“Fear not; I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17, English Standard Version)
Hey, friends. It’s good to see you again. I don’t know about you, but I for one am so glad it’s Faith-Full Friday. Whew! Forget Monday mayhem; for me it has been a mayhem of a week.
So one day last week I was browsing through the website of one of my favorite children’s clothing stores, and do you know what I saw, friends? I nearly came out of my seat when I saw them, and I immediately texted David:
Two words, my friends. Two GLORIOUS words (And no, they are NOT Babies’ Daddy): CHRISTMAS PAJAMAS.
Each year since Caleb was born, I wait in joyful anticipation of the great reveal (or really my discovery) of the get-them-while-they-last-Christmas pajamas.
Friends, this is a big deal in the Peace household (or at least I make it a big deal) because like I said in the text, I know that my days of getting my boys to dress alike are limited.
Aren’t they darling?
The fear of NOT getting matching Christmas pajamas is real, I’m afraid. (See what I did there?). One year I waited too late and I had a dickens of a time getting some. If a store had David Lawrence’s size, they didn’t have Caleb’s and vice versa. I eventually found some matching ones that I ordered online, but when the box arrived, instead of two sets of pajamas I found one, along with a note that said, “Sorry. We are out of this size.” For the record that is NOT what the website said.
I know what you’re thinking, friends. Fear of not having matching pajamas for my boys at Christmas is a bit…ludicrous? Crazy? Stupid? Irrational?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
I struggle with the fear of not having matching Christmas pajamas. Believe me, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Sigh….
But I bet if you think really hard, you’ll be able to name some of your own fears that are just as irrational (and dare I say, stupid) as my fear of not having matching pajamas for Christmas.
Luckily, this irrational fear doesn’t really have long-term influence on my thoughts, feelings, or actions.
But there are other fears, yes? Ones that are pretty rational, or at least partially rational or sometimes rational, that can have a longer lasting influence on my thoughts, feelings, or actions.
Take the fear of heights for example. My body has very real physical responses when I even get on a stepladder. My God-given flight or fight responses kick in pretty hardcore when I’m only a few feet off the ground. My heart races, my palms sweat, my breathing increases. Same can be said when I see a snake or a spider. The fear is real, friends.
For me, these are pretty rational fears considering that if I fell off a stepladder I could break a leg and there are some snakes and spiders that could kill me. And since I don’t know the “won’t kill me” snakes and spiders from the “will kill me” snakes and spiders, I just fear them all.
But although these more rational fears may keep me from going into a dark corner of my garage to grab a rake, they don’t really influence my life-giving or life-defeating thoughts, feelings and/or actions so much. (By the way, my husband would pass out from shock if I actually went in the garage to get a yard tool. Sorry to disappoint you, Honey, but I’m only using the rake to protect myself from potential snakes…).
But then there are other fears, too, yes? The ones that seep into my pores and maybe even my cells and make me think awful things about myself, or make me feel like I’m all alone, or keep me from doing something I believe God is calling me to do. You know, the irrationally rational ones that have so much influence that they leave lingering, deadly effects on my life because they so keenly penetrate my thoughts, feelings, and/or actions.
Fear of rejection. Fear of abandonment. Fear of failure. Fear of loneliness. Fear of trusting. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of being judged. Fear of intimacy. Fear of loss. And others.
On Monday I shared one of my Fear-almost-got-the-best-of-me-stories. Although I wrote of a singular fear, many fears played into my almost ending my relationship with David two days before our wedding. Certainly fear of failure played a hand in that whole debacle. And Fear of trusting, fear of intimacy, each took a turn at sabotaging my entire future.
These days a newly identified fear is rearing its nasty head—fear of exclusion. When I reflect back on my past, I can see that over the course of my life and even over the past month or so I have felt excluded, denied access to social groups and gatherings. Mind you I don’t know if my perception is true or not since no one has directly said to me, “You can’t come,” or “You’re not welcome,” or “You’re not invited,” but nonetheless, my fear of exclusion is trying to weasel its way in, and this fear in particular has been weighing heavily on my mind and in my heart. It has negatively influenced the way I view some of my relationships, and it has caused me to question my character.
