Did you know that the first encyclical of a pope is supposed to set the theme for his papacy? Pope St. John Paul II’s first encyclical was Redemptor Hominis on Jesus as Redeemer. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s first encyclical was Deus Caritas Est on God’s love. Pope Francis’ first was Lumen Fidei on the Light of Faith.
What is the point of telling you this? I have had this blank blog page up for nearly four months. The first time I approached this page my mind burst with excitement over the flood of possible topics. Just pick one? What to chose?! Theology of the Body or the Eucharist, Scripture passages, Catechism topics, etc.? The small blinking curser taunted me to write something brilliant, something that would make a difference, something that would be distinct from everything else out there.
Like a guy searching for the perfect pick up line I racked my brain to find the perfect opening post. But when I approached the screen my words fumbled over themselves falling flat on their faces.
Finally, I realized why I couldn’t settle on a topic. Fear, the silent killer of joy had snuck into my soul and robbed me of my courage. Unlike the average thief, this fiend covers its tracks with doubts, insecurities and apprehensions. In case we try to track him, he hangs bright fluorescent signs around pointing toward the slippery slope of the land of “What if” with hairpin turns at the corner of “Worst Case Scenario” and “Decimation of Confidence”.
Before you know it, we are so entangled by our own worries that we have become completely lost in its thorny underbrush. Tied in knots we are left shaken by the entire encounter too unsure to make a move.
Pope Francis helped bring to light a marian devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. This devotion has spread like wildfire across the Catholic world and for good reason. Fear is humanity’s constant attacker. Ever vigilant it waits to pounce on our doubts and to capitalize on our moment of confusion. With the precision of a ninja it attacks from behind and before we can blink we are tucked, turned and twisted in to giant human pretzel twists.
I know I’m not alone in this but think about it. Humans are made to know, love and serve God. We are made for community. To love and be loved. We are made to be people of goodwill. But how often do we stop doing something for fear of what other people will think of us? At times these feelings are good, and serve as fire alarms in our souls that something is not good for us. But even when our actions are good we hesitate. Say one week you catch a glimpse of your parish’s bulletin. It’s an advertisement to visit a retirement home. What is your first reaction? How about a blurb about joining a bible study? Going on a mission trip? Pro-life rally?
What would people say? How would it look to my friends? I can’t visit old people, what would we talk about?
Bible study? I don’t even own one—besides, can you say ‘Jesus Freak’ any louder than a bible study? I will never be able to understand it anyway. I have enough things to read. I don’t need to add one more.
Mission trip? Unless it has a beach, cute boys and no humidity forget it. Pro-life rally? That’s for other people to do, not me. I can’t make a difference.
How about the every day? The dorky girl in class sits next to me at lunch, my mother picks me up from the movies, I don’t have a cell phone like everyone else, I don’t like talking about shopping, I don’t have a boyfriend, I wear ankle length jean skirts, I read Catholic blogs in my spare time, etc.
We are on constant alert to please others so we don’t get labeled the ‘freak’ or ‘loser’. We run from anything that would get us bumped down the social ladder. But at what price?
I for one have let fear talk me out of goodness knows how many outfits, classes, jobs, trips, roller coasters and high rise diving boards. It’s not that I don’t want to, I do, but I can’t bring myself to let go of that gnawing fear inside.
Even now, at this point in my life I fear failure. What if I disappoint those who are counting on me? What if I expose the fact that…wait for it…I’m not perfect. *GASP* I know, I know!
But so much of life is spent convincing others that we have life under control. That we are unshakeable. We help others through their crises but downplay our own. Why do we do this? We try to protect others from ourselves (and at times this is prudent). Other times we are simply shielding our own sufferings.
St. John Paul II spoke out repeatedly against fear, declaring ‘Be not afraid’ and to ‘open wide the doors to Christ’. One of my favorite quotes to wrestle with comes from him as well:
Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no, harm can befall you; all is very very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence
So, here I am, stepping out into the unknown. I have no idea how this blog is going to go or how it will effect people but it is here. And with every post I hope to overcome the fear that gnaws away at me because it is only through prayer, grace and determination that it will be defeated.