About a month ago I was in a pretty hectic and stressful season of life. That stress probably wore on my vital relationships, a bit. When I know that I am wearing on people, I tend to avoid them so as to not provide more stress in their lives. While in isolation, I work out my stuff and then re-engage with others. It isn’t the best way to deal with it, but I’m sure there are worse alternatives.
During this stressful week I had a dream where I got to spend time with Rob Bell. I’ve had dreams with people like Rob Bell before, so I wasn’t completely startled. Rob was aged a bit in this dream; he looked like a wise, elderly sage.
I know people have some strong thoughts about Bell. I really like him. I hope that that doesn’t come between us.
Because I have this appreciation for Rob and because he was sage-like, I seemed to remember the interaction when I woke up from the dream.
As Rob and I visited together, I began listing all of the stress that I was experiencing. Each time I said something, Rob just repeated a cycle of phrases, “What are you afraid of? What is your fear? What are you afraid of?”
His tone wasn’t accusatory, but soothing. I bet some of you who have watched a Nooma video can imagine him saying these things, right?
Our conversation went on like that until I stopped sharing my problems.
Then the dream ended.
That dream has re-energized me in so many profound ways.
Earlier this week, I read Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 in a daily reading/prayer devotion. A line in that passage has been helpful for me as I enter this new year:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their toil–this is the gift of God.”
There are some who have said something to the tune of “God is not after your happiness, but your holiness.” I have said it in the past, too. I feel what these folks are trying to get across.
But, like most binaries, this idea doesn’t work in real life. What if God is after both?
Some of our religious vigor makes us angry, frustrating, disappointed, and temperamental people, the exact opposite of what we intended when we began the journey, right?
Some of us need to, as a student I once had (Elias Siavoshani) likes to say, “take a lap.”
I’ve realized that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free; that some of the stuff we feel so driven to keep track of isn’t really scoreboard worthy.
If there was an “Angst Anonymous” group, it might be filled with individuals with Systematic Theology books on their shelves and Ichthus tattoos on their ankles.
And the first affirmation would be, “There is nothing to be afraid of, if God is for us, who can be against us.”
What are you afraid of? What is your fear?
The God, who is love, casts out all fear.