Upon my return to Swaziland, I had a panic attack. What have we done? What if our dreams bomb miserably? What if made a huge mistake in living here? What if we never get land, or a place to root into? I mean, I road that train – the fear train. The “let’s-be-realistic” train. I was terrified for a day or so. I was miserable and very afraid we had made a mistake. Somewhere in my determination to drag myself out, I remember Sean and i saying once before we moved that “it does seem crazy, but it’s our collective dream, if we don’t pursue and live it now, we will never be able to face ourselves or each other.” It was what we felt meant for. So why do I feel so discouraged?
This excerpt from a book I’ve been reading sums it up pretty well. His words also caused me to consider the fear-filled state many experience when … Well, let me not taint your interpretation, or bend your ear to hear what I heard. Let us challenge ourselves to identify the voices we listen to, and discern if we should tell them to “SHUT UP!” or “GO ON!”
“Though we think of ourselves as followers of Jesus, we are often seduced by the fearful questions the world presents to us. Without fully realizing it, we become anxious, nervous, worrying people caught in the questions of survival; the survival of our families, friends, and colleagues; the survival of our church, our country, and our world. Once these fearful survival questions become the guiding questions if our Ives, we tend to dismiss words spoken from the house of love as unrealistic, romantic, sentimental, pious, or just useless. When love is offered as an alternative to fear we say :”Yes, yes, that sounds beautiful, but …”
The “but” reveals how much we live in the grip of the world, a world that calls Christians naive and raises “realistic” questions: “Yes, but what if you grow old and there is nobody to help you? Yes, but what if you lose your job and you have no money to take care of yourself and your family? Yes, but what if refugees come to this country by the millions and disrupt the ways we have been living for so long? Yes, by what if the Cubans and Russians become powerful in Central America and start building their missiles in our own backyard?”
When we raise these “realistic” questions we echo a cynical spirit that says: “Words about peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and new life are wonderful but the real issues cannot be ignored. They require that we do not allow others to play games with us, that we are always ready to retaliate when we are offended, that we are always ready for war and never let anyone take away the good life we have so carefully built up for ourselves.” But as soon as these so-called real issues begin to dominate our lives, even though we keep borrowing words of love and continue to experience vague desires to live in the house of love.
Love is stronger than fear, though it may often seem that the opposite is true. “Perfect love casts out all fear” says St. John in his first letter. (1 John 4:18)
But is it possible in the midst of this fear-provoking world to live in the house of love and lists. There to the questions raised by The Lord of love? Or are we so accustomed to living in fear that we become deaf to the voice that says, “Do no be afraid.” This reassuring voice, which repeats over and over again, “Do not be afraid, have no fear,” is the same voice we need most to hear. This voice was heard by Zechariah when Gabriel, the angel of The Lord, appeared to him in the temple and told him that his wife Elizabeth would hear a son; thus voice was heard by Mary when the same angel entered her house in Nazareth and announced that she would conceive, bear a child, and name him Jesus; thus voice was also heard by the women who came to the tomb and saw the stone was rolled away. “Do no be afraid, do not be afraid, do not be afraid.” The voice uttering these words sounds all through history as the voice if God’s messengers, be they angles or saints. It is the voice that announces a whole new way of being, a being in the house if love, the house of The Lord…. The house of love is the house of Christ, the place where we can think, speak, and act in a way of God – not in the way of a fear-filled world.
– Henri Nouwen from The Essential Henri Nouwen