Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Kind of Afraid

Things have been getting progressively better in my spiritual life for a while now, but there has been something, just below the surface, bothering me.  A feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I've felt uneasy.  The anger is mostly gone and I trust God now more than ever (I feel like I trust him completely, but there are a few things I'm having trouble letting go of so I'm not comfortable claiming complete trust at the moment).  Ok, so apparently I don't trust him completely.  That's what I'm going for though.  Maybe this uneasy feeling is why I'm having some difficulty going all in.  I think I know what it is now, I hope that helps me deal with it.

It's fear.  I'm afraid.  I use the word fear because I'm not familiar with a better word.  I love the English language, but times like these I find our practice of using the same word to mean a thousand different things incredibly frustrating.  Tonight I though about C.S. Lewis' book The Problem of Pain.  I know its weird since my problem isn't pain (at the moment), my problem is fear.  I'm not sure why I thought of it, in this text Lewis is only describing different kinds of fear as base for a larger discussion.  You should read the book, you should read all of his books.  So, there are several different emotions that we call fear.  I'm changing it, but basically Lewis breaks it down like this:  If I were to see a man with a gun walking towards my porch out of the woods right now, I would feel fear.  I would be afraid of death or physical harm.  If I were to see a ghost coming out of those same woods I would feel fear, only of a different kind.  One does not fear physical harm from a ghost, it is the difference between what I know and what I'm seeing that scares me.  I'm afraid of the ghost just because he his a ghost.  Lewis describes this as fear of the "Uncanny."  Now, if I looked up from my computer and instead of woods and darkness I saw an infinitely powerful spirit my fear would be something all together different.  Physical harm is not the fear, the unknown is not the fear, the fear here comes from my knowledge that I am all together unable to cope in this new reality.  I'm not sure it would be fear.  At least not one that is at all related to what we normally use that word to express.  Lewis describes it as a feeling of wonder and a certain shrinking.  I would feel inadequate - I would be in awe.  I say would be, I am.  Lewis uses a quote, from The Wind in the Willows, that I love (never read the book, I keep saying I'm going to).

"Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid?  Of Him?  O, never, never.  And yet - And yet- I am afraid"  

I'm no longer afraid of what God may do to me, but when I get near him its there.  Just beneath the freedom and peace and rest that He provides there is a kind of uneasy restlessness.  Its a perverted desire to do something.  I want to move, not necessarily away, just move.  I'm not sure why or what it is.  

Flying is peaceful for me.  In so many ways it mirrors my spiritual life.  Now that I'm thinking about it this feeling of uneasiness shows up when I fly from time to time.  I'm sure, now, that its in those times I feel it spiritually.  I like the perspective flying offers.  The world looks so far away.  I feel removed and small and free.  I'm comfortable flying partly because I know its safe.  However, I've noticed that just occasionally I turn into a button pusher.  I can be fidgety, and I always assumed that was it.  Every now and then I get into this thing where the whole flight I push buttons and turn nobs.  I check and recheck everything.  The plane I fly is pretty basic, you get the whole story from like 5 numbers and 4 lights.  95% of the time I set the autopilot and just relax for that portion between take off and landing (for the most part), however, on some flight I find myself constantly looking at the manifold pressure, RPM, oil pressure, and fuel burn over and over.  I usually chock it up to just being bored or fidgety.  The thing is, I'm not those things when I fly.  I'm perfectly content to just fly.  I think the restlessness in the airplane is just a physical manifestation of a restlessness in my spiritual life.  

That's a lot of words to basically say that the idea of being in God's presence, while wonderful, also frightens me a little. I'm not sure what to do with it. Any ideas?

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