Fight or Flight

        By: Beth Massey

             “STAND UP,” God said. I knew it was Him. It’s not often that I hear Him, but I’ve come to recognize His voice when he speaks. Once I would have chalked it up to my conscience or “my gut.” Now, I know it’s Him. It’s too clear, too bold, too loud to be anything else. Have I lost you yet? Is this too spooky-ooky for you? That’s okay! I felt the same way once. You don’t have to believe this particular part of the story in order to understand what God wanted me to learn that day, hovering twenty feet above the ground, paralyzed by fear. Just read on and pretend I’m a little crazy. I’m good with that.

            Our family celebrated Mother’s Day this year at Go Ape, a local zip-line and treetop obstacle course. I was so excited! Heights have never bothered me. I’ve done a Spartan race for heaven’s sake, so surely the junior course at Go Ape wouldn’t prove too challenging for me, right? I’ve got this, right? Right.

Fast-forward to me, half-way through the course, on an obstacle that was just the right combination of rickety and swingy (is that a word?) to scare the pants off me. With each tentative step I took, the faster my heart began to beat and the lower I sank into a crouch, until I found myself curled up in a ball. I was paralyzed. Then I heard Him. “STAND UP.” And I did. I just stood up – straight up – took a deep breath, and moved forward. It occurred to me instantly, as I stepped safely onto the platform, that the posture with which we approach life and all life experiences largely determines how we will experience them. If we cower, we are made afraid. If we rise and move forward, trusting in His power and goodness, we are made brave. 

In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul writes: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” God has not given us a “spirit of fear.” Let that sink in for a moment. What does that mean to you? I believe it means that God created in us the ability to fear only as a biomechanical means toward self-preservation, nothing more. For example, imagine you are out for a run or a bike ride and suddenly you hear tires screeching. An instantaneous chain reaction occurs in your brain (which can be explained by people much more intelligent and qualified than me), otherwise known as our “fight or flight” instinct. Your whole body goes on high-alert. Heart racing, pulse accelerating, hair standing up on your arms. Your body’s way of saying, “Girl, get off the road and into the grass NOW.” Fear can save your life. But, hear me, God doesn’t intend for fear to determine the course of your life. You are a child of God. You are called to a higher purpose. You are powerful. You are the living, breathing example of Jesus’s love for humanity. You are invested with the self-discipline necessary to put the desires of God above your own desires, and your faith above your fears. STAND UP.

Is this easy to do? No. It takes practice, a battle plan. The enemy knows our weaknesses intimately, and he will exploit our fears at every possible opportunity. In the moment a fear arises, I use this checklist:

1.    Name your fear. When you can accurately determine what it is you are afraid of, and you speak that fear out loud, you steal some of its mystery and its power over you.
2.    Locate the source. Where is this fear coming from? Who is this fear coming from? Hint:  If the answer is “not from God,” STAND UP and fight.
3.    Go with what you know. We all know these basic truths, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves: God chose you, God loves you, God will protect you, God has a great plan for you, and you will never fight alone because God lives inside you.

I would also encourage you to start preparing yourself for battle. How? I have recently chosen to do new or different things that challenge me, like the Spartan race, as a way to practice facing fear and flexing my faith muscle. I believe this repeated stepping out in faith in small ways is preparing me, though my eternal life is certain, for the uncertainty of my earthly life. Life is hard. I am not promised an exemption from facing hardship simply because I am a Christian. When those hardships arrive, I want to be able to look back over my life and draw strength from the challenges I’ve faced. I want to have a deep well of reference for how God has carried me through and how He will carry me through. How can you challenge yourself in a small way today? Is there something you aren’t quite ready to do, but are willing to step out in faith and commit to conquering? I promise, you will surprise yourself. You will grow. Your faith will grow. Your ability to be used as a servant of God will grow.

Friends, this broken world we live in needs warriors who operate less from a spirit of fear and more from a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. It’s with an abundance of caution I quote the Bible and Yoda in the same paragraph, but I’m a boy mom, so brace yourself: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Truth. Make no mistake, the horrific events of the last few months and the last week all originate out of fear. How would your life be different, how would the lives of all God’s children be different if we simply refused to be consumed with fears, both great and small, and instead… trusting in God’s power and goodness, we rose?