After all, my initials are F. P.  “What exactly have you done that was so scary?” Fair question. Well, after a lifetime of sugar addiction, I gave up sugar completely last June. You don’t think that’s scary? You try it. I dare you. And give up starch too. I told you it was scary! But if you eat the sweet Word of God, then, aren’t all things possible? And who exactly IS the Word of God? You got that right, Jesus. And He so wants to comfort and build you up with spiritual-food-become-real that He is present to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Holy Communion. He, The Word, became food that is THE antidote to fear. He gives supernatural grace in Holy Communion to get us through this life to heaven. When people ask you what super power you have, tell them, “It’s the Eucharist!” And strike that superhero pose when you tell them you consume God— Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. All the power of the universe is your supernatural food. You are crowding out fear with God’s love and power.

Do you believe this?

That Famous Leap of Faith

Look, I’m such a chicken, I would stall out on anything until I saw Indiana Jones take that famous leap of faith. Remember that? He came to a canyon and there was no way across. So he stepped out in faith. Literally. He stuck his foot out across this limitless chasm and closed his eyes and then just stepped. I expected him to plummet like Wiley Coyote but instead, a wonderful miracle happened. A thin walkway appeared and he was able to gingerly walk across to get the Holy Grail. Yeah! That scene! I had to use that scene so many times in my life just to do big and small things. Think about it: I auditioned for the San Francisco Opera. Trust me–that was scary. Probably one of THE scariest things I’ve ever done. I had to do an Indiana Jones move and step out in faith.

I once heard the saying, “If you throw your head over the fence, the rest of you will follow.” So I used that logic to jump in to a second bachelor’s degree. Scary. I had no funds for tuition, but knew I had to do it. That is the music degree by which I trained my singing voice to the Olympian level of opera. I figured that was the end of my financial and romantic future and I was right. I had to put a lot of life on hold until I finished. Contemplating that huge sacrifice was scary. And lonely. Lonely is scary. But it was so worth it!

So those are some scary things, such as writing personal things in a blog out loud in public, that I tackled by God’s grace. What has God helped you to face head on? Did a saint inspire you? Well, Saint Joan of Arc inspires me to this day. What young girl leads an army to victory? Yes, horses, mud, swords and blood. Battle. And she said when asked, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” Mind blowing. If you battle fear as most of us do, then ask dear Saint Joan of Arc to help you. She will.

Photo by Toby Lewis, entitled “Joan of Arc – The Battle”, Feb 27, 2018

© 2018 Frances Peterson

Attributions:

  • All images are free to use, with Creative Commons CC0.
  1. Bible quotes taken from http://biblehub.net/search.php?q=
  2. Featured image: photo by Hanna Busing, free image from Madgeleine.com https://magdeleine.co/photo-hannah-busing-n-1099/
  3. Cozy house photo by: Ian Keefe, free image from https://unsplash.com/photos/OgcJIKRnRC8
  4. Leap photo: by Sammy Vasquez, free image from Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/Zdf3zn5XXtU
  5. Joan of Arc photo: by Toby Lewis, https://www.flickr.com/photos/76653379@N00/40042212774/in/photostream/

 

Epilogue: Some Suggestions for Conquering YOUR Fear

  1. Eucharistic Adoration – go do some “Son bathing”. He will heal your fear from the inside out. Live, online adoration here: http://www.savior.org/devotions.htm 
  2. Read the Bible. Really chew on one line for a day.
  3. Read books like, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyways” http://www.susanjeffers.com/home/detailtemplate.cfm?catID=2234
  4. Ask a scaredy-cat saint that overcame fear to help you. I’ll let you google that yourself.
  5. Strike a superhero pose, hands on hips, feet shoulder width, and stand there, for at least two minutes. Researchers have found that this changes the brain and increases courage and confidence. Don’t believe me? Try it. https://blog.ted.com/10-examples-of-how-power-posing-can-work-to-boost-your-confidence/
  6. Pretend you are Indiana Jones about to swing on a whip cord or jump a crevasse.

 

Helpful Hints about fear:

What brain researchers have found that helps:

https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/4-steps-break-anxiety-attack/

Great book to overcome fear:

http://www.susanjeffers.com/home/detailtemplate.cfm?catID=2234

Catholic Catechism on Angels by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.

Inspiration:

Who is Saint Joan of Arc?

Take Baby Steps

See Indiana Jones step out here

Bishop Barron explaining Chesterton’s quote about “Christianity’s healthy hatred of pink”:

Look to him starting this thought at 1:19. https://wofclassics.com/chesterton 

Overcome your perfectionism with a little help from Chesterton