I wrote these words in 2016 for the ladies who attended my first Fearless Women's Conference in Nashville, TN - Fear is Not My Gift. It was an unforgettable time. Frankly, it's been too long since that conference, but man, have I moved...in the literal sense and every way else. Since that conference, I've gotten engaged, moved cities, started a new career, published a book and am publishing my first hardback book with chapbook. I've gained and lost weight, grew and cut hair, changed my spending habits, learned new things about myself. I got back on meat and got off of meat. I've dealt with fear and change in ways I couldn't have imagined. My relationship with God has strengthened and gotten more intimate. I've let a lot of things go. I don't respond to things and people the way I used to. I've become a lot more secluded and have found joy living and working and creating in my bubble. I now value stability. I have a savings now. I delight in making plans and executing those plans. I very seldom get afraid. I never allow fear to paralyze me in the way it used to. I've been in bed with fear for many years. I'll talk about that a little later but now, fear is nearly non-existent in my life. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I'm living too oblivious to fear, like, in a quixotic, out of touch, unhealthy way.
I remember prepping for the conference in 2016. I lived in Mexico and made the investment and plans to fly to Nashville. I'm so grateful for the love and support my cousin Lannie gave me. I couldn't have done it without him. I had accepted two things, two mindsets while in Mexico thinking about this conference. 1. I'm going to preach all over the world. Nothing would stop me from preaching anywhere; not flights, not language differences, not denominations. I understood that fact starting off in this new vein of ministry, apart from the dioceses I grew up in that I may not be preaching weekly, or monthly for that matter. I am and will always be a working preacher, a mother and woman. Though my life revolves around God, it does not revolve around church and that's okay. If this is how you feel, but you've been afraid to take some space, I'm telling you, sister to sister, believer to believer, that this is okay.
I had permission from God and myself to operate with this understanding.
2. If I was going to preach about Fear and help women and anybody overcome and deal with fear, I needed to continuously educate myself about it and properly manage it and in most instances, conquer it, for myself. I wanted to become an expert in fear and an expert in everything the Bible says about fear.
Four years later, I had a change of heart about what I preached at that first conference. I urged the women to embrace fearlessness - the absence of fear...I contended that fear wasn't real. It was a figment of our imaginations. I still believe that fear isn't our gift; it is not ours to possess and value, but I have to sing a new tune now. Some fears are real and substantial and need to exist for other things to happen. Some fears need to be expelled. Some fears need to be managed. I do now understand that there is a such thing as healthy fear. The difference now is the power I have over a fear not expelled - whatever fear I have chosen to allow into my process, exists because I allow it. Next, my relationship with it must be healthy, meaning, no anxiety, sickness, debilitation or real stress should come from it. It should be a catalyst or encouragement for actions that prevent the unfavorable outcome I'm trying to prevent. Fear is not my gift, but it is my tool.
I must do the thing with the fear, if I so chose to have it. I must not make fear my captain...it is merely a passenger, and a juvenile passenger at that...as big as a tick with no rights. It is a thing that I possess for the length of time I choose to possess it...but I never treasure it or become ruled by it...motivated by it, yes, perhaps, but never possessed. It is not a possession or a gift like Power, Love and a Sound Mind are. Like, I possess a sound mind, sis. That is mine - I was given that as a gift from the Almighty. Fear can never make me crazy or discombobulated because I've already implored the wisdom God gifted me with, my sound mind is the lead - EVERY TIME. I don't pick up fear and put down everything else. I might be nervous as heck but I'm gonna lead with one of my greatest gifts - intelligence and wisdom, prudence...a Sound Mind.
So I think this is such an appropriate and timely conversation for the present day. I keep reading debates about the church and their response or lack of to this virus...some say, if the church is open, they're negligent....if the church is closed, they're coming from a position of cowardice and shaming the scriptures. These are big fingers pointed at the church, per usual. Thank God that the body of Christ is covered by thick skin. Church will always be here, in some fashion or another, resilient and able to withstand scrutiny from within, and outside.
