I Will Not Be Afraid, I Will Love My Neighbor
I don’t know about you but right about now, I need a guiding mantra. The statement that I keep speaking over myself is this:
I will not be afraid. I will love my neighbor.
Fear and panic are everywhere. Frenzy has kicked in. Fighting over toilet paper has become a real fight. Grocery store pictures with nothing on the shelves are popping up all over social sending people who tend not to panic into panic. Restaurants and bowling alleys, movie theaters and schools have all closed. It feels as though every few hours we have new breaking news, new mandates, new things stripped from our every day life.
Watching the news, I understand we have good reason to fear. People are sick and people are dying and the outlook is scary. When I speak over myself this mantra -“I will not fear” – those moments are me making a choice to not fall into the panic and frenzy when I am afraid. Those moments are me trying to calm myself down and me trying to center myself in God and the peace that comes from that trust.
If there ever was a time to take God’s hundreds of“do not fear” quotes from the Bible seriously, now is it. Fear will not help us help our kids navigate their own set of fears. Fear will not make bread show back up on the grocery store shelves. Fear will not take the virus away from the girl down the street who is really, really sick. Fear will not center us.
We need to be centered. We need to be grounded. We need to keep our wits about us. We need to take deep breaths and we need to remind ourselves what is true.
I had a friend text me in utter panic thinking she was having a panic attack the other day. And I get it. All the crazy just became too much. All the cancellations, all the risk of shutdown, all the economic threat, all the hysteria. All the emails from everyone and their brother either closing, cancelling or telling you how much they wash their hands – it’s all just overwhelming. I very strongly reminded my friend of what is true. I was almost bossy with her. I was almost yelling at her via text to stop her own panic and get centered. That sounds harsh, but sometimes that’s what we need.
I will say to you what I said to her. Be centered by these words and hear them speak over you with strength, assuredness and urgency:
- God loves you and that will not change.
- God has put people in your life that love you and that will not change.
- God has been your provider and God will continue to provide and that will not change.
- God is good and that will not change.
- God promises His presence and that will not change.
- God is our Savior and He will save us from all the things we need saving from and that will not change.
Some of us need to hold the phone. Some of us need to put coronavirus on hold and center our freaking selves. We are all facing layoffs, sickness, worry for our relatives with cancer, concern for the elderly in our lives, fear of not being able to pay the bills. We are facing business loans that won’t have payment. We have kids at home and we still need to go to work and we can’t wipe our butts. I get it.
We have good reason to fear. But fear won’t help us navigate all these things well. We need to hold the phone on fear and pick up faith. We need to speak over our own spirits. We need to allow God to meet us when we feel anxious, when we can’t sleep at night thinking of the worst case scenarios and when we have to make really hard decisions. In the moments you feel fear most, allow the God who does not change to change your fear and worry into peace and trust.
And then when you can breathe, when you feel a bit more centered add to your mantra, “I will not fear, but I will love my neighbor.”
Loving our neighbor looks like a lot of things right now. I was washing my hands at the kitchen sink yesterday (of course I was) and looked out the window. Up the hill from my backyard is the sweetest farm house and there lives a couple whose age range I was reminded is at higher risk. Then it struck me, my neighbors to my right, across the street, kitty corner and in my backyard are all in the higher risk age range to contract this virus. So I thought, what does it look like to love my neighbor right now? It looks like reaching out and offering them help. I can go to the grocery store for them and I can get their meds for them. I can go get their dog food. What can you do to love your neighbor?
Loving our neighbor might mean helping with childcare. It might mean making decisions for your business that affect your employees in the most loving way possible. It might mean cancelling everything not because you are going to get sick, but because you want to protect people who might. It might mean making a personal sacrifice for a community gain. It might mean taking dinner to shut-ins or feeding the kids in the neighborhood whose single mom has to still go to work everyday even though there is no school. It might mean writing letters to people in prison who have been shut off from the only thing that gives them hope – their family. It might mean sending cards to the elderly in nursing homes whose visitors have been banned. Loving your neighbor might mean being overly thankful to your checker at the grocery store who looks like he got mauled by a semi truck. Loving your neighbor might mean shopping local to try and keep local businesses afloat. Loving your neighbor might mean letting go of someone’s debt because you know they are losing their income. Loving your neighbor might mean continuing to give to your church and the organizations who do meaningful work you believe in so that they don’t have to close their doors.
I don’t know what loving your neighbor looks like for you specifically, but I do know this: If you and I are so panicked, and so frenzied, if we are so caught up in fear and what all this means for our own lives, we won’t be thinking of others. Now is the time to serve our neighbors. Now is not the time to hoard toilet paper but to go share yours with people who can’t leave their homes. Now is not the time to elbow people so you can be the first to store things up for yourself, now is the time to give, and give generously. Now is not the time to preserve money just for you but to think about how you can use your money to help people and causes you feel led to support. Now is not the time to make the best decisions for you and you alone, now is the time to think about how every decision you make has a domino effect on your neighbors, your community, your city and our world.
You can’t love your neighbor when you let fear take over. What I find in times of fear and worry, panic and hysteria is that I am my best self when I know who I am called to be. I am called to like Jesus. Jesus was calm in storms. He knew His truth. He loved His neighbors. Jesus loved neighbors who hated him. Jesus loved people no one else would love. Jesus touched people no one else would touch. Jesus went out of his way to love people who felt pushed out and set aside. Jesus loved his neighbors when he was bombarded, when people were hangry, when people questioned His character and His intentions. Jesus loved people when the wind and waves threatened them. He loved people who were shut in by darkness. He loved people who mocked him, betrayed him, and arrested him.
When good ole Peter in the Bible was afraid, what did he do? Peter lopped some guys’ ear off because he came to arrest Jesus. Did Jesus throw a fist pump because a guy coming after him got hurt and Peter went into an easily justified protection mode? No Jesus gave his enemy back his ear and reminded Peter who Peter was supposed to be.
Peter had lost sight of who was called to be and this hysteria has the great ability to do the same to you and I. You know who you are supposed to be. You, my friend, are supposed to be a person of faith, not fear. You are called to be a person who trusts, not doubts. You are called to be a person of light, not one who buys into the dark. You are called to be the people who love others, not people that choose self. You are called to be like Jesus.
You know who you ought to be. So be it.
And when fear sneaks in, remind yourself who you want to be and what you’re called to do. “I will not be afraid. I will love my neighbor.”