Chapter 1; Faith/Fear

Once a year we meet as an Elder's Board to discuss the previous year and the upcoming. At this time our Pastor gives us his theme for the Year. The theme, given was, 'The Year of the Impossible' and it really impacted me. It started me thinking about What was the most impossible thing that God could do? What is the most impossible thing that I could be involved in with God's guidance? God's empowerment to move? to change? The first thing that grabbed me about this theme was the picture of Moses 'standing in the gap', and the incredible idea of intercession represented by that image. The second thought and the more pervasive one, was the picture of faith presented by Abraham in the offering of his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. The question that immediately came to mind were; Where are the Isaacs in my life? Where are the Isaacs in the lives of our congregation? How do we get past the Isaacs to realize true faith? What will that faith look like? A lot of these question were the reason I started blogging.

Faith is mental acceptance of and confidence in a claim as truth without proof supporting the claim. Faith lacks empirical evidence to support its claims. Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith as defining a system of beliefs has as its nemesis, fear. Fear actually existed before sin was realized in its full state. Genesis 3:2-4, "...and the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die." Fear is a part of our human condition. Fear is a strong and pervasive force in our nature, and for the most part we seek through all of our lives to placate fear. Fear as part of our human condition seeks to reconcile certain aspects of life (i.e. death) with regard to the inherent understanding residing in man's soul, which constantly urges man to seek after God, to know God and to be known by God and to resolve that which is eternal in our nature with the mortality that we face daily.

Once a year there is a Sunday declared Epiphany Sunday. It is the day which celebrates the appearing of the Star which guided the Wise Men from the East to the baby Jesus. It is the lesser light of the star in heaven illuminating the greater light of God-with-us, Emmanuel. We get our word epiphany from the word epiphania, which means 'to show upon'. It is about a revealing or an illuminating discovery. People have so-called epiphany moments, revelatory experiences which have the ability to change people and the course they take in life. On a humorous note a character named Hank in a sit-com named Corner Gas had an epiphany moment when he declared that he was a rodeo clown.

Epiphania more formally indicates an underlying state of the human condition as it relates and interacts with life and all the circumstances and situations arising from those interactions. It is a mask, or an operating aspect of personality allowing the person the protection from exposure to the reality of life's pains. Epiphania is similar to the tip of an iceberg which is only 10% of the mass of the iceberg visible above the waterline. It indicates the presence of the greater mass, but unless you get really close, that mass remains undiscovered, hidden by the depth of the water surrounding it.

What the epiphania in this discussion is revealing is the obsessio. "An obsessio is whatever functions in life as a defining quandary, a conundrum, a boggling of the mind, a hemorrhaging of the soul, a wound that bewilders or defies healing. An obsessio is that which gets its teeth into a person that it establishes life as plot, as dilemma. It is a memory which, as a resident image, becomes so embedded that all of life is in response to and a seeking to resolve it." Put another way, obsessio is whatever threatens faith; whatever destroys what consensus would deem to be a 'healthy' outlook and anticipation of life's events and seeks to declare and affirm 'no' when 'yes' is an alternative to a deadlocked position and when 'yes' seeks to move a person beyond the security of their epiphania position. It finds its strength and fortitude in the fear that is manifested when faced with a decision involving ambiguity and risk. The etymology of the word says it best, obsessio means 'to be besieged'.

There are a variety of examples in the Bible of the epiphania/obsessio relationship. The most well-known would be the Mary/Martha comparison which occurs in Luke 10:40-41, "...but Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled (cumbered) about many things." We commonly refer to this type of behaviour as having a 'martyr complex', placing appearance and suitableness of service ahead of the relational aspects of people communing with each other, and the opportunity afforded the 'Marthas' of the world the excuse to not have to relate or observe proper manners with regard to being attentive to their guests. They choose to be busy at the expense of the more significant and meaningful relationships in life. Luke 10:42, "...but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." This is a self-sacrificing attitude indicated by a preoccupation with the insignificant and minor details of life, removing them by their 'necessity' from the enjoyments of interpersonal relations, and in this way they see themselves as giving for the betterment of all, when in fact they are cheating themselves from the better things in life, and denying themselves and others from the true riches of life, that being relationships.

As examples of epiphania think of Frank from the TV show Everyone Loves Raymond. Frank is the crusty oftentimes hard-nosed Father of Raymond. His tough-love, suck-it-up demeanor and the explanations given for his behaviour were recently explained. Why would he behave this way? As a child it was revealed that his Dad smacked him around every day of his life. How could he not have built defence mechanisms which would allow him to survive? How would he be able to express love for his children without the memory of his own Father's love? In this we see the epiphania showing itself by creating a manageable distance, not physically from his children, rather emotionally,  because of his emotional froziness created by his own childhood. I need not mention Marie, except to say she does bring many issues to the table.

A woman I know is an example of how some of these characteristics are played out in life. She is in her mid-seventies, and on almost every occasion that I have had the chance to speak with her, she mentions an event which happened in her Teen years. When she was in Grade 9, she was taken out of school to care for her ailing mother. This was a significant event and resulted in a resident memory which haunts her. She was never able to fulfill her dream of becoming a School-teacher. Her epiphania is evident in the fact that she is what could be called a 'clean-freak' and one who has a 'Martha-complex'. Her attention to the minutest of details in cleanliness and preparation is exemplary, however, there is little room for the relational aspects of life with family and friends.

The best example I can give is the example from my own life. The first epiphania/obsessio relationship in my life is what I call my Charlie Brown Syndrome. Charlie Brown is the Captain of Blah. It is related to the comic strip character because of his demeanor, his low self-esteem, and his easily depressive personality. He is nondescript and in this I identify with my struggles with significance, value and worth.

The most prominent struggle in my Christian faith has been with the Fatherhood of God. My father was an alcoholic. Alcoholism affects different people in different ways, with my Dad it resulted in mean-spirited and cruel behavior. When Dad came home drunk, the question was never asked by myself, 'If' something bad was going to happen?; but, 'When' something bad was going to happen? This is the second and most prominent and visible epiphania/obsessio relationship in my life and is evidenced by my temper. I treat my temper like a alcoholic or drug abuser would treat their co-dependency. I will always consider myself to have a temper, however, I now maintain control of it. My temper is the epiphania covering the obsessio of fear, my resident memory of all the years growing up, living in anticipation of the next traumatic disruption in my life because of alcoholism, cruelty and temper. Temper seeks to gain and maintain control over the events in life which are uncontrollable, lack of this avenue for gaining that control leads to depression, via the guilt associated with the lack of control exercised when tempers are lost.

The epiphania in our lives seeks to resolve the conflict associated with our fears and that which is encapsulated as a resident image, memory or fixation, the obsessio, the thing which is the defining predicament of our human condition. Epiphania acts as a point for rescue; a type of salvation which hopes to placate fear; it is the identifiable defence mechanism which has allowed for the survival of the person; and it has sought to answer the question, to remove the quandary, but fails to attain to the needed requirement of faith in a greater and more sufficient source, to heal, to stop the bleeding, to clear the mind and to provide for an arena, a place where the foe can be conquered; an avenue, a way to health and emotional stability for the promotion of faith to a level which transcends the humanly possible, which transcends the human condition, which is able. Enter Abraham.

Under The Eagle's Wing - Faith, Hope and Love; the Greatest of These

An Online Book based on 1 Corinthians 13:13