Another fear that has come and gone over the past seven, almost eight, years is fear of being a bad mother. This fear is also strategically trying to worm its way in right now. I see my oldest son showing signs of anxiety and I’m convinced that my lack of coping skills to properly handle my own anxiety is warping him. I’m questioning decisions I make as a mother and feeling the familiar burden of shame and condemnation trying to leach on so that I’m so weakened fighting seems impossible.
So generally, in the evening when everyone is finally settled, I make my way to my bathroom to clean off the grit and grime of the day. Some days I barely get the door closed before I just break down. This actually isn’t that unusual. I have found the bathroom to be a place where, as long as I remember to lock the door, it’s just me and God. It has become a sanctuary really.
It’s in the bathroom that I cry tears of praise, tears of gratefulness, tears of happiness, tears of joy, tears of contentment, tears of peace, tears of insecurity, tears of disappointment, tears of weariness, tears of anger, tears of desperation, tears of bitterness, tears of resentment, tears of all-around brokenness….It’s in the bathroom while I’m shampooing my hair and I can faintly hear praise and worship music through the rain of shower water that God and I have some of our best heart-to-hearts.
Most of the time He just listens, but one day a few weeks ago when I was having a good, hard cry over my bad mothering coupled with the obvious fact that the sheer person that I am causes me to be excluded (perception, yes?), I heard that still, small voice ask, “Why do you make me so small?” and a pretty remarkable vision popped into my head. (Seriously, one minute it wasn’t there, and the next minute it was).
In my vision a cluster of white, cottony clouds surrounded an astronomically large hand and sitting in the middle of that astronomically large hand was me. My knees were pulled into my chest and I rocked back and forth. I looked anxious and scared, even though there was absolutely no way I could fall and there was no surrounding danger—just white fluff.
I wish my description was better here, friends, but this moment was profound in a life changing way. It is now so clear to me THE lesson that God has been trying to teach me my whole life. And I believe it is THE lesson that should make all the other lessons bearable.
I go back to when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and He told Moses that He was sending him to set the Israelites free and that he would then lead them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, and Moses, who feared that what he saw in himself disqualified him from such a task, asked,
If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask, “What is his name?” What shall I say to them?
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14, ESV).
I’ve been researching, studying, and praying on this name God gave himself. I find it somewhat overwhelming because there is so much in that name, but I would say that one of the most important things God is saying is that He is real and He was “here” before any kind of reality came to be; in fact, He created reality (“the world or the state of things as they actually exist; the state or quality of having existence or substance”).
He has always just “been.” He is his own state of being that is all powerful and all knowing.
Honestly, friends, I’m having a hard time trying to explain this because, well, it can’t really be explained; it just…is, like He just…is.
Why do I make him so small when I can’t even begin to explain or fathom his greatness, his bigness? He is so much bigger than anything. Why would I ever think that my mothering could possibly disrupt the plans He has for my boys? Why would I ever think that what I at least feel is an exclusion is not protection or preservation or something else that will help me continue to follow God’s plans for my life? For is it not written that [He knows] the plans [He] has for [me and my sons]…plans to prosper [us] and not to harm [us], plans to give [us] hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, New International Version).
For years I’ve tried to make sense of “trust God in all things.” I’ve tried to understand God and his ways, but guess what? He’s too big, too divine, and I’m too small, too human to understand it. I think I should just be grateful that I’m sitting pretty in the palm of his hand, even when I feel afraid, maybe especially when I feel afraid, yes?
Friends, I’m not sure that being completely delivered from fear is realistic, and I’m not saying that because God can’t do it. I’m saying it because my fears help me to seek. My fears help me to realize my need. My fears help strengthen my faith in I AM WHO I AM.
Pray with me, friends.
Thank you for being such a good, good father and loving us small ones. Help us to know that though we may fear, You are bigger than any of our fears.
In Jesus’s Name,
I feel it’s important to point out that there is a lot to “I Am Who I Am” that I didn’t remotely touch on here, friends. I encourage you to do your own research, study, and prayer. One particularly helpful message that I came across in my study is “I Am Who I Am,” a resource by John Piper on the website desiringGod.