Between the Thunder and the Lightning

At the beginning of the year, I wrote these words: “I’m not one for many New Year’s resolutions, but I know this: I want to welcome what this year brings with open hands, embrace beauty, dare to follow creativity, and refuse to be led by fear.”

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that last part. Refusing to be led by fear.

You don’t need me to tell you that so much of the world around us is shaped strongly by fear – fear of strangers, of opposing views or political parties, of losing our retirement or the admiration of the crowds. More and more, we’re starting to talk as a nation about fear & divisions & polarization. I’m glad for that. And more and more, I realize that this culture of fear has certainly seeped into my own heart as well.

“The barriers and walls around communities, as they lock themselves up in fear or elitism, are the mirrors of those barriers and walls that people put around their own wounded hearts.”  – Jean Vanier

The more I think about what it takes to create a healthy community, the more I wonder what it means to reject the narrative of fear. If our natural bent is to turn inward in protectiveness, we may live among a lot of friendly people without ever opening ourselves to truly connect with our neighbors. If we’ve absorbed a subconscious idea of scarcity, it will be much more difficult to be generous with and trust those around us.

Who can teach me what it looks like to live life unafraid?

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A friend and I have been discussing the way we feel and think differently after five years out of college. I told her that I think the scariest part about this year for me is starting to glimpse the long-term implications of decisions we’ve made, yet still having no idea what the future holds. All the big questions – should we settle down here or keep moving? Should I stay in this career or risk a new one? Is this really what God wants, or is this just what I want? – are still there. Now I just realize the stakes can be higher than I thought. I don’t know, I kinda thought after five years we’ve have figured some of this out by now.

It seems there are so many paradoxes in this life. I fear sacrificing my values for stability; I fear sacrificing community for the sake of values. I fear never putting down roots; I fear getting too comfortable. I’m keenly aware that neither stability nor constant change are virtues, but I fear that I’ll be forced to compromise myself either way.

In between the thunder and the lightning, what does it mean to walk in humble trust and faithfulness, refusing to be led by fear?

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When I wrote those words in January, here’s what else I also said: “In the good and the bad, the point is always Jesus. In the midst of our questions and chaos, the gift he gives is Himself.” I have to keep reminding myself that the point isn’t living our lives perfectly or getting it all right. We’re not living for an ideal, after all, but for the Word Made Flesh.

Life is a funny, unpredictable thing, and I want to celebrate this instead of stressing over it. Today, as I rode the bus home in the rain, I suddenly felt a great sense of love and gratefulness swelling up in me at this beautiful, messy, hopeful world we get to be a part of. I can’t imagine anything more wondrous than living in a world where there is grace, where there is redemption. And I wondered, is this a taste of what it’s like to live unafraid?

For me, I think living without fear today means:

…taking the risk to love deeply, stay curious, and remain vulnerable

…remembering that mistakes can be redeemed into something beautiful instead of beating myself up over them

…practicing generosity and letting go of scarcity

…focusing on living authentically instead of just aiming for  “not disappointing others”

…believing I am held firmly by the One who holds the thunder and lightning in His hands.

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“But it’s precisely when we start getting uncomfortable that we know we’ve found our lane—when it takes us closer to conflict, closer to the person or thing we fear. When we find ourselves pressing into pain.

Your lane is bigger than you think. Your lane isn’t a country, a program, or an issue. Your lane is with people—with the resiliently broken, the down-but-not-out, the lovely unlovables.

This is the lane for everyone who chooses the world-remaking, peacemaking way of preemptive love. The lane is wide, and there’s room for a lot more.

There’s room for all.”

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