It’s Fearless Friday and I’m thrilled to share a post with you from my favorite son-in-law who (as you’ll see) is wise and insightful and such a good writer! Enjoy!
I remember life before fear sank in, but much like the story of Adam and Eve, the blissful beginning eventually falls apart.
The memories of the pre-fear life are like old home movies in my mind. If you can picture the opening reel from The Wonder Years or a scene from The Sandlot, it looks a lot like that. After the fear sets in, however, things begin to look much like I imagine they did in Eden that day: mankind full of shame and confusion, running around naked and frantic, grasping for the words that would make everything right again.
As a child, there’s not a whole lot to be afraid of. Like Benny, Smalls, Squints, and the gang, you can roam and explore and get in to trouble without much real consequence. You have an almost unlimited freedom underwritten by understanding adults who are giving you room to grow.
Then one day – and it happens to all of us – you wake up and realize the choices you make really do matter. Almost overnight, you’re standing there as a grown-up holding the bitten fruit of your decisions and reckoning with the consequences of your actions. As you look at yourself in the mirror, you start to realize that this whole growing up thing is going to take a lot more effort than you thought.
You might even stand there naked and ashamed, afraid of where you go next.
It’s easy to focus on the big decisions of our lives and use those as the best indicators of the person we are. When we stop to reflect we often praise our better angels and wrestle with our biggest faults, wondering where exactly we fall in the middle of all of it. Yet everyday, in between the great successes and big mistakes, we are making a thousand smaller decisions that are shaping our character.
And if I’m honest with myself, I’m afraid I’m not doing a very good job at all.
One of the things I love about Jesus is the way he forces us to examine our lives down the smallest possible details – the ones that are creating our habits and shaping our character. Scripture is full of highlights from Jesus’ ministry, but I often wish there was more about what Jesus did on Wednesdays around 2:30pm when the healing business was slow and he was annoyed with the disciples. I’m sure there would be some great nuggets in there about the ins and outs of the daily grind, with Jesus modeling how to usher in the Kingdom through these minute but equally sacred moments.
These moments are terrifying. They are when our pride and selfishness and lust and greed show up strongly, when we are tempted to sacrifice our character for temporal pleasure of personal gain. It’s also when following in the way of Jesus requires the most courage as we begin do the hard work of confronting our sinful nature.
These moments also require incredible discipline, something I don’t have a lot of. They require a roll-up-the-sleeves kind of faith. Paul talks about the importance of these daily choices in Romans 12 with a “just do it” tone. I’ve been reading this passage over and over. It reminds me of an old principle who used to say each morning “Make it a great day or not – the choice is yours!” Here are some favorites from The Message translation:
Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life – and place if before God as an offering.
Readily recognize what [God] wants from you, and quickly respond to it.
…let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be without…comparing ourselves to each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
[If] you help, just help, don’t take over…
Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.
Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
Be good friends who love deeply.
Practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
…be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.
Get along with each other; don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies…
If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
…if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch…
So often, we focus on asking Jesus for a miracle that will instantly make us into the person we want to become. We beg for a supernatural intervention, when Jesus is telling us that the secret is not in transcending this world, but in entering in and redeeming it through our small actions. Sadly, we’re afraid to do the actual work of taking up our cross daily, looking to Jesus as our guide, and practicing the way of the Kingdom.
We also have the freedom each day turn to Jesus’ example, confront our fears, and courageously live better lives.
In a speech he gave called This Is Water, write David Foster Wallace tells graduates on the cusp of the newfound freedom of adulthood that “[the] really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
May we overcome the fear of our everyday freedom, that we might practice the way of Jesus with all its petty unsexiness.