now panic and freak out

01 Nov

We experience moments absolutely free from worry. These brief respites are called panic. ~ Cullen Hightower

Now panic and freak out.

Why do I think more of us can identify with that slogan as opposed to “Keep calm and carry on?”

Or how about one of its sister slogans:  “Now freak out and throw stuff”?

We know fear. We know it daily. Fear of joblessness, of cancer, of abandonment, of rejection, of death, you name it. Fear of the ultimate rejection. Fear of hell, of judgment, of condemnation. Fear of God.

Fear can be an extremely powerful motivator. Historians say that many Russian soldiers in the course of World War II were motivated to hurl themselves into the fight against the Nazis because of squads posted immediately to their rear that had one purpose: to gun them down if they chose flight over fight.

The Old Testment is filled with fear – and often sings its praises. Fear is the beginning of knowledge. Because God forgives, we can fear him. “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever,” sings David.

Fear even makes a positive appearance in the New Testament. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” says Paul to the Philippians. “Submit to one another out of fear for Christ,” he urges the Ephesians.

And yet John says, “There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear.” “Drives out” is the same expression frequently used of Jesus driving out demons.

So just how do we resolve this tension, this seeming contradiction?

One approach is to use different English words to translate identical Greek and Hebrew words. “Fear” becomes “respect,” “reverence,” or “awe.” Fear lite.

Maybe. Maybe that catches it. But maybe not.

Others insist that nothing has changed and continue to rely on fear as the primary motivator in life and death, and when facing eternity. Of all the titles of books rebutting Rob Bell’s Love Wins, at least one of them should have been honest and borne the title on its cover in bold print: FEAR WINS.

And indeed, it seems to in just about every realm of human endeavor – particularly in religion and politics.

But I can’t get out of my mind Jesus’ oft repeated assurance to a band of disciples seized with fear (seized with reverence and respect? Not so much. They were scared!):  “Fear not.” His other favorite greeting was shared by his entire Jewish culture: “Peace be with you.” Paul picked up that one in each of his letters and added “grace” to boot.

Perhaps John couldn’t get it out of his head either.

Perhaps a more healthy way of viewing fear and love is simply this. Under a covenant that Paul says was a covenant of condemnation fear was the primary, driving motivation, with love in a supporting role. Both motivators are present, but fear and threats of punishment predominate. Love was eclipsed by fear. We may of course ask, “How did that work for you?” The nation painfully self-destructed over a millenium despite all the fear and threats that could be and were piled on them. Then God restored them because he chose to love them anyway.

Enter Jesus. Enter the covenant “not like the covenant I made with your fathers when I brought them out of Egypt.” Enter the covenant that brings life. The covenant of the new commandment to love one another. It would seem, if we are listening, that love has now eclipsed fear. Fear has a back-up, supporting role when and if needed – a role that is, ultimately, vanishing in the bright light of a new heavens and new earth already breaking into our world; vanishing because, as John put it, “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” It is LOVE that drives us, that compels us, that reshapes our soul, that recontours the inner landscapes of our being.

And while John may well have scratched his head at some of Rob Bell’s musings, in the light of his statements and exclamations in 1 John, it hardly seems possible that he could ever have taken issue with his title.

Love wins.


Posted by on November 1, 2012 in musings


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13 responses to “now panic and freak out

  1. Jennifer Stuart

    November 1, 2012 at 12:58 am

    My friend had just recommended this TED talk to me:

    It’s by this lady that studies vulnerability, shame, empathy, and other things- the reason that your post made me think of it is that I wonder if the point when we turn from fear to love/trust is also the moment that we have the courage and bravery to let go of that fear, and in that moment, we are vulnerable, which is the state that allows us to actually feel connected to others and to the world. Interesting how these things are overlapping in my may like her talk! There’s a follow-up one too that I can send you if you listen and like the first one. Hope you are well 🙂

  2. Stephen Parker

    November 1, 2012 at 4:58 am

    This is amazing! Thank you so much for posting this. I already went and found her second talk and watched it. All I can say is thank you!!! I need to see this, learn this, live this. We all do.

  3. Kristi Harris

    November 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Your fan base is growing :)…I recently read one of your posts to a friend, and now she has me forward all of them to her. These are great thoughts here, you are so generours to share them with us. BLESSINGS TO YOU

  4. Kristi Harris

    November 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Oh, my friend and I would like to know where the sculpture you featured in your post is located–that is amazing!

  5. Jennifer Stuart

    November 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Also just found out that she is going to do something on in a few weeks 🙂 Isn’t she great? I literally just watched that lastnight for the first time. And on my walk this morning I just kept thinking about it.

  6. wordhaver

    November 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    WOW! Jennifer, thank you. Great talk! This one I will be putting about. “We make everything that is uncertain, certain.Religion has gone from being a belief and faith in mystery to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up.” Wow. Good stuff. From beginning to end. It’s funny, when I clicked on the link and saw that ran over 20 minutes, I nearly gave it the pass. But then I thought, “Well, Jennifer says this is good stuff…” Glad I listened to that voice. Thank you so much for sharing this! Glad my post impacted you so you could impact me. Again. 🙂

  7. wordhaver

    November 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    AMEN! 🙂

  8. wordhaver

    November 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    So blessed that others are blessed…but I think I’ll forget all about any semblance of the words “fan base” because that scares the bejesus out of me. My inner response typically is, OMG. People are actually reading this. Scary. Thanks for sharing, Kristi – and so glad that friends can benefit too! 🙂

  9. wordhaver

    November 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I don’t remember! I saw this pic in someone’s post in FB probably a year ago. I’ll try to find out who that was and let you know if I can identify a location.

  10. retroillini

    November 2, 2012 at 4:00 am

    Again–Thank You!!!!

  11. wordhaver

    November 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm


  12. jhopping

    November 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I know where my towel is so I’m ok (and yes, this is a veiled reference to the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). =P

    BTW – the sculpture is called “Freedom” and was created by Zenos Frudakis at GSK World Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. Here’s a link to Zenos’ website talking about it:

  13. wordhaver

    November 2, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks Josh!


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