Living in the Presence of Fear

    Last night, I awoke at 3 am and could not get back to sleep as I was
    worrying about people I love and fearful of events that may yet
    happen. I prayed and tried to focus on “Be still and know that I am
    God.” When I do so usually I am reminded that I am not in control
    and understand the limits of what I can do.  But last night, my mind
    kept on racing with fears and feelings that I am failing to live fully as
    God would have me live!  Then, I realized my greatest fear: that there
    may come a day when because of pain, suffering or even my moving
    away from God in my life that I will not be ABLE to bring myself
    back into the PRESENCE OF GOD!  I became aware again that it
    is I who move—or I who am unable to bring myself into the
    presence of God—as happened last night..  Eventually I did—and
    peace was restored. But what if?  What if because of pain, my own
    fears run amuck, a loss too great to bear I am unable to bring myself
    back into God’s presence.  Last night, while living instead in the
    presence of my fears, I realized that my greatest fear is that I may
    remain a prisoner of fear and be unable to bring myself back into the
    presence of God.  For that is “hell”—being in the presence of fear
    and away from the presence of God.  I realize now that although
    God finds us and it is not we who find God, that we must prepare
    ourselves to be open to God.  Fear is so powerful that it can
    block out our ability to know and experience God’s loving
    presence.  Living in the presence of fear is the antithesis of
    living in the presence of God.  

    O Lord, thank you for your abiding presence.  Please keep my heart
    near your love and the heart of my heart open to receive your love.  
    May I be blessed by the chance to help someone who is living in
    their own hell – living in the presence of fear.  Please use me and all
    who love you to become instruments of your love.  Please use us to
    illumine their lives with the light of your love and please open their
    hearts to the gift of your loving presence.  Amen.
       
    A new book, "Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of
    Faith," written by Henri Nouwen with Michael Christensen and
    Rebecca Laird, published by Harper, says it best:

                 "There is so much fear and agony in us. Fear of people,
                 fear of God, and much raw, undefined, free-floating
                 anxiety.  I wonder if fear is not our main obstacle to prayer.
                 When we enter into the presence of God and start to sense
                 that huge reservoir of fear in us, we want to run away into the
                 many distractions that our busy world offers us so abundantly.
                 But we should not be afraid of our fears.  We can confront
                 them, cry out to God, and lead our lives into the presence
                 of the One who says: "Don't be afraid, it is I." (p.58).

                          “When You Hide Your Face, They Are Dismayed”
                                                      (Psalm 104:29)


    I sit alone along the shore looking eastward toward the darkening sky—
           behind me is the setting sun.
    I look at the fading color in the sky and watch as the sea and the
           sky slowly blend into gray and then into darkness.

    O Lord, I am filled with memories of how my heart sang
           the last time I was here.
    I remember how my heart burned with the warmth of your presence.
    But tonight, even here in this peaceful place, you seem so far away—
           and my heart so yearns to be filled with your presence!

    Why do you seem so far away, O Lord?
    For I know that you are here—and yet, I am not filled with your presence.
    I feel as though a fog surrounds me—
           preventing me from seeing you.
    I feel like a shroud has been wrapped around my soul—
           and I cannot feel your presence this night.
    I seek you and a moment later—
           my mind wanders and my attention is directed elsewhere—
           as if to avoid the pain of missing you this night.

    By why, O Lord?
    Is it because my last time here was so filled with your presence
           that any other experience would necessarily be less?
    Is it because I am focusing too much on the experience I am seeking
           to recreate and not enough on you?
    Is it because I am thinking of me and my life—
           and missing in the rhythm of the waves
           your promise of faithful presence?

    I have put pen to paper because at this moment—
            I do not know how else to speak with you.
    And I do so want to speak—and even more to hear.

    How foolish I must look to you dear Lord!
    A grown man sitting along the deserted beach!
    You have blessed me with love, health,
           and wonderful opportunities to serve others!
    You have blessed me with what any person would desire—
           and you have given even so much more!
    And yet, I say to you that I yearn for my heart to “sing” of its joy at your presence-
           and to so fill my heart that it would “burn” with your love!

    Forgive me Lord!!
    To see the situation as you must see it fills me with shame.
    And yet, I know that you already know my heart –
           and you have already forgiven me!
    I know that it is you who create within me even the desire to be with you!

    Sometimes my fears, real and imagined—
           so fill me that they block your presence in my life—
           and there is no room left for you to abide.
    And Lord, I fear that is what is happening even now!!
    For my heart is filled with so many fears and concerns for
           one who suffers from cancer, the many who live with pain and loss,        
           sinful waste of dollars and resources by our government,
           and especially for this world that appears to be
           teetering on the edge of disaster—
           at least it does from where I am sitting.

    O Lord, please help me to release these burdens to your loving care!!
    Help me to act on those few that I can change—
           and trust the rest to you.
    My worry will not change them—
           and if I cannot let go, they will change me.
    For Lord, I know that until I empty myself of these fears,
           I will not have room enough for you and your loving presence!

    Lord, I do not know the future—
           I only know that you will be there, even as you are here.
    I know that you love me and all of your children—
           from everlasting to everlasting!
    So whatever may happen—
           you will be with us—
           and we will be forever safe in the embrace of your loving arms!

    O Lord, thank you!!
    Thank you for life, for memories, for mountain top experiences,
           for being with us in the valley, for hope, and for the
           ability to trust you!!
    Thank you for the gift of your presence –
           and for the gift of carrying our burdens when we will but
           turn them over to you!!

    As I leave this night my heart still does not sing—
           but as I release my fears and burdens to you
           and you take my burdens unto yourself,
           my heart is filling with trust and gratitude for your love!
    Dear Lord, thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!

    Sometimes my fears, real
    and imagined—so fill me
    that they block your
    presence in my life—and
    there is no room left for you
    to abide.