Becoming A People Beyond Fear

Fear is like a disease. Have you ever noticed yourself becoming more anxious when you’re around an especially anxious person? It’s the same with fear. We become more fearful when we’re around fearful people. Fear spreads like wildfire, turning what was abundant and thriving into ashes. And our rash attempts to ease our fears only adds fuel to the fire until, eventually, our fear consumes us.

The climate of the world we live in (and I don’t mean the weather climate) has become, among many other things, a climate of fear. We are afraid of the “other,” afraid of ideas that aren’t our own, afraid of people who don’t look like us, dress like us, or practice religion like us. When we are steeped in such fear, it not only spreads but it multiplies, becoming bigger and stronger and more powerful as it picks up speed, like an avalanche.

I am not fearless, as it turns out.

I too, look at the reality of the world we live in and wonder how I could possibly raise my children in a place where the collective fear and hatred seems insurmountable at times. I listen to the political rhetoric and wonder what kind of leaders will usher my children from adolescence to adulthood – will my children even know what an honest, just, and moral leader is?

But we must be a people beyond fear. A community of people who does love. Love isn’t just a fuzzy feeling inside. It’s not a spectator sport. It requires full participation, dirty hands (sometimes literally), and these things: tolerance. empathy. understanding. grace. endurance.

“If we want to be a community of people unafraid of the future, unafraid to change the world, unafraid of doing the right thing—and here I’m going to define the “right thing” as being thing one that brings more peace, more patience, more goodness, more gentleness, more kindness, more joy to any situation—we need to be people who love well and love often.” -Melissa Camara Wilkins

Engaging Our Fear

We must operate out of a different space, a space of bravery. A space of humility and acceptance. We must step outside of our private, safe bubbles and into the world. Into conversation with our brothers and sisters. Into the (often) harsh realities of the communities we live in, regardless of how uncomfortable we feel about homelessness, drug addiction, politics, domestic violence or immigration, all of which stare us blankly in the face and ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Progress never comes without difficulty. Peace never comes without tribulation. But the question should never be, ‘Is this easy or is this hard?’ The question should be, ‘What is God asking of me in this moment?’

How many times has fear held you back from fully participating in your own life? You hear the quiet whisper telling you to move (or rather, to stay put), to quit the job you hate, to speak up for that cause you care deeply about, to talk to the stranger on the street corner – but fear holds you back. Your fearful mind tells you that it’s not practical or wise or the right timing (news alert: it will never be the right timing), while your spirit tells you that it doesn’t matter.

I’m not fearless. I’m not. But I’m trying more and more these days to stare fear in the face and do something about it.

How are you overcoming fear? What are you going to do about it?



On Being Neighborly

Growing up, one of my best friends was a total home-body. Staying home (or close to home) on a weekend and visiting with family, running errands around town and getting together with friends was totally ok with her. I envied this about her sometimes. For the most part, she was perfectly content staying in and around the community we grew up in. Me, on the other hand – I was always dreaming of the next destination to add to my bucket-list of places to explore. I wanted nothing more than to escape the town I grew up in. I had what I like to call “restless soul syndrome.” She never understood my itch to travel and frankly, never felt the same urge to get out of dodge like I did. Neither was better than the other – just different.

I know I’m not alone in my love for travel. I can’t count the number of friends, or even strangers, who’ve told me how much they love to travel. There’s something oh-so enticing about escaping the familiar – it allows us space to grow, to learn new things and to be nothing but our whole, true selves. We’re not the employee, the daughter, the volunteer, the manager, or the parent (or if we are, at least we’re a better version of our parenting selves!). And traveling allows us to escape our calendars, social media, email, commitments – all of which can quickly become a ball and chain. Society has become so demanding of our time, our money and our emotional and mental resources that it’s no wonder we want to escape sometimes. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with travel – except when the desire to escape becomes so strong that we start living in our plans instead of our realities. When we put traveling on a pedestal above all else, it can quickly cast a shadow on everyday life.

I’ve felt caught between these two poles – the familiar and the unfamiliar – for much of my life. I’ve always placed such value on traveling (and it *is* so valuable!), but now, as I enter the thick of parenting, I’ve come to understand the importance of planting roots as well. Of really being invested in my community, of knowing my neighbors and being a good neighbor, of being a good steward of the city I live in. I believe that one of the reasons we’re placed on this great green Earth is to take care of each other, and some of the places this can most easily play out are in the neighborhoods and cities we live in, right under our own two feet. I’m trying really hard to keep all of these things in mind as I raise my girls, but I’ll admit, it’s hard.

There are small ways this can happen, however. Lately, one of the ways in which I’m trying to invest in my community is by getting to know more of my neighbors. Those who know anything about personality types know that for an INFJ like myself, “small talk” isn’t my favorite. I love connecting with people, but the passing, hurried, “How are you’s” and “Have a good days” that happen between drop offs, pick ups, and errand running don’t always cut it for me. I want to sit down with a glass of wine in hand and really know my neighbor. How did they come to live here? How do they spend their free time? What are their favorite places to visit? Unfortunately, the culture we live in doesn’t always allow for these kinds of interactions, at least not without a good bit of planning and intention. Heck, it’s hard enough to plan those kind of interactions with my own friends! But being friendly with neighbors and good stewards of our communities doesn’t have to mean hosting an extravagant dinner party or talking for hours about what makes us tick – it can mean bringing a meal to the couple who just welcomed a new baby into their family, contributing a few books to the Little Free Library down the street, or hosting a Spring Clean-up on your block and inviting your neighbors to participate.

In the words of Mother Teresa,

I want you to be concerned with your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?

I’m doing ok in this area – I feel lucky to have (and know!) a few pretty fantastic neighbors – but I know I can do better. In the midst of our busy-ness, it’s so easy to forget about those nearest us. But we’re planted where we are – in our exact city, our exact neighborhood, our exact home, and with our exact neighbors – for a reason. We owe it to each other to really, fully participate in the community we are placed in rather than pass through on our way to the next exciting destination on our bucket-list.

Being in community with our neighbors doesn’t minimize the value of and pure joy of traveling. Do I still want to expose my family to new cultures, different ways of living, and new experiences? Absolutely. But since hitting the road and traveling the world isn’t a reality for us (now, at least!), I’m choosing to plant roots in my very own neighborhood.

What are you doing to plant roots in your community?

Knowing your neighbors and being a good steward of the community we live in is important - here are some of the small ways I am being an intentional neighbor.