“There are no atheists in foxholes.”an acronym
“People say there are no atheists in foxholes. A lot of people think this is a good argument against atheism. Personally, I think it’s a much better argument against foxholes.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut
Fear. We are all familiar with it. I don’t think it is a matter of some moreso than others, but maybe some deal with it moreso than others. (Do we all deal with it?)
I am probably not alone in having experimented with a variety of ways of dealing with fear. There are a plethora of numbing and avoiding possibilities, literally millions of ways to navigate our way around that which scares the crap out of us. And most of them are a heck of a lot more fun than facing fear head on. Full disclosure, the whole way I ever “got interested” in mindfulness, meditation, prayer and really developing a faith I lean on was by being scared shitless.
I’m a visual person so this little analogy came to me a few years ago. I believe there is a continuum; at one end is fear, and at the clear other end is faith. The more energy you pour into faith-in yourself, in God, in finding and living in the positive, the farther away you get from fear and all the negatives that come with it. Maybe that visual is even laid out vertically with fear as your own kinda personal hell being way down in the basement of your life, weighing you down, and faith and love are the much lighter energies that lift you up.
I am writing about this as a kind of tag on to what I wrote about yesterday, which was to be still and present, and cultivate your faith through prayer. Through feedback, and my own experiences, and a lot of really neat honest people in my world, I know that fear is an epidemic. Most especially with our young people. Anxiety is the new cancer in our culture, especially with the next generation. The “diagnosis” is whispered with hushed tones; “apparently, he has anxiety.”
We wonder, is that because of technology, social media, a more competitive world? I happen to think all these things have poured energy into the fear end of the continuum, but I also know we are placing as little energy as ever into cultivating faith. We’ve got a huge imbalance.
I did not grow up in an overly observant household but we went to church 50% of Sundays (as my dad said to our minister, ‘Summer is for golf, winter is for God.’) But, we said grace before nightly family dinners and at school we said the pledge of allegiance to start our day and there was a blessing before lunch. Belief was woven into the fabric of our lives. This is not true for my kids.
Today, I opened my favorite daily devotional book to the daily reading and it resonated, both for my own life and also for some people I care about who are trying to find their way out of some scary situations. Many of them involve teenage boys, a group I care about who suffer tremendously from anxiety. It may fall a little heavy on a Monday morning, but it lifted me up yesterday. See if it speaks to you. As a priest guy I know says, “All may, none must, some should.”
Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” His wise wife Eleanor said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
That’s the practice. Face one little fear today, give it some light. Maybe that means visualizing something that scares you and taking a few long slow breaths deep into your belly as you do so. Be an observer, observe if you live through the experience. (Let us know in comments if you don’t!) Or maybe have a conversation you have been afraid to have with someone. How do you feel afterwards, heavier, or lighter? (My money is on lighter.) Another thought; if one is available to you, share your stories of vulnerability with a young adult. What a great way to make someone else feel lighter. Keep the faith alive.
Remember energy flows where your intention goes.
Here are some other books that have helped me grow the faith when I’ve been a little wobbly. Very different styles, and listed by intensity. All have resonated at different times. All good.
The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale
Fear, Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm, by Thich Nhát Hánh
Peace is Every Step, The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, by Thich Nhát Hánh
Jesus Calling A 365 Day Journaling Devotional, by Sarah Young.