My biggest fear is that people will see me differently than I see myself. Sounds kind of funny, right? But it’s true. I feel I know myself very well, and if other people get to know me and somehow come away with a different conclusion, that is frightening to me. And certainly, you can understand why.
If people see me differently than I see myself, I can draw one of two conclusions. First, I can assume they are not very intelligent and are therefore incapable of recognizing my most important traits and my obvious virtues. Or, second, I might be in trouble, because how I see myself may not actually be accurate. And if its not, then its my intelligence and mental acuity which is now in question.
If I want to be seen as wise, intelligent, trustworthy, and capable and people see me instead as kind, shy, and long-winded (which is also one of my fears…talking so much I don’t notice people are bored), then I’m missing something big; and that is frightening.
So, what are you afraid of?
I find that especially when it comes to spirituality, a lot of people steer clear because they are afraid. They are afraid to get to know themselves—to see themselves in God’s eyes. They are afraid that in that light they will see not only the things they already know they do wrong, but others they haven’t noticed yet.
I find that people are afraid of what keeping the commandments means. “Will I have to give up X and stop ever doing Y?” They are afraid of what coming closer to Christ means for the comfortable pieces of their life. Because they can’t yet comprehend or get excited about What giving up X and stopping Y will open their lives up to receive.
I find that people are afraid of sacrifice. Christianity is, after all, a religion of sacrifice. Give up this to be in Christ’s fold. Give up this to be worthy to enter into a covenant. Give up…give up…give up…
In the scriptures we are taught to “lose our life” (JST Mark 8:37-38) that we may gain it, for Christ’s sake. To “take up our cross and follow Him” (Matthew 10:38).
Almost always, if we are afraid to keep a commandment, to take a leap of faith, it’s because we are afraid of not getting something of equal value to what we already have and which we don’t feel particularly keen to give up. Not realizing of course that what we will get is of far more worth than anything we currently have, or can imagine.
So, what is it you are afraid of? What are you afraid of losing, sacrificing, learning, seeing, sharing, or giving up in exchange for God’s way in your life?
What are you excited for?
Too often we focus on what we are giving up rather than what we will get. That is where Satan pounds on the fear pedal and we turn and run from God’s commandments, covenants, and offerings. The irony of this is that what we truly want is far better than anything we currently have. But in order to get what we truly want we have to be willing to part with our present circumstances and actions. Satan doesn’t want us to have the blessings God has for us. Satan doesn’t want us to get anything better.
Too often we make the idea of the choice a huge, ceremonial event, when all it is is our choice to “flip a switch” (thank you @_valeriecuevas on IG). No big event needed. We just make one choice, then another, then another.
The scriptures teach us that we can’t even imagine the awesome blessings and wonderful life we will have as a follower of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9, D&C 76:10). We can’t imagine them because what we can imagine is so much less than what God has in store. That is reason for excitement.
Imagine you’re on a game show, and the host says, “You’ve chosen door #1. It’s $10,000. Do you want to keep it? Or do you want door #2, which, even though you don’t know how much it is, I can guarantee you it’s far more than you can imagine.”
Will you seriously hold on to your $10K even though you’ve been assured that door #2 is so much better—than you can imagine? If you do stick with the $10K, it’s likely because you believe the game host is trying to trick you, right? You’re afraid. But God is never going to try to trick you.
If, instead of being afraid, we focused on the awesome unknown blessings, the known blessings, and the love we feel from God, we would find excitement to obey instead of fear. “Take that Satan, not only do I have more than you already, but I’m going to get even more by doing what you could never do…listen, trust in God, and obey.”
The trial of faith
What good is keeping a commandment if you don’t learn something about yourself from it. Usually, when we commit to keeping a commandment the immediate “visual” result is… (pin drop) …nothing. “Wait! Where is my blessing?”
I would argue that in keeping a commandment we feel an immediate internal peace, knowing that we are doing the Lord’s will. Fist pump. We are on the right track. But that darn fear just likes to creep right back up. “What if this is the one time He doesn’t come through?” “What if He comes through with the blessing too late?” “What if…what if…what if?” and so on.
Sometimes blessings that we can see are immediate. Blessings we cannot see are always immediate. But often, blessings we can see are usually slower to appear, or we are slow to recognize them.
Why does God do that? Because, our obedience was never just about getting blessings. It was also about us getting to know ourselves, and learning what we’re made of.
Give it time—wait it out
C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:
…I want to add that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues. A week in not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the wind by trying to talk against it, no by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full extent what temptation means—the only complete realist.
I love this quote because from it we learn a few things. First, God doesn’t always let us see our immediate blessings so that we have time to learn a little more about ourselves. But simply because we can’t see blessings doesn’t mean God lets us down. On the contrary. The longer we hang in there and wait—even if it seems like His help or guidance is past due—the stronger our faith and resolution in Him—and ourselves—when He finally does reveal all that He’s been up to since we started keeping His commandments.
In fact, this is one of my favorite things. Because I feel the stress of that waiting too, even though I’ve been practicing it for years. That “fear” still tries to get me. I get tired waiting, just like everyone else. But then the moment comes. And (fireworks!) I see how God has been putting my blessings together for a long time and how they’ve come together to bring something amazing into my life—that I could never have imagined—and “I stand all amazed.” It’s the most amazing process I’ve ever experienced in my life—and which I continue to experience. There’s nothing like it available anywhere on earth…only from God.
Having to “wait it out” or “sweat it out” creates godly character in us and gives meaning to our faith, our sacrifice, etc. We find out our mettle by trusting in the Lord. Then, by overcoming our fears, we gain greater excitement and faith in the blessings yet to come as we embrace more commandments, more covenants, and more virtues. In other words, our fear dies—Satan loses—and our faith and excitement in God’s promises increases. We get spiritually confident.
But we have to wait it out sometimes and recognize that this is part of the process that creates excitement and overcomes fear.
So, I challenge you. Figure out your spiritual fear. What are you worried about losing in exchange for keeping a commandment, entering a covenant, forgiving, obeying, etc.?
Then, make a list of all the things you truly, deeply desire for yourself and your life. Hang them up where you can see them every day. At the bottom of that list write, “What God has in store for me is better than anything on this list.”