The Faith Not To Fear


The poet Robert Frost got it right, something there is that does not like a wall. And yet a central concept in almost all religions is the notion of separating the sacred from the profane. And when I was recently asked to speak on this it got me thinking on what this wall looks like, and is there any unpredictable way in which it serves us.

In Judeo Christian theology the idea that God is Holy requires of us to be holy. To be holy requires of us not only to do the right thing but to fence ourselves off from wrong action, restrain ourselves from doing the wrong thing. And the requirement of restraint is usually translated by most of us to mean a “No, Don’t Do That” contract with the details reading things like what we shouldn’t eat, what we shouldn’t covet, what we shouldn’t steal or harm.

Given that restraint is built into “doing the right thing in life,” what is also worth remembering is that this gift also requires us spiritually, intellectually and emotionally to restrain from being afraid. “This world is a very narrow bridge,” wrote the rabbinic sage Nachman of Bratslav, “but you shall not be afraid.” A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. And a half-truth is no truth.

At the end of the day, and in the day’s dark night, nothing more argues for the fact that we are loved than a God who requires restraint from our fears. “The hardest thing for people to accept,” said a Christian monk friend of mine who recently passed “is that they are loved.” We are divinely loved. No small thing in a life where so many of us feel unloved.

Fear is emotional and hence not necessarily calmed by reason. Fear is the pain before the wound. Nevertheless, that it may be unreal doesn’t make the experience of fear any less real, and restraint from fear is an act of courage. Be self-courageous, restrain your fears, feel the self-love and the Divine love. Put your faith and not your fears in charge.

Noah benShea
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