Many of us are robbed of our potential by fear. For many the greatest fear we face is the fear of failure. Subsequently this is often linked to, or even fortified by our own failures. When we fail, it always seems there is someone right there to accuse us and remind us of our failure. In fact the Hebrew name for the devil in the Bible “Satan” actually means “accuser!”
Recently my wife and I watched the movie Ragamuffin, the story of an early contemporary Christian songwriter named Rich Mullins. The story portrays him as a tortured-soul, haunted by his fear and regret of failure. As it is told, he was a musical savant who grew up with a harsh father who was not pleased with his musical ability. Being constantly reminded that he was a failure by his overbearing father stuck with him—it scared him. Maybe you know how this feels.
It was probably not that he failed any more than anyone else. He just did not succeed in the ways his father expected. His father was forcing him into a mold Rich did not fit. Each person has their strengths and weaknesses, and his strengths were not being a burly farm boy. And that is okay. But it wasn’t okay to his Dad who placed his own set of expectations upon him. Lack of appreciating diversity leads to false or unrealistic expectations.
Life as the Body
Every person has their strengths and weaknesses. The Bible even has a theology of the Church for it. The Church, referred to as a “body” by the apostle Paul is made up of many members.
(ESV Rom. 12:3–6) For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…
Paul imagines the Church as a family with a diversity gifts. No person has all the strengths the Church needs (except Jesus). This creates a natural interdependency. We are not entirely independent nor co-dependent. As interdependent, there is a healthy balance of individuality and mutual reliance. This is what creates good community.
People Judge You By Their Own Gifts & Priorities
One universal rule of human relationships I have learned is this: People typically will judge you by their own gifts and strengths rather than yours. In the same way people think their interests, hobbys, and sports team is better than anyone else’s, we do it in the area of our gifts and skills too. Folks normally use themselves as their own gold standard. If you are good at X and they are good at Y, they usually don’t care about X because Y is what is important to them.
I think that is what happened between Rich and his Father. His Dad only knew how to be a hardworking man with his hands in the soil. He did not know how to relate to an artistic boy who would rather stay in the house and play the piano than drive a tractor. His dad was not trying to be mean. He was just full of fear. And as we learned in my previous post, What Does Discipleship Have To Do With Emotional Health? When people become anxious they also become aggressive and do bad things. That is why we need overcome our fear.
Evil and Fear
Interestingly, I was reading Augustine’s Confessions this week and there in chapter 7 he talks about the connection between evil and fear. Augustine uses fear as a proof for evil in the world. He reasons that humans naturally fear what they think is evil. Then he says something profound:
If our fear is unfounded, it is itself an evil, because it stabs and wrings our hearts for nothing.
— Confessions, St. Augustine —
Did you catch that? Augustine said that an unfounded fear is itself an evil in the world because it basically wounds our heart for nothing. What is it that you are fearing right now that is not material? Are you fearing losing your job, not getting married, not staying married, not having a child, not having enough money? These are legitimate life concerns, but most of them are out of our control. Moreover worrying not only makes our desires seem far away, but often even pushes them away.
You Are Uniquely Loved by the Father
God created everything. He created you with all your strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and areas where you are, well… not so gifted. And that is great. That means God loves you just the way you are. My step-father used to often say, “God don’t make no junk.” Or as the Psalmist far more eloquently says, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psa. 139:14) You are one of God’s “Marvelous works!” Do you think about yourself that way?
You do not have to fear because you are wonderfully made. God loves you just the way you are with all your weaknesses and strengths. The Gospel is about God’s gracious acceptance and love toward us. God calls you child, son, daughter of God. The great question is do you believe it, and will you respond to it?
A Change of Mind and Heart
This brings us to an antiquated theological word: repentance. We don’t use it much these days. But the Gospel and repentance come down to this: since God made all of you, he loves all of you; And since he loves all of you, he wants all of you. Repentance is God’s call for us to give all of ourself back to God.
Most of us won’t do it because we are too busy frantically running around fearful that we cannot pay this bill, or that we will not look good, or that we will not live up to this or that person’s expectations. God does not have expectations for us. All he wants is surrender. He does not love you for your skills and abilities like your employer. He does not love you because you look good or perform. He just loves you like a mother with her infant in her lap. God wants us to fully take up residence there—in the lap of his love. As a loving Father, God will never force you into a mold that is not you.
Thanks for reading! Let us know your thoughts.