As I was growing up, I was terrified of street gangs, a rise in racism, street crime, and local terrorist bombings, not to mention global threats such as overpopulation, environmental crises, and mutually assured (nuclear) destruction.
I am not so scared anymore. In fact, years of spiritual study and experiences of prayer and healing have convinced me of God's practical goodness. They have proved to my satisfaction that not being scared, on the basis of divine Love's ever-presence and all-power, is logical and practical whatever the problem.
Experiencing the value of destroying fear at the micro level of my own life in turn suggests to me that similar victories might be of value at the macro level. Being macro-scared can surely be of no more aid to healing than being micro-scared.
So it came as a surprise to me recently to be alerted to a positive take on fear. In an episode of "Friends," Rachel accepts a comfortable job in New York instead of taking a challenging new position in Paris because Ross has maneuvered a higher salary for her back home. Besides having selfish reasons for wanting her to stay, Ross is responding to her telling him she is scared to go.
A little later, though, Rachel confides that, yes, she is scared to start a whole new life in Paris, but that it is good scared, not bad - like the time she left home for life in "the Big Apple" and like the time she was anticipating the birth of daughter Emma. This convinces Ross that he should support her in taking the "scary" step, not preserving the status quo.
As I watched this, I saw something new about my own experience. A growing sense of God's presence and power has reduced and removed many fears. However, it could be said it has also broadened the range of fears I have had to face - but in a positive way. It has brought me face to face with new reasons one might feel afraid. But these reasons have been ones I've been ready to face up to and face down.
I have found myself, for instance, taking on tasks I would have considered beyond my ability. Playing a key role in organizing international meetings is one example. Addressing an audience of several thousand people is another. I've done these things with the conviction that Deity was guiding me to do them, and through confidence in God's willingness to give needed support while doing them.
My broad confidence in God's support through such unsought "adventures" hasn't meant I have been free of specific fear as these demands have come to me. Far from it. It has meant, though, that I have found the trepidation to be spiritually galvanizing instead of mentally paralyzing.
I have felt fear knocking (beating) at the door of my thought. But I have been able to step back and see it as an indication that I am feeling personally responsible for the achievement being demanded. Instead, I realize, I can lean on God to enable me to deliver what is required of me, by virtue of His-Her ability to deliver all that is needed to me (and through me).
God has delivered, time and again. The meetings went well, for instance. The public appearance was a blast!
Would I rather have not had to face the fear such demands brought out in me? On one level, yes. Life would have been cozier for the duration.
On a far more meaningful level, though, no, I would not have missed these opportunities for anything. It was scary at first, but it was good scary. In happy hindsight I can say it is more comforting to have faced a fear and to have gained a spiritual victory over it than it would have been to have avoided it.
Based on her boundless view of everyone's capability to be and do good, the founder of this newspaper once wrote, "We are all capable of more than we do" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 89).
I read this as an incentive to do better, not as a criticism for underachieving. Being called to stretch beyond our comfort zone and discover more of the "more" we are all capable of can feel scary. But it should be seen as good scary, and that inherently includes God's assurance of rising beyond any apprehension we are feeling and thriving in all we are called to do.