Theology, Worship 1

Fear

fear

            My name is Hannah. I am an independent creative thinker. My number one strength is WOO: Winning Others Over. I thrive on other people’s energy and enjoy taking exhilarating risks, like performing on stage. If all of this is true, why does fear reoccur as a struggle in my life? Simply because of myself: I fear failure. Ouch. The word ‘failure’ is a trigger-word for me; when I think of failing my defenses go up. Failure should be a natural part of learning, however, in my mind it’s a label for someone who needs to “just stop”.

            From self-reflection and talking with wise friends I’ve come to realize I’m an approval addict. When I work for someone in authority that I admire, I sometimes doubt my abilities out of fear of disappointing him or her. I hold back from presenting my best efforts while facing demeaning thoughts, “He’ll hate that. What a terrible idea. That sucked. You’re getting nowhere. Someone will complain. It won’t work…” In meetings or brainstorming on my own, I’m caught up thinking of what my boss might say. A few weeks into the semester, I was beginning a graphic design project. I was stuck. No ideas. Then I had a breakthrough, as soon as I stopped projecting my professor’s opinions onto my work I was free to let out my bad ideas, which led me to the one that worked. I failed first, before finding the solution.

            Through this I’ve learned that fear stifles expressions of Imago Dei. As humans we embody the image of God, and as a Christian I have the power of Christ. Yet, when I hold back from producing my best work out of fear, I am not living in the freedom of Christ that allows me to be who He has created me to be. Christ gives freedom to make mistakes. Failure is a healthy practice; failure is like the first fight in a relationship that brings clarity and intimacy. Along with fear of failing, comparing one’s performance to others’ feeds fear. Growing up, I labeled my sister as the cook. She owned her own cooking business and dreamed of starting a restaurant. For years, I compared myself to her cooking abilities. To this day I’m hesitant to cook out of fear of messing up the recipe because I’m not ‘the cook’.

            Fear cripples the freedom that Christ bought. This is why Paul comforts Christians in 2 Timothy with a reminder: God did not give His people a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Fear presents itself in countless forms, as for me fear of failing. I am challenged to take risks where I might fail, but fail confidently as I learn and move forward in the freedom of Christ. 

~ hannah

Theology, Worship 1

Amazing Grace

During Worship I class on Wednesday here at John Brown University, Professor Jen Edwards said something that caught my attention.  I immediately wrote it down in my notes and have been thinking it over ever since. 

“When you own who you are, grace becomes more real.” 

How many of us go throughout our lives as Christians wearing a perpetual mask of “having it all together?”  We all do it at some point in some way.  I know I have been guilty of this many times.  In fear of judgment from our peers, we hide the realities of who we are and who we have been.  We feel like we have to put on a façade of perfection.  …Because that’s what good Christians do, right? 

Often, in trying to conceal our flaws from everyone around us, we also buy into the lie.  We deceive ourselves into thinking we aren’t really that sinful.  We think we can handle what life throws at us on our own.  We think we remain unaffected and unscarred by the effects of our sin and the sin of others. 

And we couldn’t be more wrong. 

The unpleasant truth of the matter is that when we dig down deep to the roots of this ever-branching yet hollow tree, budding with leaves of false beauty, what we uncover is fear and pride.  We fear the opinions of man over the declaration of God.  We attempt to find our identity in how others see us or even how we see ourselves instead of in the saving grace of Christ crucified.  And we are so prideful, that we can’t let others know we are broken and sinful, desperately in need of the power of the gospel at every moment and turn in life. 

The gospel – that’s where the focus needs to be.  When our focus is on the gospel of Christ, the filth of our past and the brokenness of our present are not only stripped of all shame but are also shaped into a strong testament to the grace of God—that God could save “even me.” 

When we see ourselves, and allow others to see us, as the helpless sinners we are, only then is the grace of God able to be seen as the incredible gift it is.  Paul Washer has stated it this way: “As we grow in the knowledge of our weakness, salvation by grace grows from a mere theological construct into our greatest reality and hope.”  By understanding that we had no hope of saving ourselves from the deserved punishment of our sins, we more fully understand the redemption found in Christ as a gift that was in absolutely no way due us.  In accepting ourselves for who we are in Christ—with all the bumps, flaws, and baggage we carry into the equation—we see the grace of God with new clarity and are able to sing, 

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

~Jeff