(written 25 June 2016)
What to say….
Tuesday, 14 June, as we do twice a week, we were once again at the Haven of Love and Kindness. There, at the Haven, we seek to inject some normalcy and joy into the lives of the children of Syrian refugee field workers.
On this particular Tuesday we took advantage of being there to also engaged in distributing milk, pads and nappies to the families in that encampment.
Whilst the bulk of the team were organising some games with the children, three of us engaged in doing the distribution.
Unbeknownst to us, the Gendarme, who had visited us just a few days earlier, had once again arrived. Of the three of us working the distribution, one was working with the database, one was engrossed in handing out the material, and one kept quietly saying to the other two, “the gendarme have arrived”. This he repeated numerous times, but as neither I nor the other person involved gave any response whatsoever, he concluded that the presence of the gendarme was not noteworthy and he felt a wee bit foolish repeatedly drawing attention to it.
As so we carried on, blissfully, with our distribution.
Only later was it determined that neither the other person, nor I, had actually heard his repeated declaration as to the presence of the gendarme.
Evidently, they greeted by name one who previously had their ID photographed and they proceeded to photograph the IDs of the new people we had with us on the day.
They never did come up to the van where we were surrounded by a gaggle of Syrian ladies and engaged in the distribution.
As is common in life, there were a variety of responses to the visit and subsequent ID photography session. Some were moved by fear and anxiety and for others they seemed to be almost oblivious to the whole situation, smiling and relaxed throughout the encounter.
Here is a normal, life experience – nothing striking, outstanding or unique about it – security personnel going about their business and checking identifications. True, in the future it could be used in a negative fashion – and while it could be used in that manner, to date, it has just been the collection of information.
So the question arises, what should our response be?
Underlying all things, and in every experience of life, is the foundational bedrock that God is Sovereign over all the earth, over all powers – whether temporal or spiritual – He is on the throne.
Therefore, as God is Sovereign over everything and as this labour of love and compassion both originates from God and is sustained by God, surely, if what we are doing here is truly His work, if we are here as examples of His love, then what can the Gendarme, or any other force or organisation or group or individual do?
Because God is Sovereign, what reason is there that we should fear? Because God is Sovereign, why should we be overcome with anxiety?
Do we experience fear? Yes, of course we do!
Fear is a God-given attribute that is essential to our survival – a ‘healthy’ fear of open water will aid the non-swimmer; a ‘healthy’ fear of the cliff top will save the life of the rambler, especially in times of high winds where the unprepared have been picked up and dropped over the edge.
We, as is common to all, experience both healthy fear, and the other kind… the not-so-healthy fear…
Some fear, the ‘healthy ‘ fear, is a valuable part and parcel of life – but rampant fear, dominating fear, debilitating fear, paralysing fear, irrational fear, well, this kind of fear is the enemy of life and opposed to God for it denies His Almighty Sovereignty and surrenders the individual to anxiety.
There is a world of difference between experiencing fear and entertaining it; and experiencing fear and dealing with it. We can deal with the fear or we can embrace the premise of the fear, giving ourselves up to it, allowing the fear to dominate and dictate our lives.
What to do. Fears are. They come, unbidden. The good ones rise to our aid. The other kind sometimes flood in upon us, enveloping us and try to sweep us along in their turmoil and stress.
How are we to respond to these fears, the good, the bad and the ugly?
What can I do to rise above the normal onslaught of fear, anxiety and worry that washes over life.
One thing that I’ve found helpful is to consider my focus – where my attention is drawn, where my mind dwells, and to that which is sustaining and giving body to my, sometimes rampant emotions.
Focus – the centre of our attention and thoughts.
The natural tendency is to focus solely on the source of fear, and the myriad of thoughts and speculations that are there birthed. These thoughts and speculations then propagate and sometimes propagate at a prodigious rate which results in anxiety, worry and distress. Rather, if the focus is shifted to Sovereign God – shifting from ‘fear’ to ‘faith’, from the unseen ‘fearful possibilities’ to the equally unseen ‘Faithful One who is Sovereign over all’, this shift then breeds trust which leads to peace and rest.
I find it interesting that in this contemplation, my choice is between two ‘unseen’ entities – one, the ‘unseen’ potential, fearful future that may or may not be, and the other, equally ‘unseen’ Sovereign God, who has entered human history, revealed Himself over millennia, both in Holy writ and in the lives of those who through the course of history, have left clear testimony to His presence and power in their lives and, more personally, I can add my own experience with Him to that testimony – an ‘unseen’, but not unknown entity; an ‘unseen’ but not an impersonal force; an ‘unseen’ but not a detached power, an ‘unseen’ but not a disinterested being.
One is ‘unseen’, and speculative, the other is ‘unseen’ but clear, revealed, certain, and real.
Fear, any fear, can be thrust upon us, or suddenly, unbidden, explode from within us – this is a reality of life. It happens to a greater or lesser extent, but is a common experience for humankind.
But the shift of ‘focus’ and the determining of the ultimate point of our focus, whether the source of the fear, or Almighty God, well, that is in our own hands. Often our response to fear has its own default setting, but it remains subject to our will.
How we respond to these daily, common, circumstances is up to each individual to decide and if the default reaction was to embrace the fear, then we can intervene and change that choice…
I ask you to join with us and Praise the Lord for the Gendarme and their visits to us.
Pray that they may see Jesus in us. Pray that we may love them and serve them and demonstrate the Love of God to them as we seek to do so to the children.
Pray with us that we would not be influenced negatively by these events, which if we allowed the ‘potential future’ to dominate our hearts and minds, it would result in having our ‘present’ crippled by a fear of a ‘possible future’. Please pray with us that in all these things we will be motivated by the Love of God, secure in His hands, rejoicing in all things, loving all – including those who we may see as the source of fear. In this response, we will, in practice and in our living, abide not in some potential future, but in the ‘very real present’, resting secure in His Love and with His perfect peace as our continual experience.
Regardless as to the final out-come of these events, maybe something will result, maybe nothing – but in all and over all, Sovereign God reigns supreme on high….full stop!