She was shaking. The fear in her eyes was palpable. She had, once again, lied to me and, once again, gotten caught. It’s really not difficult to catch a four year old in a lie. She sat on my bed while I tried to figure out what the appropriate lecture followed by discipline should be to attempt to forge within her brain and emotion the destruction lying causes to relationships…all on the level of four year old who sees the world through the eyes of a 2 1/2 year old. This is not an easy task.

Now let me say I do not believe my sweet little girl is devious. She’s not trying to pull the wool over our eyes so she can sneak out at night to paint the town red. We don’t believe she is trying to hurt us or really even understands what it means to break relationship and trust. She disobeyed a direct order. She lied to cover it up. She later, accidentally mind you, confessed to said lie to her mother. She wailed when she knew she had blown her cover. Now she was literally shaking, overcome by so much fear of what may or may not happen she could not control the situation, her body, her tears, her voice, or anything else for that matter.

As I tried to decide what to do, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper in my spiritNo longer slaves this was not about lying. This wasn’t about disobedience, though disobeying is ultimately what got us here in the first place. This was about a little girl ravaged by fear.
Fear is debilitating. 
Fear is paralyzing.
Fear is a bad counselor. 

She should have obeyed her mother, that’s for sure. She should have told the truth when asked about it. We have had many conversations about the relationship between levels of trouble and lying/telling the truth. If you tell the truth, you may still be in trouble, but if you lie, you will be in HUGE trouble. We just don’t do lying at the Carlson home. But she had lied. Because she was afraid of what might happen. And now she had lost control of everything. Control is safety for her….and, if we’re honest, for all of us. If we’re in control, we’re safe. When we lose control (as if we ever really have it) we become afraid.

Fear. When I asked her if she was lying she asked for more time to think about her answer. I love the way little minds work sometimes! Finally I pressed her, because she already knew the answer and didn’t need to think about it, and she chose to give in to the fear welling up in her spirit; she lied. This is common for her. She lives with fear. She’s controlled by it. She’s been mastered by it.

But the thing is, fear is smoke in mirrors. It’s not real. Our society thrives on the emotion of fear. We watch scary movies to feel it; our media uses fear to control what we think and understand about the world. Some people use fear as a way to control relationships or people they supposedly love. But is fear real? Is it a legitimate thing of which we should be wary or is it nothing more than an emotion we feel but must learn to master rather than being mastered by? Oh, don’t misunderstand….the feeling of fear is very real. But is the feeling of fear actually reflected in reality?
Maybe in horror movies, but in real life? I don’t think fear is real.
One of our children’s workers at our church says fear is False Evidence Appearing Real…I think the acronym about sums it up!

Yet fear probably is the greatest issue of control in your life and mine right now. We may not shake uncontrollably or cry incessantly because of it, but fear, nonetheless, is the greatest controlling force on the planet. Consider:

Millions of people have been murdered because of fear.
Millions of babies aborted because of fear.
Billions of people living sub-par lives because of fear.
ISIS’ reign of terror is predicated on fear.
People fear death more than anything in life.
Many avoid risk of any kind because of fear.
People do not fully follow Jesus because of fear.
People close their hearts to potentially powerful relationships because of fear.
Marriages wane and die because of fear.
Lies have been told, nations destroyed, trusts eroded, paranoia rampant – all because of fear.
147 million orphans remain in this world primarily because of fear.

Like it or not….admit it or not….fear plays a part in your life and mine to some varying degree. Just consider adoption, for instance. Did you know 70% of people in the US have expressed interest in adoption? Do you know how many of those 70% actually follow through and adopt one or more children?

Less than 5%

How will we pay for all the expenses (I agree they are ridiculously high)?
Can I love another child as my own?
Is my house big enough? Can we afford another mouth to feed?
What if our biological kids can’t handle it?
What if the child we adopt ends up having some weird disease?
How will I know what to do?
What will other’s think about our “mixed” family?
How will we communicate? Do I have to learn their language?
What if they’re the kid which smears poop on the wall?
Worse, what if they’re an ax murderer?
What if they don’t love me back?

Fear debilitates our faith and belief in a providential God. Fear paralyzes us from doing the good we know to do. Fear counsels us to just hold on to what we have, keep our hands and hearts closed, and don’t let anyone in. It’s just too dangerous. There’s too many things which could go wrong. It’s safer to just be content where we are.

