fear

There's Something to be Said About Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

We all have our worst fears. And if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to obsess about them and let them dominate my life. It’s all too easy to instantly become negative and allow fears, worries and anxieties overpower our faith in the Lord’s plans for our lives. Or, even worse, we begin to suspect or blame God in the supposed unfolding of these problems that might not have even happened yet.

Fear is a human aspect and is something characters throughout salvation history have struggled with. Even when the Lord reaches out His hand and does amazing deeds, humanity is all too quick to forget God’s goodness, or become disillusioned and bitter. This plays out multiple times in the books of Exodus and Numbers, where the Israelites complain about the food the Lord has given them, about what they left behind in Egypt (besides slavery) and where the Lord is taking them.

When Moses leads the Israelites to the land “flowing with milk and honey,” they become consumed with fear because they’re afraid of the current inhabitants of the land, completely forgetting the extraordinary miracles that brought them out of slavery and sustained them on their journey:

“All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, the whole community saying to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt, or that here in the desert we were dead! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will be taken as booty. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?…Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14: 2-4)

In response, the Lord allows exactly what they feared to happen, because they wouldn’t make space in their lives for God and because they refused to trust in Him. He withdraws and without God, their worst fears indeed take place:

“The Lord also said to Moses and Aaron: ‘How long will this wicked community grumble against me?… By my life, says the Lord, I will do to you just what I have heard you say. Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall….Your little ones, however, who you said would be taken as booty, I will bring in, and they shall appreciate the land you spurned. But as for you, your bodies shall fall here in the desert, here where your children must wander for forty years, suffering your faithlessness, till the last of you lies dead in the desert.” (Numbers 14: 26-29, 31-33)

The Israelites became victims to a self-fulfilling prophecy and their own fears indeed came into being because they refused to believe in the Lord, and the Lord allowed those fears to become actualized. It’s easy to look at this ancient example and scoff at their faithlessness, but the reality is that we make the same mistakes in our own lives time and time again. We also refuse to trust in the Lord because our fears seem more substantial than trusting that the Lord has our best interests in mind. When we encounter the unknown, we shy away and want to turn back to the familiar past, even when we bemoaned the tribulations of what we endured in the past. By making our fears tantamount, we push the Lord aside and sometimes invite what we feared to come into being.  At the same time, it can be incredibly difficult to trust in the Lord, especially when He’s calling us into the unknown, but a life without trust in the Lord as Christians is not a Christian life at all.

But, as the Lord has also done throughout salvation history, He’s always ready to reward faith and renew His promises, as we make our way through this desert of life to the Promised Land waiting for our souls at the end of our earthly days. As long as we hope, we can prevent these dark omens of the unknown from become dismal self-fulfilled prophecies.

Don't Let Your Fear of Commitment Set Boundaries on Your Life

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend which turned to me landing a second interview for a great job. I went on to tell my friend that I'm happy about the way that my life turned out. I told her that despite what society said, my life was not stifled by getting married young and finding out that we're expecting our first child.

My friend made a face and shrugged, clearly thinking me crazy. It's a reaction I'm used to when people inquire about my life. I have to defend my choices and list reasons why my existence hasn't been ruined by committing to marriage and having a child in my early twenties.

But I shouldn't be surprised. Fear of commitment is a common sentiment, one that I struggled with in my past and sometimes still grapple with.

When I began dating my now spouse, I feared that being in a serious relationship would somehow prevent me from reaching important milestones in my life. I wanted someone to be there, but I felt like being committed would keep me from excelling in my career as a new college graduate, that being "tied" to someone would keep me from being a writer or chasing my wanderlust. But we loved being with each other and didn't want to miss out on something great. 

My fears resurfaced when our relationship became more serious and we began talking about marriage. Immediately, the inevitable "ball and chain" metaphor came to mind. Of course, I thought, taking my relationship to the next level would keep me from achieving everything that I wanted to do in life, even though I had evidence to the contrary. Further commitment would condemn my life to bland child-rearing in suburbia. Because I was afraid to move forward, our relationship began to feel strained. 

Never mind that my boyfriend supported me academically and professionally. Never mind that he encouraged me to go abroad to Spain for a few months over the summer and even helped me financially. Never mind that he was an emotional pillar whenever I spiraled into an existential crisis about my future. Never mind that he always treated me with incredible patience and respect, and we had the same goals in life, and were deeply in love.

It wasn't until my mom, exasperated at my rants against marriage asked me, "if you got married, why in the world would it keep you from doing anything that you want to do? Give me one thing that you couldn't do when you get married. Has being in this relationship so far taken away anything from you in your life?"

I paused. Could I still have a career while married? Yes. Did I have a valid support system, did we want the same things out of life, and share the same belief system? Yes. Could I still travel? Yes. We both love visiting new countries.

What I was afraid of were ghosts of my own invention, specters wrought into being by my own fears and the angry voice of society that said marriage kills love and destroys dreams. I listened to my own insecurities and wallowed in them. 

What I slowly began to realize was that my fear of commitment was my fear of growth and change. I wanted to stay stagnant in my position, instead of moving forward and growing. I was like a plant that had outgrown its pot: needing room to grow but comfortable in my surroundings. But if I didn't embrace this change, this commitment, and leap into my future hand-in-hand with my new partner, then what we had would die.

Now that we're expecting our first child, again I feel some fear and trepidation about the future and how having a baby will impact our lives. 

But then I remember that deciding to commit to my relationship didn't take away anything, but actually expanded my horizons in unexpected, but definitely incredible ways. The fear of commitment-not the actual commitment itself or its effects on my life- tempted me to set restrictions based on stereotypes and my own insecurity. Yes, my life is different each time I commit to something new, but it's always made me grow in such profound ways and helped me achieve things I never thought I could.

Of course, choosing to commit is a huge decision and one that comes with great responsibility and growing pains. Great discernment should go into moving seriously forward with anyone or anything. But don't let the fear of what could happen (usually the worst things come to mind) when you commit prevent you from doing so. Look at the matter logically, weigh the pros and cons, and try to screen out unreasonable fears and stereotypes preached by society. 

Don't let the fear of commitment sink you into angst. Don't build boundaries for yourself. Commitment is not stagnation, but rather, can be one of the best platforms for wonderful change.