Lately, I’ve been struggling with fear. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize it when it affected me the most – I misidentified it as anxiety or self-righteous anger. My fear has revolved around two major themes: not being a “good enough” mom to Sprout and not doing enough to “make the world a better place.” My fear around the first issue was most prominent during our Disney trip; the second emerged while I was washing dishes last week as an extended, angry, despairing rant about climate change, poverty and other injustices. Both are always bubbling under the surface. While I don’t believe God manipulates people to send personal messages, I do believe that if people ask, God will open their hearts to help hear what they need to from the noise of everyday life. This past weekend, I had a one-two punch of those messages, leading me to realize that I need to embrace my fears rather than ignoring them.
The first blow came on Saturday night, from a marvelous episode of Doctor Who. Even though it was advertised as a “properly scary” episode, it ended up being something very different indeed. Without spoiling the plot, it was fundamentally about how fear isn’t inherently a bad thing. Fear can make us stronger, quicker, and braver; it can make us super-powered. Fear comes from the knowledge that there are things we do not and perhaps cannot understand, but that’s okay. Whether the monster under the bed is real or not is irrelevant. Fear may be our constant companion, but instead of letting it control us, it can drive us to become better people.
The second hit came the next morning in church. My pastor has been preaching on the Beatitudes and what it means to be a peacemaker in the world. Last Sunday, he preached about how love and peace need to be at the center of our lives. That although we may have fear, we can’t let it drive us. That peace comes from breaking cycles of violence, whether physical or emotional. When we have peace at the core of our being, it acknowledges the pain of others and moves out from us.
The Doctor Who episode deeply connected with me, but I didn’t know why until hearing the sermon. Putting the two together, I realized that by trying to ignore my fear, I was allowing it to overwhelm me. To paraphrase the Martin Luther King Jr. quote on this week’s church bulletin, I was trying to merely drive out darkness instead of bringing light. But there can be no known without an unknown, no comfort without fear, no rebuilding without destruction, and no resurrection without the despair of Good Friday.
By worrying about not being a good enough mom, I don’t give myself the space to make and acknowledge the mistakes that are needed to grow. By being so concerned that I’m not doing enough, I make it all about me and deny the efforts of the folks around me. One of my favorite bloggers, Phil Sandifer, says that progressive causes like feminism involve both tearing down the current systems and making new mistakes in the process. As both a parent and activist, I have to forgive myself and others so that we can all make new mistakes together.
From now on, I will try to embrace my fears, realizing that they’re an outgrowth of how much I love my son and am concerned about the world around me. Instead of being afraid of caring too much, I will try to celebrate it.