Now, this message is for those believers who did not feel their doors should have closed. I know many of the fingers pointed at the church are from within so consider this - The scriptures have us to understand that God wants us to have a certain modicum of respect for Caesar...give Caesar what is owed to Caesar; give to God what is owed to God. God wants us to give honor to those who deserve honor and to work at our places of work as if we were working for God. Though the word says that the law is unjust, as we, especially people of color, understand this to be very, very true, God doesn't want us to be lawbreakers, in the general sense.
Beyond the context of separating church from state (which has never been done in this country), we have to acknowledge that if there is a virus that is potentially and proven deadly, no antiviral medication for it and other governments (Caesar) have declared a #stayathome mandate, than we, the church, should worship #athome. We give Caesar a portion of our money and we give Caesar and the authorities of the land, a portion of our respect and adherence. Because of the combined understandings from the governmental sector who makes decisions from a contextual spectrum that is and can be very complex, and considerations for the overall good of the majority of the population, and the prowess of the scientific community and people who are learned in the area of epistemology, the medical field, etc..because of all these thoughts and offerings from a variety of sectors - here we are, at home. Right now, our technology gives us the ability to connect. It is prudent and wise for church-goers to stay at home. This is the earthly wisdom that we add to the spiritual hope of recovery for the world and divine intervention. It doesn't make us cowards, it doesn't make us doubtful of the healing power of God and God's ability to shield us collectively or individually from this disease...it makes us wise.
It kinda feels like when the devil told Jesus to jump in Matthew 11 when Jesus was in the wilderness. He has a series of temptations, first telling Jesus to turn a stone into bread. The devil then tells Jesus to jump off the temple wall and to do so knowing that the angels would save Jesus, IF Jesus was the Son of God. What gets me is that Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God so why have a dare or temptation to restate the obvious...I wonder what would have been Satan's next move or point proven if Jesus would have jumped.
We, as a body of Christ, don't have to jump or put ourselves at risk to prove either our identity or God's identity....these are already confirmed by Heaven and the Word. We are the body of Christ. Satan knows that. The world knows this. What I think some folk don't understand is that the Body of Christ does not all have to be assembled in one place to literally be the body. In fact, assembling and the infatuation with particularly large assemblies of the body of Christ, has been to our spiritual detriment in some cases, over time. We assemble in our four walls as 'mini-bodies' and never break bread with the church down the street. Some churches even cut certain ministries out of the budget just to expand the building - i.e. they aren't feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, clothing the naked and visiting the sick, yet they assemble weekly. So, if you ask me, which you didn't, but, I think the #stayathome order, was one of the best things for the church.
Getting back to fear...and Jesus, and us...and temptation...
The church doesn't need to be in church to prove it's braveness or its God....just like Jesus didn't need to jump off of a wall to prove to Satan that Jesus is the Son of God...The world knows our faith, by our works. Being at home and not exposing yourself or your family to this novel virus, and in turn exposing the congregations to it and vice versa, is evidence of good works. Using wisdom and utmost care for the flock is the job of the pastor. We'll talk in another blog about why I think, in an unrelated but kinda related subject matter, churches should have a few designated watchman who are armed, during operating hours. Because of our climate of hatred in this country, I think this is where we are. We're already paying folk to watch our valuables (vehicles in the parking lots)...why not have a few folk inside who are armed and trained.
So this perspective of Fear should be built on a real good understanding of what Fear is. I think we toy with the word but haven't really delved into it thoroughly enough to know how to incorporate it, control it, get rid of.. Let me remind you that the idea of fear is thoroughly studied and has been mastered by many majorities over minorities, in all eras, all over the world, through various devices. The script and storyboard for your favorite car commercial was written employing proven principles of manipulation, fear tactics, to get you to purchase that vehicle...even if it was not the most wise or prudent decision you and your family could make at the time. Fear is a great weapon of the enemy...you better know how to use it and most importantly, RECOGNIZE it when it's being used against you!
Let's dive in and put Fear under the microscope of a wise believer....
We must understand this precept - Fear of the thing that does not exist is just as powerful as the fear of the thing that does exist. This is a trick of the enemy. Fear of what isn’t even real or yet manifested...I want you to really consider this one and deal with that.
