I suspect that most of us have had one of those crazy dreams where we end up in some embarrassing predicament. Whether we show up at school or work without pants or speak in front of a large group of strangers with our fly open or our blouse unbuttoned in the wrong places, such dreams reveal our fear of shame.
Each Sunday, I stand in front of a group of people to deliver a message that I hope is more God’s words than my own. My crazy dreams usually consist of arriving late, misplacing my notes, forgetting content, and others. Each episode confronts my inner fear of letting you all down along with God and myself. And being embarrassed.
Since we began broadcasting our service live on Facebook, YouTube, and our website, I’ve noticed my dreams are crazier. It doesn’t escape me that the number of views could go viral should a mishap be embarrassing enough to warrant a large number of shares. I try to consider that this is a small price to pay for getting the good news of the gospel to more people. But I still wake up relieved it was only a dream.
In this week’s episode of our series, Naked and unafraid, we focus our attention on four very personal fears. We all have these fears in varying degrees. They are the fears of failure, disappointing others, insignificance, and loneliness. When I started researching these topics, my first thought was this is my week. The twin fears of failure and disappointing others are my specialty.
The fear of failure is as basic as it gets. The fear of rejection, being put out by our people, is a primitive survival fear passed down through the centuries. And our very survival depends on not letting others down — or at least it feels that way. Yet this voice in our head tells us we simply aren’t who people think we are. We are posers and fakes, and sooner or later, we will be found out — Busted!
These voices sound familiar. They are voices of authority and respect. Sub-consciously we recognize them, although consciously we presume they are simply a voice of reason. This makes them difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. And as we learned over the past couple of weeks, fear does not take unnecessary risks.
In the book, Unafraid, Adam Hamilton writes, “Most things are never as hard as you fear they will be. And even if you do fail at them, the pain almost never ends up being as painful as you worry it will be.” 1 While I want this to be true, my fear puts up a pretty strong argument to the contrary.
Winston Churchill is credited with saying that “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” If this is true, why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed?
I came across these words said by basketball legend Michael Jordon in a Nike commercial from a few years ago — “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” I really like this commercial.
A close cousin of the fear of failure is the fear of disappointing others. The fear of letting others down. A fear that is justified because sooner or later, this happens. The more we do for others, the more frequent this fear comes true.
Over and over again, we find ourselves at a cross-road — two different paths we can take. One seems more comfortable — less daunting and less likely to lead to failure. The other direction — well, let’s just say that it looks to have all of the obstacles and caution signs of an abandoned mountain trail. Which do you take?
Remember that fear is incapable of logic. Fear knows only the necessary responses for survival. The easier path requires less courage, and fear is in total agreement. Why risk it? You’re only going to fail and let everyone down. Better to be cautious and to take the road that is crowded with others just like me. Fearful of the road less traveled.
And then there is the fear of insignificance. Afraid that we don’t matter, our life is somehow meaningless, can leave us lethargic and a little numb. The fear of insignificance can motivate us to take risks, but we first must overcome our other fears. Otherwise, we might find another fear grasping to take hold and become our reality — the fear of loneliness.
There is a vast difference between being alone and feeling lonely. While this subject is beyond our scope this week, it is essential to differentiate between these two places of being. Being alone is simply basic math. There is no plus one—just me.
Feeling lonely is a place of despair and regret. A feeling of sadness that there is no one with whom we can share life. When I feel lonely, I worry that my text wasn’t answered because they don’t like me. Perhaps it was the way I asked the question or something I said earlier.
Fortunately, there is a solution to loneliness, but it takes courage despite our fears. By reaching out, taking a risk that someone might reject us, we can connect with others and come out of our isolation. This takes a little faith that we can find other people who care about us.
Faith is a popular word in scripture and in everyday life. We often talk about having faith, whether it is faith in ourselves, other people, or faith that God will come through. Michael Jordan’s teammates and coach had faith in his ability to take the last shot. We each need a bit of faith to take the risks that come with everyday decisions.
Love your neighbors as you love yourself
We refer to ourselves as people of faith when we state that we believe that there is a God. And for many of us, we believe that this God once lived among people in human form. We say that we are a part of a “faith” community. A group of individuals with enough beliefs in common wants to hang out together regularly.
Faith is a word frequently found in scripture. There is this one story about followers of Jesus, asking Him to help them increase their faith. More than once, Jesus used faith to describe the power behind healing. And there was this time when one of the followers, named Peter, climbed out of a boat and tried walking on water to meet Jesus. When Peter began to sink, Jesus told him that it was faith that determined success or failure.
So when a couple of them asked Jesus to help them increase their faith, Jesus said something about faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to make all the difference. When I hear this, I think that surely I have at least that must faith. The mustard seeds I’m familiar with are really tiny. This is a compelling illustration of the power of faith.
If you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can do anything.
I believe that God is on our side. I don’t mean politically. I suspect that God detests politics and doesn’t belong to a political party. I mean that God is on your side and on my side. God is for us and not against any of us, even though bad things happen to good people and not so good people. And good things happen, sooner or later, to all of us. But sometimes good things happen only when we take a risk. Which takes courage to choose the more difficult path despite our fears of failure, disappointing others, insignificance, and loneliness.
But this courage comes out of faith. Not so much faith in ourselves or other people. Instead, the courage to climb out of the safety of the boat requires faith that God is waiting there within reach. Take a risk that you may fail. Know that you can never please everyone, and don’t be distracted by the voices encouraging you to try.
And know that you mean a lot to the God who created you. A one-of-a-kind miracle that can never be completely alone because there is no place where God isn’t already there waiting for you. Just within reach with only a tiny, mustard seed amount of faith.
This month’s series is called Naked and unafraid. If you’re fearful about the present or the future, this series is for you. You can read about our series in our newsletter or online. I pray that you will join us online or in person over the next four Sundays. Make it a habit.
After Thanksgiving, our theme moves to God living among us. Our next series, Incarnate, explores the importance of God among us in the aftermath of an intense election. The Christmas season is guaranteed to be different this year. God’s presence is our greatest hope for the future.
Thank you for your patience as we implement technology changes that promise to substantially improve our broadcast quality. We have a new button on the homepage of our website – Click here to watch. This should take you to a viewer to allow you to join live or watch later in the week. We’re also live on Facebook. We start at 10:30 am. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to info@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
1 Adam Hamilton. Unafraid: Living with Courage and hope in Uncertain Times. © 2018. New York: Penguin Random House.