Monday, November 2, 2015

Digging: I struck fear.

I remember hearing my first counselor warn me. 

"When you change the dance, even if it's the right thing for you to do, others  are affected and get afraid. You're changing the dance."

She was talking about the cost of getting healthy. There is a cost. And it may seem really high, at first.

Here's a story from the book of Nehemiah: 

 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 

Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” 

But they intended to do me harm.

And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 

And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. 

In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. 

In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem1 also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 

And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” 

Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” 

For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” 
But now, O God,strengthen my hands.

Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 

But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” 

And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him

For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me

Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 

And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 

Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah's letters came to them. 

For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 

Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. 
And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.  
 Nehemiah 6:1-19


I remember hearing my first counselor warn me. 

"When you change the dance, even if it's the right thing for you to do, others  are affected and get afraid. You're changing the dance."

She was talking about the cost of getting healthy. There is a cost. And it may seem really high, at first.

You see relationships are like dancers. Each movement draws the other closer or further apart. Even minute changes to the dance upsets the balance.

Why change the dance at all then?

The dance may have been unhealthy. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. But the other person doesn't see it. When you start getting healthy, you see it clearly maybe for the first time. But the other person doesn't.

And they get scared. Fear produces a myriad of behaviors--not all alike either. Everyone deals with fear differently but our behavior reveals a lot about us, particularly when we are afraid.

Some of those behaviors include:
  • Anger
  • Blame
  • Defensiveness 
  • Justifying or rationalizing
  • Demanding or High Expectations
  • Feeling superior 
  • Victimization or guilt
  • Manipulation 
Just to name a few. 

This list is not a means to accuse others, or judge others. No, sorry.  
It is however a good way to identify these behaviors in ourselves, when we feel afraid. Change always has to start with us. 

So not fair. I get it. But it is what it is.

If you re-read the story above from Nehemiah, you will see several of those behaviors. But look at how Nehemiah handled it. That guy was super healthy.

Nehemiah saw it for what it was. Called it what is was. Held his boundaries on what he would do, or not do. And he kept on building anyway. 

Here's three ways I'm working on dealing with fear in my life:

  • I can choose how I feel about being provoked to fear.
  • I can be kind. And I can be firm.
  • I can call out specific behavior designed to provoke fear. Not with an intent to change the other person, but with the intent to help myself NOT react negatively.
Fearful people want you fearful too. So they'll do just about anything to make you afraid with them. Scared people don't like to be scared alone.

Best response? Don't be provoked to fear. Yes, don't. Jesus says it often.  

Why? Because fear is a normal human emotion, and it exists to help us. But more often than not, fear is a huge hindrance.

But being provoked to fear has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the person provoking it.  

So don't take the bait. That's all.

It is also the hardest thing to do ever, which is probably why Jesus reminded us so very often. 

Fear is completely paralyzing. But it can be overcome. 

Keep digging. Keep building. Keep trying. Keep studying. Keep dreaming. Keep moving. Keep looking for that job. Keep spending more and more time with your spouse or kids. Keep working on school or getting that promotion at work. Keep writing. Keep painting. Keep living the dream. Keep going. Just keep going. Keep at it.

Then suddenly you won't be as fearful anymore. You will actually begin to feel more compassion for others who may be struggling to "keep at it". Even when they frustrate you or hurt you. 

We are all human. We make mistakes. But people are watching how we respond.

Notice that the wall got built, and Nehemiah kept getting mean letters anyway. And people talking about him behind his back too. 


Mean, fear producing letters happen. People will talk about people. It's all part of our human condition. 

But Jesus came to teach us that there is a better way. A way to be healthy and whole, in him, and through him. A way to be freed from fear; a way to find vibrant life. 

It may cost you something, at first. But trust me, the process is the best part to learning about love.

Keep digging.

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