The Only Thing We Have To Fear…

Several people asked me to write and update after I went to the Red Letter Christians retreat in Pennsylvania. First off, it was an incredible trip. To share time, meals and ideas with fellow authors and speakers for three days was a rare opportunity for which I’m greatly humbled and thankful.

Tony Campolo, you rock!

Some of you may have read my earlier post about my freak-out when I thought I was going to have to pray aloud in front of what I imagined to be a room full of professional prayers. So imagine my relief when our group’s leader confessed a similar aversion to public prayer.

A few small groups did pray aloud for one another, while others huddled up in silence like Tim Tebow in overtime. Fortunately I landed in a group that approached prayer more like I do: share with the group, then pray together, silently to yourself.

Yes, I know some of you are grumbling right now that I weenied out, that I should have had to deal with my fear head-on, and that explicit community prayer is an important part of a faith discipline.

As Judge Wapner used to say on People’s Court, I know you’ve been sworn in and I’ve heard your complaints.

It’s funny because I’ve made a regular practice in my adult life of confronting those things that scare me, including even going to this event in the first place. Being surrounded by such big-name leaders with such great minds can be a little intimidating. But for me, the idea of working out prayer anxiety in their presence went beyond bravery into the realm of masochism.

As is the case more often than not, my fear going into the week was much worse on my emotional well-being than reality proved to be. It’s a funny thing how we “prepare” ourselves for struggle by fretting, obsessing and agonizing in advance. If there’s some evolutionary benefit to this human trait, the purpose still eludes me.

So yeah, I lucked out and didn’t have to contend with that particular fear this time. And yes, i know I’ll still have to face my worries about praying sooner or later. But my hope is that I’ll be at least a little bit more prepared to silence the little voice in the back of my head. Worry is wasted energy. It’s an illusion of control over something we can’t manage. We place ourselves in the role of God, presuming we can affect the outcome by some strange act of personal will.

But as was my prayer throughout the week in Pennsylvania, rather than focusing on changing my environment to fit my desires, I pray for surrender – to my own worry, to the circumstances at hand and to the consequences of the opinions of others.

It’s also kind of nice to know there are plenty of others out there dealing with the same kinds of things. After all, worry loves nothing more than a like-minded companion.

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  • not every fear, as i understand it, is something to work to overcome. there are rational and reasonable fears. and thank God for them! i think there is a lot to say about a person’s personality type. some people are just, by who they are, not persons who will ever want or need to pray out loud in the presence of others. our spirituality is shaped by who we are and how we are wired. perhaps your spirituality is more geared to thinking (contemplative prayer) or imagination (imagery prayer) or reading (praying the scriptures and others’ liturgies) or writing (journaling). just not sure we need to beat ourselves up over something that might n0t be God’s intention or of our makeup as God’s people. just peace, always, all ways, forever… Gary Lake Dylan