Bored in Vernalfear 14 Comments

I am acquainted with physical fear.

A friend and I, two women of a certain age, accompanied our children to an amusement park on a weekday.  The children were allowed complete freedom, with an admonition to return to the meeting place at 5 pm.  My friend and I found myself with several hours to fill, and we decided to be daring.  Instead of finding a shady spot and chatting, eating several hundred dollars worth of funnel cakes, we thought we would recall our youth by riding the most scary rides in the park.  I had not been on one of these rides in many years and had forgotten the sensations associated with climbing 100 feet into the air with a crowd at my back.  When I reached the top of the rollercoaster, my forehead was slick with sweat.  I took my seat and the cars on the wooden tracks began to creak.  I felt distinctly unsafe.  The coaster crept to the edge of a precipice, and as it rolled off into thin air, a July Fourth sparkler exploded in my chest.  This was physical fear.

Emotional fear, though not as tangible, nevertheless can be paralyzing.  I have experienced this fear in my relationships with my parents.   I find it difficult to discuss the “family secrets”–the ones everyone in the family knows, but no one ever talks about.

A fear which is certainly different than either of these two is spiritual fear.  Have you experienced it?  What does this scripture tell you about spiritual fear?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)

At times I experience spiritual fear in the form of a hesitation to pray.  I fear that there might not really be a Higher Power, and that I am only talking to myself.  Other times I fear that I am unworthy of approaching such a sublime being.  Or I don’t know if God is micromanaging this earthly existence enough to care if I find my lost car keys or have enough money to pay my tithing this month.  At my most spiritual, I find my tongue bound because I am waiting for the Holy Ghost to dictate my prayers to me in the true order of prayer.

Why do you think power, love, and a sound mind are put in contrast to fear in the above biblical verse? What spiritual fears do you confront, and how do you plan to combat them?

Comments 14

  1. Being on a mission teaches you spiritual fear.

    Fear that you’re not doing enough. Fear that sleeping in 5 minutes late that morning will cost the Salvation of every person you talk to that day. Fear that you’re not saying it in the right way. Fear that you’re not supposed to be out there. Fear that the people you’re teaching just aren’t going to make the right decision (and this fear turns out to be true 99% of the time).

    There are great joys in going on a mission, and I have a testimony that they are a true principle and created by God, but, for better or for worse, they teach you spiritual fear.

  2. I never really thought of that scripture being about spiritual fear. Interesting perspective. I think this is somewhat difficult to understand in a strictly LDS context (which sounds more like doubt to me), much easier to consider from a humanist perspective (which is like self-doubt or panic in the face of self-actualization). In Millman’s book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, he talks about this a lot at various stages of self-awareness and self-acceptance.

  3. By coincidence, we’re having a Hamer family reunion in Minnesota this week and most of the adults went to the amusement park last night, including me and my sisters, two of whom have Mormon blogs under the names Chanson and Apple Valley Mom. Like you, it was the first time I had been to an amusement park in years — for me, it had been about 12 years. I was shocked by the technology improvements on the first ride we went on. It was a kind of rollercoaster like ride that went back and forth, up into the air on a track shaped like a U. What was totally unexpected for me was the instant acceleration. I admit, that was scary! We had to ride it 5 more times!

    I’m excited to see you at MormonMatters, Bored in Vernal.

  4. I am in a rush right now, but I wanted to mention what a good post this is. “Perfect love casteth out all fear” is an interesting verse to consider with the one you quoted – especially in light of the “sound mind” statement. That fascinates me, and I’ll try to address it later.

  5. I think this is an interesting topic to consider when it comes to how many feel about being their authentic selves, sometimes especially in the church or in a missionary context. It’s tough to reveal your beliefs and doubts when you feel vulnerable to judgment, ridicule or misunderstanding. But perfect love casteth out that fear. So, if fear = pride (caring what people think of you), then perfect love = the antithesis of pride (caring for people openly and honestly, not just trying to fit in.)

  6. Hawkgrrrl #6, I think that is what I was trying to get at when considering the scripture–how power and perfect love are the opposites of fear and how that helps us understand it. When you have that missionary fear that Arthur mentioned, it is really a lack of power and an absence of perfect love. If your objective on a mission is love for the people and helping them to grow spiritually, if you are depending upon the power of the Spirit, as you go about doing what you can with a sound mind, it minimizes your obsession about not doing enough.

  7. Thanks, Hawk, for stealing my thunder.

    It’s an interesting take on “power” to equate it with love and soundness of mind, and I would translate it as “clarity” – in Paul’s First Corinthians 13 context. Perfect love brings a perspective that provides clarity, which allows one to do things that have real and transformative effect in others’ lives – to be powerful in the truest sense of the word.

    I’m going to do a Common Scriptures in Review post on this, so I’ll stop there – but I really like the idea of love being tied to clarity and power.

  8. #1 Strange, I don’t remember any of those fears on my mission.

    My fears were mainly along the lines of: What new disobedience is my companion going to try next? Will I be able to divert it without confrontation? If I do confront my companion, will I be able to avoid contention? Will the spirit of contention prevent us from having the spirit when we teach? But if I fail to oppose his disobedience won’t that also cause us to lose the spirit? What new rumor will he spread about me to members of the ward and the other missionaries? Does this pain in my stomach mean I’m getting ulcers?

    Stuff like that.

  9. Given my family history I came to the point where I loath the mere thought of marriage. I wanted the “fun” part and I did not mind the commitment I just did not want the marriage word. WORSE: being married in the church to a priesthood holder. Thinking of it made me physically sick.
    as long as I was outside the church I was fine but the problem is that if I come back this kind of feeling is not compatible with the spirit I want to be in.
    I am fine with the priesthood now but I quickly realized that the fear was still here. I would cry again in a panic attack when thinking of it. I quickly put God through a test. The fear was only “coming back” it was not fully there yet so I just tried to pray to Him to remove this fear because I kow how, although logical, my fear was a stumbling block in the way of my own happiness and I am not just talking about spiritual stuuf. I mean to start crying out of control just when thinking about getting married is insane.
    It worked.
    Not that I am on a husband hunt now but I am fine whether I get married or not. My marriage won’t be what my mother or my grand mother or my great grand mother have been through. I am not going to marry a man who will rape my kids and then just have some more (thank you great grand ma). I am not going to marry a man for selfish purpose and then cheat on him because the other man can remain aroused as long as I need it (love you grand ma). I am not going to hate men and get married to a pervert for selfish reasons pretending it is because I have a testimony (great lesson mom). I am not going to go through this or even close to it because I have learned from them which makes me different from them since none of them learned from the previous generation. I have learned from them not what I should not do or who I should marry but HOW I SHOULD think, look at life, what priorities should be etc….

    I am just not affraid anymore because thinking that I am just going to add my stone to this sad family history is exactly the opposite to what God wants me to believe. It is the opposite to a healthy vision of life and if I should feel this fear again I will just turn again to God not because He has some magic power but because I need to trust him and to trust myself. Diverting my fear and focusing on him will help me to find my path to a balanced and happier life than what it wuold be by living and seeing things through this fear.

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  11. Given my family history I came to the point where I loath the mere thought of marriage. I wanted the “fun” part and I did not mind the commitment I just did not want the marriage word. WORSE: being married in the church to a priesthood holder. Thinking of it made me physically sick.

    Wow, I’m glad you are finding peace.

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