fear is the little death

ever read something that you’re struck by, like a bell that resonates throughout your thoughts, echoes through your days? i certainly hope so. it’s like hearing the words of someone you love, intruding into your thoughts, months after they’ve moved away, years after they’ve gone home.

today, i was on facebook, and saw a friend remembering her mother. a mother i remember in bits and pieces as well – the friend and i went to high school together, and her mom worked at our high school as well. her mom told my mom i was wearing my lip ring to class (DIY at home piercings were all the rage in the 90’s, okay?), and that was the beginning of my teenage rebellion/depression/searching for identity. but her mom was always so kind to me, whenever i would spend the night – she had the homiest kitchen, in this really cool cabin of a house in what was then rural area in our county. she also passed away a year ago, a year ago today.

i heard once, that people fear speaking in public more than they fear dying. i don’t mind speaking in public, but the thought of this short beautiful life ending before I am ready for it to, terrifies me. the presence of loss, the specter of death hovers over our every step, and yet all i do is pretend it away. pretend that i can send that email encouraging a friend on another day. pretend that my sharp words can be apologized for tomorrow. pretend there is another day, another time to walk in kindness. pretend that i can be distant in my fear, pull away because of potential pain, hide my heart away and keep to myself.

this isn’t easy to balance. on one hand, there is the guilt of all the things left undone, the words left unsaid as i try to forget that i might lose my mom, my sister, my daughter, my family, and everything, in just a moment. and yet, there are still bills to be paid, work to be done, lunches to be packed, dinners to be cooked, and i could slip so easily into despair if all i thought of was the unavoidable nature of loss. i’m going to, one day, lose everyone i love.

the quote that’s been ringing in my ears today is this one:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

it’s from frank herbert’s sci-fi classic dune, and while most of it is glorious escapist ridiculousness, there is something to be said for adopting this idea. to let what terrifies me be accepted as terrifying. it is scary, and overwhelming, and yet, and yet.

i am afraid of losing the people i love. i am afraid of my sister dying, even though i know it is only the end of her mortal body. i am afraid of losing my brother. i am afraid of losing my daughter, like one friend has already. i am afraid of losing my mother and my father, as another friend has. i am afraid of losing my husband to death like a friend of mine has. i am afraid.

and yet.

c.s. lewis has written so many, many words that bring light to my heart, and today is no exception. i find myself longing to read the great divorce again, to remember that every fear, every hope that i lay down will one day rise again, made truer, made right. lewis writes in various places on these ideas:

Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried.

If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.

I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the High Countries’.

so today, i am confronted with my fears. and in seeking to let them wash over me, acknowledge their presence without giving them power, and believe that one day, i will see my family in the high country. that the things i lay down, let go of will be abandoned for a greater hope. that this is not the end, and my heart does not need to die a thousand times a day before the ending comes. now to put these words into practice.

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luck be a lady…

so i’ve never really believed in luck. i mean, sure, i had my silly rituals as a kid – don’t step on the cracks, heads up pennies, fingers crossed – but i never really believed in it. so now, whenever i say things like – fingers crossed and wish me luck – in the back of my head, there’s a little voice that reminds me that i’m being foolish. there’s no such thing as luck.

i don’t know where fate falls into things, i’m not a strict calvinist, so i’ve had a hard time believing in my life being chosen for me. but i still have moments of nervousness – i don’t want to tempt fate. or really, God. because i have a hard time not attributing a capricious nature to the God i claim to follow. i know it’s not scriptural, and sometimes i truly believe in His goodness or faithfulness. but a lot of times, i have a Jonathan Edwards type view of God – i’m a sinner, and He’s angry. and though i know that sermon is really about the grace of God, my head tells me that grace is for someone else.

so what does this have to do with luck? the other day, i mentioned a possibility that i was excited about. i was hesitant to mention the details, because there was this fear that if i told everything too soon, then it wouldn’t work out. foolish, right? but somewhere in my heart, i was afraid. afraid that a capricious god would hear my hope and decide i was unworthy. afraid that a trickster god would fool me, afraid i was somehow unworthy of blessing. notice how the g is not capitalized? that’s because it was a god of my own making. fear of being unworthy. of not being enough.

and in answer to my fears, i was blessed beyond expectation. i applied for a job at my alma mater on monday of last week, after hearing about the job opening on sunday. by thursday i had an interview, and this week – monday, to be precise – i signed my name to the offer letter and sent it in. i have applied to many, many jobs at UGA over the past few months, and never even got an email response. let alone an interview. let alone a job offer. let alone a start date.

so now, we’re on precipice of moving back to a town that has felt like home for 4 years. this year away has been hard, illuminating, and absolutely necessary. i was seriously broken in so many ways, and spencer and i were in bad shape. depression wrecks a family, ruins their ability to be whole – cohesive – not shattered, and i certainly wasn’t present for zoë. so when this year started, i was not in a place to recognize the loss of job, house, and familiarity as a blessing. as grace. instead, there was a hint that perhaps God was angry at me for being so broken. that my depression was my fault and everything that happened afterwards was because i was a failure.

do you see where the fear of tempting fate comes from? the belief that every painful thing, every failing, every disappointment was my fault, because i was a failure. so if something good was going to happen, i better not screw it up. better keep my mouth shut. and not tell anyone, and certainly not tempt God.

and yet, i was offered a position anyway. we have an apartment tentatively lined up, anyway. zoë will be returning to her beloved school, anyway. that regardless of my ability, or my lack thereof, or the luck i don’t profess to believe in, i am taken care of. we’ll have health insurance again. spencer will finally get his debilitating back injury repaired (he’s looking at surgery, or at least intensive physical therapy, not even including the week he will be out with his dental surgeries – which is why i was interested in the position at all).

and more importantly, i think i might have learned something. that luck isn’t a lady, and fate is no longer a trickster, or three women spinning yarn and forever cutting it, or that grace is not reserved only for the damned. that once again, the god i feared showed me He is a God who loves me. even when i don’t believe that about Him. even when i fear Him.