Thanks for visiting, friend. This month’s topic has been a wonderful introspective opportunity. Tracy shared her thoughts last week HERE, Kim is up next week, and our guest, Megan, will wrap up the following week. We’ve been thinking about trusting God with our fears, and we’re pretty sure this topic relates.
Can I really trust God? On days that go smooth-as-silk, it can be easy—or I may not even ask that question at all. When my heart and mind are weakened by fear; admittedly, it’s tough.
People, personal space, and sharing my fragile self with others—it looks like very mild social anxiety, I suppose. The truth is, entering into relationships can be hard. If I’m honest, I admit to having a smidge of fear when people are different than me. Initially it was noticeable with men: they tend to be bigger, broader, imposing. I’ve suffered intense pain at the hands of a few men. That’s one reason I’m thankful for the gentler man God has given me.
“One bad apple spoils the whole bushel.”
What’s true in the fruit bowl doesn’t translate to relationships. Sometimes it’s hard to separate moments in time, the people involved, and the things that happened. I know I’ve gotten confused and lumped some people, places, and things together unconsciously.
A little knowledge is dangerous, and I’ve studied the human mind a little bit—enough to know that how we experience an event in time (especially with others) matters. When emotion floods a moment, it’s not uncommon for the mind to trap details in a way that changes future responses to similar events or people who appear similar. We can, consciously or unconsciously, generalize unkindness from a single person to a larger group: all men (or women) pay for the actions of one. Worse, all people whose skin looks a certain way or who align with a certain broadly-painted worldview face the phantoms of the past, stereotypes, or cultural caricatures portrayed in a hundred media outlets.
So, what do we do? Ultimately, we need to forget the stereotypes and caricatures, and put away the phantoms. But maybe we begin with baby steps.
I wondered what would happen if I tried to—
See, I mean really see, the person in front of me. Is this person the original source of my hurt? If not, I plan to let each individual stand or fall by his or her own choices and real actions. I don’t want others to pay for the actions of phantoms or the possible actions of cultural caricatures and old stereotypes I picked up in another time and place. I’ve been asking God to give me the insight to see which of the three views I’m holding in the moment. This is one area I’ve worked hard! I’m a work in progress, and it’s never easy, but I’ve begun to catch when generalization or transference is in play.
Be in the moment. I find it helpful to look around and ask Where am I right now? Who am I with? If this is a safe place with safe people, I want to embrace that and let down the guard and attitude I’ve maintained for too long. I can choose to be open, honest, receptive, even teachable in the moment. This step has grown in tandem with seeing, I think. When I consciously choose to see, it’s easier to be. The conversation and actions in the moment can be so important to the relationship. I’ll choose selfless authenticity in safety. The person in front of me might just do the same. Win-win!
Love. I’ll ask How can I love this person best in this moment? Loving those who are easy to love is low-hanging fruit in relationships. My challenge is stepping up to love the ones who are hard (and hard can look 100 different ways!). (Is that a challenge for you?) This is the uphill battle for me. The softer side of relationship (love) doesn’t come as naturally to me. Love is open and selfless and vulnerable a lot of the time. It’s not always received or returned. It’s not about return on investment. And love isn’t about all about me—or it’s not authentic love to begin with.
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10 CSB
When we look at God’s love given to us, it’s wholly different than the way we like others or offer kindness hoping to get something out of it. Jesus’ love was an all-in, holding-nothing-back kind of love!
19 We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Do the right thing! This is where faith has legs. I ask What’s the next right thing? But better yet—will I decide to lean in rather than out, listening attentively to the person I see and to the Spirit? Rather than fill the void with my own internal or external voice, will I wait for words and be still? If I don’t get to speak, will I choose that kind of stillness? Will I invest my time, energy, or resources in the way He leads? Even if it’s costly to me? Painfully so?
There is a right kind of fear…
11 Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Psalm 34:11
Catch that! Fear of the Lord, friend, is what we are hoping for—not fear of anyone or anything else. I want that to be real in my life, don’t you? Being quiet and listening is the start of that beautiful life trait. Listening isn’t related to a person’s looks or worldview. It’s a choice we make because someone is human and made in the image of God.
If you’ve hung in here, thanks for walking this slice of thought life with me. I wish I could hear the thoughts whirring in your mind right now! Do you struggle with this process in a “similar but different” way? I think we all do.
While I want to be fearless, I know parts of my character are being refined every day. This is just one area of my heart I desperately want to see grow and change into beautiful, peaceful strength. I’ve learned to lean into moments of mild awkwardness and discomfort with people different than me, and with practice, I’ve seen a lot of success. I respect some of the emotional boundaries (for now), giving myself grace for each day that reveals fear or crude relational skills. I understand I got to this place by experiences with people, and I know my Jesus loves all people and has a mind to help me love like He does. I won’t settle for where I am now. (What would happen if none of us settled?)
Think about this—Who are you afraid of? Where does the fear come from? If you didn’t settle, what would you do about it?
I hope you know how much the Facets team appreciate each of you. We hope you’ll bring your thoughts and ideas into the mix each week—that’s when the conversation gets rolling.