I perfected the art of self-humiliation on Saturday night. Some friends and I went to hear a visiting speaker at a local church. Upon walking in the foyer doors, I noticed a dear friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in a few weeks, and ran to give her a hug; unfortunately, gravity and the floor had other ideas. Just as I reached out to embrace my friend, my foot slipped out from under me and down I went, clutching madly at my purse, Bible, and notebook (all of which remained decorously in place through the thrilling ride). As I lay on the floor, one leg curled under me and the other between Leslie's, who was standing over me with a shocked expression on her face very much befitting someone who finds herself fielding first base when she didn't even know she was in the game, for a split-second I debated the feasibility of trying to play it all off. Reason won over pride, however, and we all laughed together about my "obvious" gracefulness.
The guest speaker, John King, preached an impassioned and inspiring message based on the story of the friends who dug through the roof of Peter's house to bring the paralytic to Jesus. Pastor King had so many good things to say about the order of the church based upon that story, but what stayed with me the most occurred early in the service, right after he announced his text. I was flipping frantically (and rather frustratedly) through my Bible, seemingly unable to get to Romans, and thinking that everyone else must be having the same trouble because it was taking him a long time to speak again, when I heard him say something about "the lady there in the scarf" and felt the friend sitting to my right nudging me to say he was trying to get my attention.
I don't normally broadcast prophetic words over my life in such a public fashion, but since he spoke to me with microphone in hand before the entire church, and cds of the service have been duplicated and handed out, I'm thinking any effort on my part to keep what he said private is futile. I won't go into all the details, but one thing he addressed is what God wanted to do in my life regarding what he called a "tremendous fear of men."
I was praying about that this morning, and asking God for wisdom, when He gently reminded me of Proverbs and that He'd already put wisdom at my disposal--my responsibility was to apply what He gave. So I flipped to Proverbs 28 (on January 28--original, I know) and stopped at the first verse, which reads: The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
Figuring that God is a specific God, and that He has a good eye for details, I did a Hebrew word breakdown on the verse to see exactly what He was saying. I've always read it as, "a bad person's going to run away all the time even though nobody's chasing him/her, but a good person will walk into dangerous situations without being afraid." And I still think that applies to some extent...but some of the meanings of the words surprised me. Here's what I found:
The wicked -- guilty one, guilty of a crime, guilty of sin
Flee -- To cause to disappear, to hide
When no one pursues -- to be behind, to follow after, to pesecute, to harass
But the righteous -- the just, lawful, the justified and vindicated by God
Are bold -- to trust, to be confident, to be secure
As a lion -- young lion
What struck me was that the definition for boldness in this verse was less of an "I'm walking into a dangerous situation," proactive kind of word, and more of a quiet, "God's got me" kind of word. When we know that God has vindicated us, that He agrees with our decisions because we've made them according to His leading, and when we rest in His perfect will, we are automatically granted the same right to confidence and security as is given a lion cub romping near it's mother.
Fear, then, is ultimately a lack of faith in the knowledge that everything comes to us filtered through His hands. And we know that anything that is not faith is sin.
At this point, I am still working out how to apply this to my life. It's all well and good to speak of changes we need to make in ourselves. It's another thing, though, to be in that split-second of strong emotion on your backside in the church foyer trying to process what just happened and how to respond. However, if we can trust Him to protect us in the rough times, to hold us in the hard times, to vindicate us in the unfair ones, and to challenge us when it's time to grow, then we can trust Him to have the grace to lead us through every new situation; and that's an awesome arsenal against fear.