Since coming to here in June, one phrase has been burned into my mind and heart: You're living in fear. Usually, it's used for simple and almost comic circumstances, such as when I fled in fear of the massive June bugs as we racked hay one evening or when Jeff would get a little crazy behind the wheel on our way to Goražde. But in the few times that it hasn't been a joke, there are deep and almost sickening implications laying behind such a seemingly simple statement. You're living in fear. What does that even mean? Well, I am here to tell you what that has meant for me in the last two months.
First, I think it would be beneficial to see what the world defines as fear:
Fear (noun) is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
What does fear mean in the lives of those who follow Christ?
Living in fear should not even be an option for those who are pursuing Christ with everything in them. "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15) Fear is not of God, and it is God who casts it out with His love. Not living in fear is realizing that your life is not your own. What would happen in the world if Christians quit living in fear? Fear of discomfort. Fear of rejection. Fear of leaving the American dream. Fear of leaving family and loved ones. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death... I am convinced that this world be completely turned upside-down.
Jesus told His followers to "go". Whether that is in your neighborhood, community, state, country, or in a country you didn't even knew existed, GO. Too often we skim over those uncomfortable and challenging passages in the bible such as The Rich Ruler in Luke 18. Church, we have become too attached to earthly things like family, marriage (finding the right person and then you can worry about serving God after), the American dream, possessions, and being comfortable. We have become so afraid of leaving the things we have become used to behind and fail to realize that we are actually elevating those things above God. Just thinking about leaving those things makes us anxious because we have never known anything else.
Fear is a choice. It is a choice to place a veil over your eyes to block out things that God could be calling you to. If we truly love God and truly believe in His promises, there is no room for fear in our lives. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) My guess is (and I am speaking for myself at this time) is that if fear of "going" is holding me back from building God's kingdom on earth, I need to seriously reevaluate my love for and commitment to Christ.
I often think of Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go! and subconsciously replace the word "you'll" with "you could." "Could have" is probably my least favorite phrase in the English language, closely followed by "would have" and "should have." These phrases carry the implication of failure to me. Usually, they come to mind when I think of missed opportunities. I am not one to dwell on past, but I would be lying if I said that they don't bring me some sadness when I hear them being spoken of my life. It for this reason that I have recently challenged myself to immediately stop and go back as soon as I realize that a opportunity is in danger of becoming a "should have," "would have," or "could have" situation. The grips of my fear of certain situations and what could come from them is becoming less and less powerful. Let's not be a church of "would/should/could haves" and let's be driven by our love of Christ to serve.
All of this craziness to say, I have been prayerfully considering coming back here full time after school. The more I am here, the more God is revealing to me truth that I, myself, have veiled my eyes from seeing and ears from hearing. I am pursuing God's plans for me here and I truly believe that God is opening my eyes to the lostness here and opportunities that exist for me to involve myself in here. Fear is not going to have a hold on my life in this decision. Yes, I love my family dearly and will miss a lot of really important events in their lives being here. Yes, I will miss my incredible friends and their company. Yes, I do believe that God could use me at home, in America. BUT 1) all of those things are comfortable and 2) none of those things come before God. None of them. This is me making the conscious decision to put God first and not living in fear. He already crushed fear on the cross... hallelujah!
That's where I am in this very moment. Stay tuned for updates and more of the craziness that happens in my head.