Since my last post on sleep, life has been pretty busy and sleep quality still lacking so getting focussed to write has not been easy. But amidst the ‘busy,’ I have been reflecting back on my conversation with Catrina Benham on her podcast REAL Conversations.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts you can’t help but notice that my Christian faith is rather important to me. My intention when I started to write was to reflect on all sorts of topics including but not exclusively faith based. And that’s still my intention, but the fact is, my relationship with God is so integral to who I am that it can’t help but be integral to my writing too.
Catrina’s podcast is a great listen with input from a wide variety of amazing women. To be asked to be involved was a great privilege. The conversations cover a wide range of topics but always ends with three statements to complete, one of which is, ‘Being a woman of faith means…’
You can listen to the podcast to hear how I replied but I’ve subsequently been reflecting on how deep and wide that question is and how much more I could have said. I started to write this post as a series of bullet points outlining what being a woman of faith means to me. However as I’ve pondered the question these past few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that my thoughts are summed up by this verse from the Bible.
Fear is a clever foe that can pervade and undermine so many parts of our lives, holding us back from living life with confidence and being the amazing creations God has made us to be. Fear can provoke timidity and retreat but it can also show its face with aggression and domination. Fear can get its hooks into us in a number of ways:
- Fear of failure and not being good enough
- Fear of being unable to provide for our families
- Fear of not being unable to protect those we love
- Fear of an unknown future
- Fear of chronic illness or dying
And the two big ones which I think try to catch out everyone whether we acknowledge it or not…
- Fear of what others might be thinking about us
- Fear that we are missing out in some way
Do any of these resonate with you?
At various times most of these fears have at some point tried (and sometimes succeeeded) to trap me. Fear of failure, combined with fear of what others might think of me, are most likely to snare me. My mental health history and vulnerability is something I’d really rather not have to live with, not only because I think it might cause me to fail at my endeavours, but also because if I have even the slightest wobble I worry what others might think. I worry that I won’t be seen as credible and that people will think less of me. Living with these sort of fears have at times stopped me stepping out and living up to my potential.
I’m guessing that if you can identify with anything on my fear list you’ll also identify with the fact that the fear and worry don’t change anything for the positive, if anything they can make the problem worse. I am so thankful for the truth declared in The Bible that through my relationship with God I can trade in that spirit of fear for a spirit of POWER, LOVE and SELF DISCIPLINE. It’s the combination of these three characteristics that allow us to lay down fear.
The word ‘power’ often has quite negative connotations, probably because of the prevalence of the abuse of power. But, when it is combined with love and self discipline, the power bestowed by God has the potential to be positively transformative, for individuals, families, communities, churches and even countries.
Self discipline is such an important characteristic in providing us with protection against the things that we fear. But on its own self discipline can be a harsh tool that we can wield to admonish and beat ourselves up. It’s also something that many of us struggle to maintain. When self discipline is combined with love – both of ourselves and of others – it can be more wisely applied and with far great motivation. And self discipline wrapped in love and empowered by the Holy Spirit has a far greater chance of success.
Even love on its own isn’t enough to replace our fears. Many a domestic abuse victim loves their abuser and yet lives in constant fear. For many the emotion of love is seen as being weak and the province of soppy Valentine cards. Love without self discipline can result in affairs and broken hearts, or can leave us burnt out from giving what we no longer have in us.
The love Paul writes about to Timothy is from the Holy Spirit and is full of power and self discipline. John, the disciple referred to in The Bible as the one whom Jesus loved, also writes the following :
It’s a powerful love; fierce and deep like a mother protecting her child. Such love empowers us to fight for justice and protect the weak. It’s a love that empowers us to stand up and speak out but in a tone that resonates grace. It’s also a love that says that we ourselves have great worth and as such should be taken care of and treated with respect by others and also by ourselves. It’s a love that forgives and releases others and allows us to accept forgiveness and be released.
We live in a world where there is potentially much to be fearful of, some of it very genuine but much of it stoked by media and marketing. Social media in particular seems to fuel a culture of fear. This past eighteen months I’ve found many occasions when it has been helpful to check myself and ask the question – am I responding to this situation from a place of fear and timidity?
When I lay down fear and call on God to fill me with his spirit of power, love and self discipline then things change and opportunities open up. I can speak up on issues that I feel passionate about with confidence and grace rather than defensiveness or fear of what those who disagree with me might think. I can weigh up risks and live adventurously. And if I’m really brave and trust in my Heavenly Father then I can stop fearing myself. In the spirit of power, love and self discipline I can live with the fact that I a woman with hormone cycles and who feels a full range of emotions and sometimes expresses them – and that’s okay, in fact it’s more than okay, they are part of the wonderful creation God made me to be.