It’s the Halloween month once again, and, once again, my thoughts go to scary things. I’ve often used those things as my inspiration for October, doing a series on evil or death or fear. I’m moved to look at fear again this month, but with a difference. All this year we have been declaring for “newness” in our lives, newness being defined as “a good as yet unimaginable in our lives.” Most of our hopes are really rearranged, dressed-up versions of things from our pasts. Newness is living at a level we haven’t yet experienced, so we can’t even imagine it right now; we have no frame of reference for it. But when it happens—Whoa! It’s amazing. It’s not evolution, but a quantum leap.
Now, there’s nothing less new than fear. It’s been with us since the dawn of time. Rev. Marcia Sutton taught us that there are two basic fears the whole human race is heir to: “There is not enough” and “I am not enough.” When you think about it, you can see how true this is. Much of human behavior and interaction are driven by these two fears. We all know the usual ways we cope with fear. We either run away, withdraw, whine, blame, get angry, build defenses, show false bravado, or grit our teeth and soldier on. We have also learned in some cases to test our fears, make peace with them, understand them, or even be inspired by them. But is there something new we could do with them?
Starting October 7, we are having a free book club reading the book Women, Food, and God, by Geneen Roth. (I’m telling everyone it’s about more than women, more than food, and all about God. More details inside.) In this book, Geneen Roth talks about how we view our pains, mistakes, and tragedies as things to fear (there’s that word again), run away from, or suppress way down deep. She says there’s another way to view them (a NEW way!): we can view them as doors to enter into a new world, a deeper world of understanding who we are, a world of greater closeness and communication with God. Since this is exactly what excites me, it almost makes me want to say, “Where can I get me one of them fears??” It sounds like a golden ticket!
When my children were small, maybe six and eight, I looked out the window to see them straddling the top bar of their swing set, much too high above the ground, scooting themselves along from one side to the other. Uncharacteristic of me, I fought the urge to yell at them to get down from there! They reached the other side and got down, none the worse for the wear. The thing that had stopped me from calling out to them was the look on their faces: they were grinning in a grim sort of way, full of focus and determination, but somehow elated, as they inched along, disaster lying just below them. When they got down, they ran into the house, flushed with excitement. I asked them what they were doing out there; my daughter Julia said, “We were facing our fears!”
Fear usually makes us contract, even at the level of our blood vessels. We feel smaller and definitely limited. My children had expanded in “facing their fears” and so can we. Expansion rather than contraction: that’s newness.
Rev. Mary Midkiff