“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. (Do we all deal with it?) I am probably not alone in trying to deal with fear in a variety of ways. There are a plethora of numbing and avoiding possibilities, literally millions of ways to navigate 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: I “got interested” in mindfulness, meditation, prayer, and developing a faith to lean on 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 we pour into faith – in ourselves, in God, in finding and living in the positive – the farther away we get from fear and all its negative byproducts. Maybe, the continuum is oriented vertically, with fear as our own personal hells, way down in the basement of our lives, and faith and love as the lighter energies that lift us 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 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. 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 if technology, social media, and a more competitive world are to blame. I think all these things have poured energy into the “fear end” of the continuum. I also know we are placing less energy than ever into cultivating faith. We’ve got a huge imbalance.
I did not grow up in an overly observant household. We went to church 50% of Sundays. (As my dad once said to our minister, “Summer is for golf, winter is for God.”) Still, we said grace before nightly family dinners, the pledge of allegiance to start our day at school, and 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 today’s reading and it resonated, both for my own life and for loved ones trying to find their way out of some scary situations. (Many of them are teenage boys, a demographic I care deeply about who suffer tremendously from anxiety.) I’ve pasted the reading below. It may fall a little heavy on a Monday morning, but it lifted me up. 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. Perhaps that means visualizing something that scares you. Take 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 the comments if you don’t!) Or perhaps have a conversation you’ve 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. A great way to make someone else feel lighter. Keep the faith alive.
Remember that energy flows where your intention goes.
Below are some other books that have helped me grow the faith when I’ve been a little wobbly. Very different styles, 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.