My greatest barrier to moving from the safety net belief in God to a relational one has honestly always been fear. A mix of fears too not a one size fits all fear. My journey to embracing a more loving and trustworthy idea of God - began in 2007, when I began to search my heart for what was missing - and found it wasn't something from within but from above.
But first came the apprehension fear - the I've read enough of bio-ops on the Saints to repeat St. Teresa of Avila's admonishment to Christ when she allegedly landed in the mud after her donkey bucked her. "IF this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them." Exactly Teresa - fear that if I made this commitment to follow Christ beyond the Sunday obligation (aka keeping perfect attendance just in case this is all real) bad stuff would befall me. I gave this some real thought too banishing these Saints from my thoughts and prayers because in some twisted mind-set way felt if I acknowledged them the same fate my beset me ... on the 'do not call' list:
My prayer life has always been so egocentric, and in 2006-2008 as a 'baby renewed Christian' it was even more so. It never crossed my mind back then to call upon these heroic men and women, who were forever looking upon the face of God, for intercession for those who WERE actually raped, in danger of dying after birth of a child, battling breast cancer or any cancer, or those brave men and women around the world standing up every day for their unwavering belief in God. I lived in a small town, with very small problems, and yet spent most of my time worrying about what MIGHT come. I feared that surrendering myself to God might open the flood gates of tragedy and trial - is that really how I saw a faith in God? Sadly, it was.
The second fear that overcame me, was rejection from the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though honestly during this early resurgence of faith, I didn't quite understand the Holy Spirit but focused primarily on God as Father. I was sure that my horrendous past and current sinful behavior was an insurmountable obstacle and He was merely waiting for one more MAJOR flub to smote me. KABOOM! Lightening bolt to the earth, where I'd be reduced to a pile of ash and smoke - though in my heard, I just imaged being afflicted with one of the aforementioned illnesses or a horrible accident that would take me out of the game permanently.
In case, it is not clear yet, anxiety is my go-to sport of choice. IF you could medal in anxiety, worry or fear, I'd be a gold MEDAL Olympian! My unstable childhood and worry-wart nature just lent itself nicely to this mindset. It was also my childhood that played a significant role in my fear of rejection or punishment from God, as Father.
Before I share the past, I need to clarify the present. My perception of my dad was definitely colored by the stories I was fed, the pain of his own life masked with alcohol, and a horrible 3rd shift that left most of our interactions to times he was much too tired to deal with my melodrama or anxieties. In 2000, after several heart attacks and years of declining health, he received a heart transplant. I believe it transformed not only his physical body but his emotional as well; it didn't hurt that he'd also remarried, finally found true happiness and much of the truth once hidden from me was revealed. Now he is super loving, attentive and more of the image of my Heavenly Father.
However... until that point, I was incredibly fearful of him, felt unloved and emotionally disconnected (and not just to him - my entire family was not much of a connected loving unit - we had moments but they are scarce enough that I am pretty sure I can recount each one). If there was a God, he obviously didn't think very highly of me because up until this point these parents He choose didn't seem too proud of their child nor very interested in sharing my life. I remember often thinking growing up - I didn't ask to be born nor did I ask for these circumstances - whatever I did it seemed to really either aggravate God or worse yet He didn't really care what happened to me. There was much doubt in my mind that whatever my fault, I could not UNDO it so why bother trying. I also thought if I kept a low profile, maybe He'd forget about me and if I was lucky enough I'd live to be old, and my sin ratio would be low enough to squeak me into Purgatory!
Then I was introduced to Scripture ... and I learned things such as:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father,
And if I was somehow culpable St Paul had that covered as well, with:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
These verses, and so many many more were wedging opening that door to my heart - and so much more was about to be revealed. My anxiety attacks ramped up but instead of closing that door a new peace and hope were creating a wider wedge ... the word LOVE even dared enter my lips.
For More on my battle with Fear of Bad Stuff Happening - listen to this fabulous interview I did on A Seeking Heart with Dr. Robert J Wicks author, Spiritual Resilience (Franciscan Media).