I’ve been told so many times that “perfect love casts out all fear” and that fear actually enables bad things to happen in our lives since it is the opposite of faith. But not all fear is bad. For instance, I’m afraid if I touch a hot stove I will be burned, so I refrain from touching it.
There are some fears that I have relating to my former church, as well. It is a proverbial hot stove in my life, and I’ve been burned enough to know not to touch it again. I don’t think there is anything wrong with naming my fears, nor do I think there is anything wrong with being afraid. So it is time to name a few.
I am afraid people from my former church will cyber-stalk me and will find and misunderstand my posts, afraid they will twist them and try to use them against me. I’m afraid that someone will vandalize my property because I left their church. I’m afraid that people will be hurt that I left and will cut me off without ever asking why. Mostly, I’m afraid I will discover by these types of actions that my former church is filled with the bitterness, strife, anger, malice, variance, gossip, racism, and hatred that I’ve sensed in some.
Fear isn’t always a negative thing. There is a negative, immobilizing fear. But there is also a type of fear by which we learn and are motivated to change. Maybe the original Greek, Hebrew, or whatever had two or three words to define fear. I don’t know. I’m no bible scholar. But I do know that some fear is OK. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Obviously, that is a good fear, a healthy respect that motivates people to serve God. And if “perfect love casts out all fear” surely that doesn’t include a fear of the Lord. So there are at least two types of fear: immobilizing terror and the fear that promotes positive response and action.
The fear that I have is more the positive kind that motivates a person to learn and to respond. For years, I was immobilized by the negative type of fear in church. I was afraid to speak out against immorality and unethical behavior in the church. I was afraid not to worship a certain way or display a certain type of emotion, because someone might think something was wrong with me and I would be attacked. So I became a hypocrite, hiding behind the required fake smiles and amens in order to survive, when all the time the questions built in my mind. Had I been allowed to ask the questions, to grieve when bad things happened, to say amen when I agreed and remain quiet when I didn’t (without being rebuked for it) I would probably still be there.
Over time, I began to look for answers and meaning. Not being allowed to ask the questions or seek the answers in the church, I looked in the Bible. The answers I found surprised me and prompted me to action. I was still afraid, but it was a positive fear that prompted response. My response has included leaving a very negative situation.
Fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It doesn’t need to be negative. Some fear is healthy. Some fear is from God. After all, God himself should be feared, in a positive, respectful way. So, yes, I’m afraid. But not so afraid, or terrified, that I can’t face my fears, my concerns and my doubts, and react positively to them.