Fear and Peace… and other Theological Tensions

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

We’re singing it together,
“I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”

Arms posture north toward heaven, like little children reaching for Daddy, inviting Him to swoop them up into His arms, exchanging their weakness for His strength, trading their fear for His peace.
And I scan the sanctuary.
There are at least 1,000 lives in this gigantic room.
1,000 plus stories.
And I know some of them, at least a little.

There’s the lady wearing a head scarf. She’s facing down a monster named cancer and the nine year old girl holding her hand, she needs her mama.
And there’s the kid whose parents are in the process of an ugly divorce. His home feels like a war zone.
I see the guy who got pink slipped last month, he doesn’t have an emergency fund but has a baby in diapers.
And there are the girls whose coach videotaped them in the locker room undressing, violating their trust.
I scan past a mama who tried her best to protect her kids but their relative exploited their innocence and left them walking wounded.
And the heartbroken twenty-something across the sanctuary, her boyfriend made a bunch of empty promises then bailed. She’s wondering if anyone will ever love her for the long haul.
I glance over at the dad whose son is deployed in the middle east, risking his life for the sake of freedom.
And the middle-aged couple, empty nesters, trying to reconcile the constant quiet in their home.
There’s a widower a few rows up who’s aching because of the empty seat on his right .
And the seasoned citizen sitting two rows behind me who looked in the mirror this morning and didn’t recognize her reflection.
My friend’s seat right up in the front row, it’s empty today. Her dad suffered a massive stroke yesterday and Hospice is making him comfortable.
Directly to my left, there’s the family who left everything and fled the brutality of their ruthless dictator.
On my right, there are folks who serve under the radar in places where ISIS beheads Christians.
I notice the boy who gets bullied at school.
And a teenager who’s followed around by security at the grocery store because of his dark chocolate skin.
And there’s a whole row of adolescents sitting up front, trying to look confident while fighting the demons of insecurity.
Finally, my gaze rests long on the young mom who’s aged a few years in the last month. The baby she gave birth too, his heartbeat was still. 20 years ago, I was her.

It’s one thing to claim your status and position as child of God when life is going your way.
“Everybody trusts God on a good day with $20 in their pocket.” (Season of Gray)
It’s another thing when all hell is breaking loose around and within.

Worship songs aren’t a comprehensive theology but they can fill designated spots in our theological jigsaw puzzle. They focus our attention on specific aspects of the character of God and plumb our perspective when it’s skewed. In this case, it’s the paradoxical intermingling of fear and peace.

This song I’m singing, it doesn’t claim that I’ll never feel fear.
Or that they won’t.
Fear still buzzes around annoyingly like a hungry mosquito at dusk, attracted to some more than others.
For a Christian, peace isn’t the antithesis of fear, it’s not living in bondage to it. Because God is our Daddy, fear’s vice grip on our souls is loosened. Our inheritance guarantees us a future and a hope so we can experience transcending peace even as we just keep slapping at our pesky mosquitoes.

Some of us are more vulnerable to attack so God offers repellents. His Word is more effective than deep woods DEET, but we may benefit from mastering some relaxation exercises too.
Or taking advantage of some awesome medicine that balances adrenal function,
Or even connecting with a counselor who can help us re-route neural superhighways that are programmed to Destination Fear.
And sometimes, we just need a good friend to verbally process with and share a few cathartic tears.


Fast forward from my church sanctuary to today. The bugs are biting.
Her suitcases are packed and ready to load into the van. My big girl, she’s leaving–flying off into the sunset, to the other side of the world with her “varied field of hopes and fears, excitements and sensations, courageously going forth into it’s expanse, seeking knowledge of life amidst it’s perils” (loosely quoted Charlotte Bronte). And I’m caught in the conundrum of fear and peace, all intermingled with the salt of a few tender teardrops.

And this song, I hear it in the periphery.
“I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”
It’s a declaration of victory because ultimately peace wins.
And I humbly respond with, “Thanks be to God”.

(Part 2 of 4 on my musings about theological tensions. Previously posted: Sovereignty and Love…and other Theological Tensions)

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