Updated: Oct 13, 2020
I have lived a lot of my life afraid. Not necessarily of anything specific. Just, afraid. Afraid of what might happen. Afraid of what might not happen. Afraid of embarrassment. Afraid of discomfort. Afraid of the unknown. Just afraid.
The thing about fear is, it shrinks your world. I thought a small world meant a safe world. Living in a sort of bubble
protected me from anything potentially threatening to my security. And it can be that. But fear doesn’t just drive you to find a safety net. Fear builds walls, and puts up barriers. It keeps us disconnected from ourselves and others.
And if there is anything I have learned
over and over again in the past couple of years, it’s that walls aren’t helpful. Disconnect can be harmful. And Fear left unattended and unaddressed shrinks us down into something we were never made to be.
In a season where disconnection from others and fear of others is as prevalent as it is, we need to be diligent in confronting the parts of us that resist having our worlds disrupted because it might be uncomfortable, or our views challenged because it might lead to a hard conversation.
Fear of rocking the boat or engaging in a world view different from the one you inherited or lived most of your life with doesn’t keep us safe. It keeps us small. I get it. I’ve been there. I lived most of my life afraid…and surrounded by those who saw the world as I did, looked like I did, and believed like I did. I thought to follow Jesus meant to vote a particular party. And if it didn’t I was quick to make judgements about the real spiritual health of the person who voted differently from me. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I called “staying comfortable” was just fear of people different from me calling the shots.
The truth is, fear of the “other” side w
ill lead us to write narratives for whole groups of people we have never even met. Fear of conflict will lead us to hold on to ideas that may need to be challenged, far longer than we should. Fear of having our worlds disrupted will lead us to comfortable, but not growing and evolving change.
It’s easy to stay comfortable and safe. To liste
n to people just like you. To surround yourself with others who will agree with all of your ideas. To settle in to a way of being in and seeing the world. And fear will lead you to play it safe.
But what if you tried something different?
What if there was a different way to be in the world?
What if it was as scary as you thought it might be, but led to something better?
Engagement with the other side may lead you to change your mind on some things. And that’s okay. Listening to the other side may lead you to see the other side with a humanity you had neglected to give them before you started to pay attention to them. And that’s a good thing.
Respect for the other side may lead you to honor their experiences and stories no matter how different they are from your own. And we need more of that.
And love towards the other side will, without question, make you like Jesus. And isn’t that the goal?
Because with Jesus, there are no sides. He is for all of us. And if fear is keeping you from seeing the other as just as precious and loved as Jesus says they are, then you are missing Him. And that’s a far greater loss than we could possibly imagine.
ABOUT SARAH ANDERSON
A native of the greater Washington, D.C. area and a current resident of the Bible Belt, Sarah has spent her entire life learning to live in the tension both politics and religion create, and striving to learn how to best navigate the complicated issues and emotional conversations around these weightier topics. She is a writer and speaker, and has worked for Orange, an organization committed to helping families and churches partner together to invest in the spiritual growth of the next generation since 2008. Sarah currently lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband and two boys.