Monday, September 16, 2013

The Bogeyman, The Monster, & The Ghost: Dealing With Fear

On March 4, 1933, newly elected U.S. President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uttered the now famous words, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” during his inaugural speech. At the time, the United States was facing one of the worst economic crises in history and the eternally optimistic FDR was trying his best to keep the country from erupting in panic. Whether it was that statement or dozens of his innovative new approaches to kick start the economy, things began to rapidly improve soon after that speech.

Over the years I have thought about FDR's famous quote. After all, one of my diagnoses is mixed anxiety disorder (sort of like mixed nuts - which sounds apropos!) including obsessive compulsive disorder and general anxiety disorder. I have lived many if not most days of my 35 years in a state of fear. Sometimes I wake up with it, sometimes it creeps up in the afternoon, and sometimes I go to bed with it. Heck, sometimes I am scared of who I go to bed with!

But I'm thinking today, isn't fear really just a big bogeyman, the monster under the bed, the ghost in the closet? Maybe fear isn't real at all, as I've heard many people say. There is a difference between fear and danger. Danger can be real, fear is not.

I'm trying to live in the moment today as several things are up in the air in life. But from inside I hear that persistent, divine voice calling, saying to me, "Mark, why won't you let it go? It's out of your control. You can only do as much as you can do, and the rest is up to me. Let go of your fear. Do it!" I know it is easier said than done, but I believe that yes, it can be done. Sometimes we need help doing it. For me, I have anti-anxiety medication and friends and guides to help me. If there is one thing in my life that I would choose to change if someone gave me a magic wand, it would probably be that I wouldn't be so afraid all the time. It shortens our lifespan, and robs us of being in the present moment.

Speaking of being in the present moment, I am thinking again that prayer and meditation are essential ways to deal with our fear, our anxieties. Just to take some time each and every day and quiet our mind, and if we are spiritual, pray and listen to the affirming words that the Spirit is telling us. The Scriptures say that where love is, fear is not, that in fact perfect love casts out all fear. Probably my favourite verse in the Bible (1 John 4:18).

It is hard, it is dreadfully hard to trust and let go of our many fears. It is as if we are trapeze artists who have to trust that there is a net underneath of us if we fall. The Spirit is our net, and She will not let us go.

Bless you on your journey today,

Mark Andrew Nouwen