fear and loathing in a snowstorm.

In the wake of Snowpocalypse 2016 (aka Snowmaggedon), I’ve had many thoughts on my mind this past week, many of them also weighing heavy on my heart. Having grown up on the Outer Banks, and having spent a good portion of my adult life living in Boone, North Carolina (two of the most beautiful, peaceful pieces of Heaven on Earth that just so happen at times to have some of the most hateful weather you could ever experience), I am no stranger to extreme weather. I have driven through hurricanes and blizzards and floods and walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. The raw power of nature, while surely a force to be held in awe, doesn’t frighten me. I admire it, respect it, and pay careful attention to it, but I do not fear it. But this past week, something happened:

I was afraid.

As the storm began, I worked through the various scenarios that typically come along with it. I made the choice to stay at work overnight to guarantee that I could be at work the following day as my responsibilities necessitate. I received word early in the evening that we had lost power at home. Not uncommon in situations such as this, and our home is well insulated, I did what I could to stay informed about the situation from afar. I slept on an air mattress in my office, and while it wasn’t quite a summer night on the Florida coast, it was warm enough. While I slept in my reasonably warm office, my family was sleeping at home, in a house growing slowly colder every minute. By the time I finished work the next day, every store I could think to check in three counties had sold out of non-electric heaters. I finally arrived home to a house at 47°. By the time we woke up Sunday morning, it was down to 40°. We made plans to drive to my wife’s family an hour west to retrieve a heater and take hot showers. Of course, by the time we got there, they had returned power to our neighborhood for good. (Much kudos to Duke/Progress Energy for their response time and diligent work restoring power to the region!)

And this is where the fear began.

It wasn’t a fear that I would get in trouble (I had my family’s blessing/understanding), or that I was scared of the weather (I’ve camped in equally cold temperatures. Real camping. Outside. In the woods.), or even honestly that my family was in danger (we have plenty of options for safety/emergency situations).

I was afraid I wasn’t doing enough. That even though I had done everything I could think of, I feared that maybe I missed something, or that I made the wrong decisions, or that I was selfish in staying at work. I was afraid that I had failed in my role as a provider for my family: I believed that I had let them down.

I. Wasn’t. Good enough.

A pastor friend of mine once spoke that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear. For me, fear of inadequacy facilitates my self-loathing. It feeds the gluttony of my hate toward myself with lies and condemnation. It tells me I’m unloved, that I can only hurt others, that I will never be any good. And many times, I believe it.

But it’s not the truth. The truth is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” My worth is not defined by my own actions (or inaction), but by God’s redeeming work in my life.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba , Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7 NIV)
This is by no means an invitation to act as a spoiled prince, but the realization of who we are in Christ — that we are who God says we are — enables us to act, not out of fear, but out of love.

“I know you. I created you, and I have re-created you. You are a new creation in Christ. The old you is gone, the new is here. The enemy of your soul DOES NOT KNOW YOU anymore. Everything he wants you to believe is a lie, but this is MY truth: that you are mine, not because you’re good enough, but because I AM enough.”

I sat down with my family and confessed my fears to them. It wasn’t easy, and I won’t pretend that I magically felt better instantly. But they responded in love and comfort, not anger and condemnation. They reminded me of who I am, and many times, that’s all that we need.

What happens when we stop believing what the world says about us, and start believing that we are who God says we are?

one month later, and thank you.

I’ve been struggling with what to write lately. To begin, I started this blog with the intention of just getting my thoughts out of my head, and sharing parts of my heart. I really only ever expected some of my friends and maybe a few random others to read what I’ve written. Not really expecting much, I was thrilled to have fifty or sixty views on a post.

Then I wrote “an open letter to my non-Christian friends.” I sat awestruck as the wave of notifications flooded in from Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. 700+ views. While I am quite aware that I am a very small dot on the map of the world wide web, that’s about as close to “viral” as I’ve ever experienced. I very quickly lost track of who was sharing it, and couldn’t help but wonder, “Who are all these people reading my thoughts, examining my heart?” And almost as quickly, I was overcome with anxiety and a deluge of questions: “What do they think?” “Will it have an impact on anyone?” “How am I supposed to follow this up?”
What followed next is simply said as this: the river dried up. My mind, which is usually a torrent of questions and debates and imaginings, couldn’t piece seemingly piece together even the simplest of cogent thoughts. It was as if my mind became a wilderness full of disorder and stress. So, I did what my knee-jerk reaction has been for quite some time: I buried myself in work, in ministry, and the busyness of the Christmas season. One month later, I finally feel like the river of my mind has returned to a normal level. If anything, I feel as if the river is going to continue to rise, and more thoughts and passions are going to come flooding out than ever before.

So this: to everyone who read and/or shared “an open letter,” thank you. I am honored and humbled that so many people considered my thoughts worth reading. I hope that perhaps someone, somewhere, is grateful that you shared it. I will gladly continue writing and sharing my thoughts as I’m led, regardless of how many readers they reach. Everyone is welcome to read and share my writing as they wish.

What lies ahead? I don’t have a firm answer for that question. There is one challenge to which I believe I am being called: twenty-nine days (it’s a leap year!) of sharing in February. I’m not quite sure what to expect out of it (perhaps no expectations are the best), but I believe that God is going to dig into my heart and mind in a new way to show me things I’ve never imagined, and I am excited to share them with everyone. I hope to share some before then to though, so stay tuned.
If you or anyone you know is impacted by anything I write or have written, any and all feedback is welcome. I love hearing what others think, and would be glad to engage in (civil) discussion. Feel free to contact me through my blog,  Facebook, or Twitter.
Again: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To everyone who read “an open letter.” You made me feel like a rockstar! I don’t do this seeking fame or attention, just an opportunity to express myself and welcome others into my heart and mind. I look forward to getting back to this grand adventure, and hope that maybe some of you will join me along the way.