Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a marriage seminar. The focus was how to handle conflict and get out of the cycle of pushing each other’s buttons. One of the goals was to show us that most of our arguments are not really about the thing we’re arguing about. For example, we might argue about whose turn it is to wash the dishes and be angry that the other person didn’t do it when they were supposed to. And while we might need to come up with a plan to keep this particular disagreement from happening in the future, the speakers encouraged the participants to figure out why we react as we do to this kind of situation.
Participants were encouraged to examine the types of reactions we have and what internal needs drive us. But our self-examination didn’t stop there. We were also asked to consider our strongest fears. I’m not talking about the fact that a spider can send me fleeing from a room. I’m talking about the fear of not having my needs met. The need to feel respected can lead to a fear of being mocked or ignored or simply not measuring up. The need for trust can lead to a fear of betrayal.
Whatever the need is there are opposing fears that come into play when we feel that need is not being met. Little things that might not otherwise get a reaction from us are suddenly a big deal because the fear buttons associated with our need have been pushed. Fears can cause us to react in unusual and sometimes damaging ways. Left unchecked fears can cause us to cling to things we shouldn’t, react with uncalled for emotion, or push away something we really desire.
Lucy Dixon and Tom Livingston from Carolina Mercy by Regina Rudd Merrick understand this principle all too well. After a promising meeting thanks to their mutual friends, Lucy and Tom return to their separate lives with the memories of the spark between them fueling their dreams of what might have been. But when their friends’ wedding gives them the chance to come back together again, a roller coaster ride of emotions begins.
Though they both feel that initial spark upon meeting again, Lucy and Tom both have fears they have to face in order to even see if a relationship will develop. Lucy struggles with knowing the right path for her life. She still has feelings for Tom, but she doubts his. She also fears what could happen if they were to get together since they are literally from two different places. Tom’s issues come from his past. His perception of how things were as he grew up have made it hard to see how past and present can both have a place in his life. He fears the perceived responsibility and weight of his family’s needs will be too much for Lucy. He doesn’t want to ask it of her, and he ends up keeping her at arm’s length.
When fear of physical danger is added to the mix due to a natural disaster, Lucy and Tom have to decide whether or not they can overcome all their fears and give their relationship a chance. Neither is an easy path, but learning to deal with fears never is. It isn’t for Tom and Lucy, and it isn’t for us. But when we allow God to take us down His path for our lives despite our fears or doubts, the result is the peace and joy that comes with knowing we’re living inside God’s will.
By the Book: Has God ever asked you to do something that caused you to fear or doubt? Did you give those to God and move forward? How did God work in that situation?