Monday, September 9, 2013

Biggest Fears

The years just before and after my mom died were the most stressful and difficult in my life. It often got to the point where I would stay out talking after stake institute classes (one-night-a-week church study classes for college-age students - for any non-Mormon readers) for hours with anyone who would stay with me because it was the closest I could get to actually relaxing. One guy in the single's group would stay out talking with me the longest each week. I confess that I was oblivious, due to already stated stress levels, to any deeper intentions on his end. I was just grateful for an excuse not to go home where the tension needed something much more heavy-duty than a mere knife...

One night, we got talking about facing the hard things in life and he said that he believes we will all ultimately have to face our biggest fears. He supported it by listing a couple big ones he'd already lived through. He then said that having done so, he did not find many things worth fearing anymore. While there were a number of things about this guy that I could not agree with, I have often reflected on this insight of his and find it valid in my own life.

In seminary (similar week-day classes for high-school age students) we had a get-to-know you activity at the beginning of one semester. As part of it, we were to give our greatest fear. It wasn't long for me to land on what was mine and so I waited patiently, listening as the question was answered around the room. There were plenty of spiders for girls (and even a guy or two). I think someone said they were afraid of a family member dying. Dying, themselves. Public speaking. Common things that aren't surprising. When it came to be my turn, I stood and said simply, "My greatest fear is that no-one will care about me." One of my classmates had a look of horror on his face at the thought of having no-one care about him. I guess people with good family relations and friends don't think of such things.

I think of the years after that where I would go to my classes, work, church, and manage everything for home and there are periods of time, sometimes months on end, where that 'fear' was reality. I'm sure some of you are thinking, 'Of course people cared about you. You probably just didn't realize it.' I would ask you if there is no evidence of the caring, such that the person is left looking at the world and their burdens alone, how does that 'caring' = caring? Much like the idea that 'faith without works is dead', a 'feeling' stated but not acted upon makes it an empty word. Does a player (male or female) who tells everyone they date 'I love you' actually love those they say it to? Or is it just a tool of manipulation with no intrinsic value? Or if it still has a seed of value, is that seed given enough nourishment to grow to anything sustainable?

I have faced finding my mother dead. I faced financial difficulties. I have faced some pretty difficult health problems. I have faced betrayal, rejection, and scorn. And I have faced the devastating effects that decades of abuse leaves behind. I considered the parking-lot friend's words valid when he spoke them, but I have come to recognize their truth through continuing experience.

Why can I say that? I can because each time a person faces something so much bigger than them and refuses to be defeated they come to realize they were not so small to begin with. Because even when something is more than you can handle yourself, there are the few you can go to for a breather of help. You just have to be willing to look, to ask. I suppose my church membership may be seen as an advantage that others do not have, but I will tell you now - if you need help, look up the local bishop and give him a call. You don't have to be a member, you don't have to listen to missionary discussions. We are here to help anyone in need.

And in those instances where the people around you really just can't understand, consider that God does and that He's there to help you. For any atheist readers, consider that we are all part of the human race and as members in the same race, the same respect we can see applying to others we can apply to ourselves. We are worth fighting through the hard times even if it seems no one else thinks so. Think on how many have suffered such great things and pulled out the brighter and the stronger for it! Every one of us can do the same.

I have faced a lot. Some I had thought to fear and some that had not occurred to me to fear before they appeared. Ultimately, I have found that fear is not a very helpful emotion. It is a human emotion, though, and I tend to be most vulnerable to it when I am particularly stressed or tired. Despite the way my dad viewed them, emotions are not bad or the evidence of a weak person. Having survived so many things already, I have come to realize that each 'crises'  is really just the next puzzle, adventure, dilemma, challenge to overcome. It may not be easy, and it may stretch me farther than I imagined possible, but we humans are resilient creatures. And I know I can do it as I have already done so before. So really, what is there to fear?

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