Death Is Not The Biggest Fear
We are a fearful society. We're told a hundred times daily why we should be afraid and what we should be frightened of. And if that wasn't enough, we have personal fears that drive us to do and say things we probably wouldn't otherwise.
I was researching fear not long ago and discovered that the fear of death is considered "the mother of all fears" by many theorists and could even be the one fear that underpins almost every other fear we have.
Our efforts to avoid or evade death can become the unspoken, underlying fear that can lead us to destructive behavior toward ourselves and others.
But according to author don Miguel Ruiz in his fantastic book The Four Agreements, the fear of death isn't the most destructive of fears; it's the fear of truly living that can ruin us if we let it:
Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive--the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people's demands. We have learned to live by other people's points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.
I don't know about you, but that statement resonates with me. Far too many of us spend our lives trying to live up to the expectations of others while our own longings and dreams are buried within us.
We are terrified to discover what our best and most authentic selves might look like because of what it might cost us to do so.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus offers a hard teaching about the cost of discipleship to a number of his followers. The abundant life he offers them comes with a price tag: they have to give up their notions of success, comfort and religiosity.
What follows is this sad verse: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:66, NIV)
Although, it is kind of interesting that a verse about disciples turning away from Jesus would have such an ominous (666) reference, don't read that much into it.
This is the most important part of the dialogue as Jesus turns and speaks to the remaining disciples: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. (John 6:67, NIV)
To which Peter, who often put his foot in his mouth, acted impetuously and tended to leap before he looked replies:
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Now, we should note that Peter would go on to deny Jesus, Judas would betray him and all of the other disciples would flee, leaving him to be arrested and executed. They were a work in progress, just like all of us.
But the memory of this moment would have returned to them over and again as they sought to live without fear, and to more fully become the people God dreamed for them to be, the people Jesus taught them to be.
In your own life, may you find the courage to follow Jesus without fear, knowing that even now the Spirit of the universal, eternal Christ continues to speak the words of eternal life over you.
May you live authentically and truly, despite what it might cost you. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.