Regrets of the Dying

In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, apparently the number one regret at the end of people’s life is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I’m pretty sure I never saw a movie where I was rooting for the protagonist to submit to the doomish, narrow opinions of others who wanted to shut down the dream.  (That would make for a pretty lame movie.)

Struggling to work out the vision God has given us amidst the real-world cast of characters that surrounds us has made it clear to me that fear has been a dominant feature in my life; let’s just say I’m not exactly ready to star as a hero any time soon.

I was never scared of spiders or of getting sick or normal day to day stuff; I’m not a wimp, generally speaking.  But, the quiet background noise of fear has penetrated my thoughts over the years, especially as I have stepped out in greater and greater faith, often prompting me to overly care about what other people think about me and causing me to feel strong guilt when I fail to live up to other’s expectations for my life.

But another book I read recently (Fear No Evil) articulated what has been forming in my mind for some time now: “Behind every fear there is a lie.”

Behind every fear there is a lie.

Fear = lie.

Fear is not of God, because perfect love casts out fear.

And so, whether I’m afraid of disappointing others, or getting ‘too weird’, or being totally misunderstood, or fearfully wondering if I will even make it through the mess of this day (if I don’t, I suppose it will prove the critics right, I am in over my head), I’m learning that all that anxious thinking is at best unproductive and at worst massively destructive.

Why do I mess with fear?  Why is it so hard to punch it in the face and just get over it?

It recently occurred to me that of my closest circle of friends in elementary school, I am the only one with children.  The others are doing marvelous, meaningful and glamorous things with their lives.  Yet, it struck me afresh that what will last is the life we build.  Our ideas and art and efforts will endure a season or two or five, but children carry the spirit of life into the next generation, to a place I will never go.

This crazy work of cleaning up goobery faces, waiting out tantrums, matching 8 million socks again, and clearing mold specimens out of the containers at the back of the fridge, is all for a greater purpose: life beyond me, life beyond here.

And that’s the dream we have, essentially: Life, abundantly; life free in Jesus.

Honestly, I don’t know where our story is going, but how can I be afraid of a dream like that, a dream that is woven through scripture like a perfect golden thread?  There’s no fear in that, only victory.

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