Again, by my choice of image, I am pulling a quote out of context to give it additional meanings. I do, however, think it is worth considering.
Further reflections after one month of consistent attention to the Fear Not messages in the Bible:
#1 - I recognize that I skip over a lot of verses because they seem too particular to their context. So while I'm on number 41 (and a few of those are pulled from the New Testament) this Isaiah verse is actually the 68th Fear Not message chronologically in the Bible.
#2 - Not surprisingly, everywhere I turn I see fear not messages and conversely, be fearful messages. It goes to show, how, when you attune yourself to a thing you begin to see it more frequently. The lesson here, if nothing else, is pay attention to what you attune yourself to. (For example, as a former English teacher, I frequently attune myself to bad grammar, so I recognize that I ended the previous sentence with a preposition.) If you attune yourself to cases of animal cruelty, you will begin to see them everywhere. If you attune yourself to educational failings, you will see it. If you attune yourself to the beauty of the natural earth, you will enjoy it. If you attune yourself to the role of pasta in the average person's life... you will eat more pasta!
Even last night at a funeral I attended, two of the passages read were ones I had previously blogged about, though the verses were emphasized differently. The preacher emphasized Light in the Psalms 27 passage (as the power had cut out during the viewing and the whole service was lit by candles, emergency back up lights or "mercy lights" as they're called here in the mountains, and cell phones).
Hang on for a moment while we consider the phrase mercy lights... the lights that kick on when everything goes dark so you can make your way safely, so you can carry on. A light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out. (paraphrase of John 1:5)
In the second passage that grabbed my attention, the preacher emphasized the widow woman doing what Elijah had commanded because God had empowered him as his voice. But both times, I heard Do not be afraid, because of my contextual interactions with those passages. Further, the Isaiah passage reminded me that the widow woman's ability to fear not was the real point of emphasis of the story and that God empowered her equally.
#3 - I'm getting to the point of saying Now what? What do I do with fearlessness?
I like the phrase fearless engagement. But with what shall I engage? For me, it is not enough to wallow in one's blessings and "saved" state. In that whole Faith vs. Works debate, I come out on the Works side. In the Martha vs. Mary philosophy of life... I'm a Martha. (I still can't get over the fact that Jesus chided her.)
The other notion that has taken hold this past month is an extension of fear not phased like the Hippocratic Oath which doctors take to "do no harm" --- and that is Cause no fear. I really like this idea, though I'll admit, that as a school teacher and coach, I often fell back on a kind of threat or intimidation to motivate, and I may do that now in parenting and in life. So, I'm trying to be more attentive to that in my current interactions.
Also, when I attended my home congregation Assembly Mennonite over Christmas, I learned that their advent services had been focused on one theme: Moving from fear to service. That certainly hit home! I wish I could have heard more of the sermons and reflections. Indeed, fear is based on the personal...where as Christ asks us to serve others--the coat from my back to the coatless one. The sermon I heard, while reading extensively from a Junie B. Jones book (awesome!), concluded by saying if we are living fearless lives, they are by extension not ego-driven or self-driven, and thereby, all we do is service. It was a different take for me: letting go of ego as a way of letting go of fear. As I move from the Old Testament and into the New in this series, I will certainly be looking to Jesus and his example to answer the "now what" question.
It is as if, during advent, I was unwittingly doing the work to prepare for Christ's arrival. Even the advent theme in my current church (First Presbyterian) dovetails: the idea that Christ/Christianaty is, at its heart, counter-culture. That, too, rang true as I thought about fear. Now when I approach and move through the Gospels I am ready for a fresh take.
Just in time for Lent.
So, one month after engaging in this endeavor to fear not, I feel like I have made some good progress with myself. Yes, I have work to do, but I'm willing to keep at it.
For an explanation of this Fear Not series, read my first post on the nature of fear. By all means, feel free to scroll through the other posts, too.