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The “F” Word

The “F” word that I encounter regularly has a way deeper impact than the one you are probably thinking about. FEAR. 

"Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise. "

I came across these two phrases recently and have been very preoccupied with them. Did you know that in the Bible, asking us “not to fear" appears over 80 times? That, too, has been on my mind.  One of my favourite passages in the Bible, Isaiah 43:1-2, asks us to trust, trust, and then trust God some more.  

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

Now back to those phrases; there’s a relationship between them, “Forget Everything And Run”; don’t be uncomfortable. “Face Everything And Rise”; find comfort in discomfort. It takes practise to do this and begins with a choice to not turn away from difficulty/discomfort. It means choosing to not be distracted and feel uncomfortable feelings. To me, this summarizes Isaiah 43:1-2 in contemporary language. 

When I was getting divorced six years ago, except for my pastor and a couple of close people in my life, people didn’t want to hear about the ugly stuff. Rarely was I asked what it felt like to not see my baby children everyday. There was often no space to talk about the anger and immense burden of being divorced with young children. Everyone had advice for how to just ignore my ex-husband. I just needed to be listened to. At church, I often had people come up after the service and announce that “they were praying for me” but again besides my pastor, no one asked me what the heck they should even be praying for. How’d they know? I don’t think they wanted to know because it was too uncomfortable.  

We all wanted to face our pain, our God and ourselves.

I think that’s the fear of knowing how someone really feels. I get it, it’s hard to ask the “right” question and it’s easier to just “keep it light”. But, If we don’t ask questions, we simply cannot know. Knowing is sometimes asking difficult questions and listening. 

Awake my Soul is divorced/separated persons support group that started three years ago in All Nations CRC in Halifax out of  the desire to Face Everything And Rise. I wanted to create a space where we who were going through a major life crisis could be open about our raw feelings, struggles and turmoil with a sense of normalcy. After all, it was our normal. We all wanted to face our pain, our God and ourselves. This bi-monthly practise with fearless women taught me the meaning of Isaiah’s lines, “do not fear”. Being in difficult situations or conversations means we have made the choice to try to conquer fear. We need to trust God and give the finger to the crippling power of fear. We can face everything and rise by accepting that God is right there within us.

That change has to happen within us and around us.

Acknowledging others’ hardships through the support group also prepared me for being a member on the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee and turning ugly fear on its head. I had been practising facing crisis with my group and wanted to extend it to being a Canadian citizen. The discourse on reconciliation between Indigenous people and settlers in Canada seemed daunting. I also wondered if decolonizing ourselves as a church was conceivable. Being on CIMC I learned that  reconciliation has one constant; change. That change has to happen within us and around us. I have learned that facing fear is about:

  • Listening

  • Asking thoughtful questions

  • Finding comfort in discomfort

  • Trusting God’s process 

We may have to pass through the rivers and the flames to learn to trust that they won’t destroy us. Abandoning fear takes practice. Maybe Isaiah’s passage is encouraging us to build community and trust that being in relationship with discomfort isn’t as frightening as it seems. Engaging is not fixing, rather engaging is trusting that we will have the ability to courageously listen. It is willingly being made vulnerable to another person’s pain and simultaneously not feeling a burden to carry them. It’s trusting that God will carry us through it. Together. “Do not fear...I will be with you.”              



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