But fear is fake. It’s not real. It’s possibly the greatest trick the enemy has in his arsenal to keep you and me from stepping into our God-ordained purposes in this life. Let me give you a new definition of fear:

Fear is nothing more than the absence of trust.

For my four year old, it’s an absence of trust in her mommy and daddy. She’s afraid of punishment. She’s afraid of being broken again (lying is a way she protects her heart from being broken). She’s afraid we will stop loving her. She’s afraid she won’t belong anymore; she won’t be loved any longer. She’s afraid she’s in danger. She’s afraid she can’t measure up to our expectations. She’s a slave to fear.

But for you and me, the trust issue goes a little bit higher. Flat out, we don’t truly trust God. We’re not sure He’ll provide. We’re not sure He truly has our best interest at heart. We’re afraid we may find He’s not the faithful God we thought He was. We’re afraid, if we make a mistake, He can’t (or won’t) redeem it. Does He really work things for our good? Is He able to guard the heart(s) of our bio kids; heal the hearts of our adopted kid(s); and bind all of our hearts together as a family? Will He catch us if we leap?

Trust is a funny thing. No doubt, at some point in your life, you’ve felt like God let you down. Maybe you’re still there with Him now and it’s keeping you from taking leaps of faith He’s asking you to take. Let me encourage you to take a listen to a message I preached a few weeks back on the issue of disappointment. I think it’ll help.

Ultimately, there’s only one remedy for fear.
Perfect Love.

perfect loveHonestly, no one can love perfectly. We all love imperfect people imperfectly from our imperfect hearts and imperfect souls. There is only One who loves perfectly. He loves us in spite of ourselves; in spite of our imperfection; in spite of our fear. God’s love for us is perfection, even if we don’t always understand it this way. In fact, our misunderstanding, at times, of God’s love and discipline in our lives is what can erode our trust and open the door for fear to take root. But the truth is, God’s love is perfect in our lives. He only allows things for our good – even the hard stuff (consider Job of Old Testament fame). Discipline is a result of our poor choices outside of His Word and will for our lives. Yet I can’t help but think, if we would fully TRUST Him and receive His perfect love, fear could be eliminated or at least minimized in our lives. I want to encourage you; nay, challenge you to receive His perfect love for you. You’ll be able to trust Him for the things which make you scared. You’ll be able to step in faith and know He will never leave you alone. You’ll do great things in His sight because YOU are a child of God. Trust His perfect love.

The same is true with my children (and yours for that matter). Often fear is the result of misunderstanding our love for them. Why do we discipline them? Because we want them to grow up to be productive, honest humans full of integrity and justice. But sometimes they can’t see past the moment. So fear is produced because they don’t recognize discipline as love, which makes trust elusive, which gives a place for fear to breed.
More discipline doesn’t solve the problem.
Harsher punishment won’t get us there.
Lectures and demanding honestly will not truly breed trust.

We cannot correct behavior and expect trust and love to prevail…
we must address the issues of their hearts with robust love!

Only UNCONDITIONAL and imPERFECT love will destroy fear in our children’s lives. How will they know the perfect love of God if we fail to love them, albeit imperfectly, even when needing to discipline? We must find ways to steel our own emotions, our own fears, yes our anger too, and love our children, adopted or not, as perfectly as we can, through Christ. Honestly, it’s a tall and maybe impossible order….but start somewhere.

I started on the floor of my bedroom, holding a little girl shaking from fear and singing a currently popular song about being a child of God. I tried, in my human effort, to show her what perfect love looks like. Did she lie? Yes. Did she deserve discipline? Yes. Did she need to be afraid of a big daddy who loves her more than she’ll ever know? NO….but she doesn’t yet understand that. She will learn as I SHOW her. It’s now our mission to show ALL of our children this kind of love. Even if we only give them a glimpse of imPERFECT parental love, they’ll have enough understanding to spot God’s PERFECT love for them a mile away.

You too….give God a chance to SHOW you His love. Open your heart to Him today and let the best Father pour in His perfect love until it overflows. I believe He’ll meet you exactly where you are.

I’m no longer a slave to fear…..I am a child of God.
I am safe.
I am loved.
God is FOR ME, not against me.
He loves me perfectly, without defect.
May I learn to love Him the same.

Josh 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”