The Broken Spirit Embracing Fear

Avoid-Avoidance-of-Fear-1
For far too long religion has been buying and selling love and approval through the currency of devotion. Hence, I have had difficulty knowing balance. What are God’s expectations? Where is the line between freedom and control? As a person accustomed to earning approval, it seems far too easy to just care for widows and orphans without strings attached. To express external marks of commitment without believing they entitle me to something requires a strong sense of knowing that I am already loved. But therein lies my greatest insecurities.

Personally, as a normal human being, I enjoy caring for the broken. I love helping the needy find solace. I love being out in nature with the stranger and striking up simple healing conversations about a spouse that passed away.

But I find traditional religious expectations tedious and comforting only to my sense of entitlement, like the good little boy who ate his whole plate of broccoli and then brought the empty dish to the sink for mommies approval. Is it really God that wants me to do these things, or is it the culture I belong to? I would much prefer to just sit at the beach with friends and talk about the meaning of life than to waste away in a building going through monotonous routines.

Surely the Divine will couldn’t be as simple as just being a normal decent human being? It should be harder than that, right? Doesn’t spirituality require pilgrimage and hours of hermit devotion and attendance in the pew? How could being out in the world and being normal be the right choice? Going to work and providing for your family? Caring for the neighbor next door that lost a loved one by sharing a beer and a deep conversation? Mowing the lawn so you don’t irritate the neighborhood? I’m a social worker, not a UN delegate or a preist. What good am I?

These types of truth are uncomfortable only because they’re too simple. Letting go of controllable acts of piety is terrifying, because it requires I depend only upon trust, that I’ll be expected to play without having rehearsed, and that I can no longer twist God’s arm until He cries uncle. I must acknowledge that God is no longer obligated. Rather, I am the one that is dependent. And if I’m willing, apparently I am already free, because perfection was only the imaginary goal of an approval addict.

The spiritual life is a gift of love, meaning I must risk believing God. And trust is terrifying when I am broken like a dog that was kicked around too much. Yet isn’t this the very thing that religion was always meant to heal? The broken little kid who just only ever wanted love? Isn’t that the very message of Jesus? That I do belong? That I have always been a part of the human family. I have always been wanted. That I am free to love without secret motives. I am free to just be. And in this I come to know, embracing my fear of abandonment was just another step along the footpath to wisdom.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

-Yoda-

Shayne Mason Vincent, MSW
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