Fear As Vehicle of Grace

It has always fascinated me that the most often repeated advice throughout the Scriptures can be boiled down to two simple words: Fear Not!  To me this means that Our God knows us so well, knows how we are sometimes consumed by fear of listening, changing, trying something new, and a host of other things. The message seems to be anything worth doing in this life will always have some level of fear attached to it.  Think about deciding to marry someone, or having a baby, or changing jobs, or moving across the country.  Every life event or decision seems to have fear attached and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  After all, human evolution has gifted each of us with a strong survival instinct, and sometimes fear is our way of questioning whether we really want the new life these changes will bring. It is also a potent reminder that releasing and grieving the past is a necessary part of moving into the new.

Fear has a way of throwing us off balance, making us feel uncertain and insecure, but that does not always mean that we should feel discouraged or avoid making decisions that are life-changing. Sometimes its purpose is to notify us that we are at the edge of our comfort zone, poised between the old life and a new one. Choosing to face our fears allows us to overcome an inner obstacle and move fully into the new territory of life, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The more we learn to respect and welcome the presence of the Living Christ within us, the easier it will be for us to determine what kind of fear we are holding.  Is it a fear that derives from our soul’s desire to maintain the status quo because that is what God is whispering to us? Or is it a fear that comes from our limited view of the great dream God has for us and that is preventing us from embracing our call more fully?  The more we are able to determine the nature of our fear, the easier it will be to allow its wisdom to let us know whether the time has come for us to move forward or not. Clearly we are never going to feel comfortable with fear, but we can learn to recognize its arrival, listen to its rationale and even come to respect it as a harbinger of real transformation. And if indeed this fear is informing us that the change we are considering is significant and according to God’s holy will, then we can better approach it with the proper reverence.

When the fear sweeps in and threatens our ability to make a decision, we can engage in conversation with our fear, plumbing its depths for a deeper understanding of the changes we are considering.  Prayer, meditation, journaling, conversing with a spiritual director or other companion—all of these are possible ways to discern the nature of the fear.  So often it is the frustrating mix of emotions that derails us, but when we can articulate our worries, our sadness, our excitement, our hope, we can find the answer we are seeking.  Fear doesn’t need to stop us in our tracks, it can instead be used as a vehicle for the soul to discover the next layer of its sacred calling. Fear almost always comes alongside anything worth doing in life, so there’s no need to allow ourselves to be paralyzed.

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About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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