Through my research, I've found these to be the Six Most Pervasive Fears 1. Fear of Poverty – We overwork, overspend, under-save (counter intuitive), compromise our integrity, forge relationships that are toxic potentially 2. Fear of Loss of Love – Become jealous, clingy, distrusting, hardened and cold-hearted 3. Fear of Criticism – thin skin, stops us from giving true testimony and being open, fear of success, kills relationships 4. Fear of Old Age/Aging – unhealthy focus on flesh, dishonesty with self 5. Fear of Death – again counter intuitive – fear of death prevents abundant living , fear of making commitments 6. Fear of Ill-Health – counter intuitive – fear of dieting, exercise, doctors , medicine, therapy, getting sick, not getting better, catching something
Another vital precept about FEAR - The devil has a ministry too. He PLANTS fear. Don’t help him by watering it. Continue reading these tenants of fear that I've assembled. This might take some time. It's worth it.
**FEAR IS COUNTER INTUITIVE – Fear of your children getting into trouble so you keep them in a bubble, etc. **Satan’s strategy is to discombobulate you. If you’re confused, you can’t think for yourself **The world’s system is set up for authority to fear you and for you to fear authority. Men will throw away their training and wisdom and chose fear to guide their responses and people get killed.
**Fear is a spirit. A fearful spouse transfers that spirit of fear to the other spouse, interaction, sex, in the food that’s cooked. **The generational curse of fear started way before you...but can end with YOU! Fear can be a curse of the enemy that you pass on to your children.
**. Fear is the breeding ground for physical sickness and mental illness, anxiety, ulcers, digestive problems, panic attacks, heart issues... real tangible results of letting fear take the driver's seat. ** Fear is used in the media to get you to make purchases and decisions...or not making decisions. Fear can leave you paralyzed in a state of uncertainty and indecisiveness in times where you need to let your nays be your nays and your yays be your yays.
** The enemy wants you to fear him to the point where you cannot believe you can fight him, as if he is an all-powerful antithesis to the All Powerful God. The Enemy does NOT have ALL POWER. **Myth or Fact – Fear is a natural human response...True, but that doesn't mean you have to keep it or let it define you. **And as we are set free from sin, through the righteousness of Christ Jesus, so we are too set free from fear, from the PERFECT LOVE of Jesus ** Feed your Faith and your fears will STARVE to death – Fear has to be FED in order to grow. Stop feeding it. Don't feed the monkeys...don't feed the fear. **Your FAITH is POWERFUL, though it only needs to be the size of a MUSTARD Seed, but a mustard seed-sized dose of Fear can be bold and subtle, a silent killer like carbon monoxide, if you don't put it in order. Your faith is more powerful than your fear. Don't let your fear influence your faith, yet let it be the other way around.
A lot of times, all fear needs to hush or to go away, are Facts and Faith. All three of these very small words start the same way, with an F, but the ending is very different. Facts beat fear..especially fear that is based on speculation. Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1, " is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I amass two types of evidence of my outcome when I implore the Facts and Faith. Yet let me encourage you, my Faith can surely stand alone...I can be deprived of facts but have all the faith in the world, which for me, is law...My Faith is a Fact. Heck, my Faith is greater than the facts.
I know that people, especially in this situation, with Covid-19, have inundated themselves with countless facts and this may have, in turn, fueled even more fears. Again, this is the characteristic of Fear, it's counter-intuitive nature. The Bible says 'In all thy gettings, get understanding.' So in understanding more, and more completely, you would think we would be empowered and less prone to fear...
Often times, we aren't. Being more informed just makes our mind rush and rush and jump to conclusions. Put that in check. Make sure that your quest for information is healthy and not consuming or destructive, that it results in self-empowerment and an increased Faith and understanding. Ask God to filter the things that don't need to get to you, and make clear the path for truth to settle in your spirit.
I know this was a heavy post, and there will certainly be more posts talking about how to manage and exterminate Fear. I'm not a therapist, I know there's a lot to unpack here. I do suggest you continue to pray and seek help if you feel like fear is getting the best of you. Use your tools. I say this to my students and son all the time...You're equipped to handle way more than you think...but you don't have to handle this alone. Pray about even the contents of this post, and that you don't 'overprocess' it unhealthily. My sincere prayer is that it empowers you, re-centers you and helps jumpstart a dormant conversation vital to you going from where you are, to where you wanna be.