March 22, 2017

I Drank My First Beer

This past Saturday, at 33 years, 6 months and 21 days old, I drank the first alcoholic beverage in my life.

Up until that point in my life, I had chosen not to drink for a variety of reasons. The fact that I'm a pastor by occupation actually had little to do with my decision (I have zero Biblical issues with drinking responsibly). The biggest factor hinged on some mental health background in my family. I had always said that given a potential biological disposition to mental health issues, coupled with the fact that I know I have an addictive personality, I have often expressed a worry that if I ever drank too much, that I would be an angry drunk. When you add in the fact that I have never smelled an alcoholic drink that was at all appealing, I've chosen to completely stay away.

Over the past 6 to 9 months though, I've been doing a lot of soul searching and a big topic that has come up again and again is fear. Specifically, I have an internal drive for success (see the Enneagram Type 3) and one of my biggest struggles is the fear of failure. And it's been amazing, enlightening, and embarrassing to realize how much of my life has been dominated by this fear of failing.

It's also been shocking to me as I have realized that so much of the fear that I face in life has centered around my Christian faith. Which is ironic given that "fear not" is one of the most used lines in the Bible and that, at it's core, it's supposed to be a faith where "perfect love casts out all fear." Growing up a pastor's kid, I've been in church my entire life and so much of my faith has been driven by this need to "succeed" at being a "good" Christian, and fearful of what would happen if I didn't. And that was then taken to a whole different level shifting from pastor's kid, to pastor.

Franky, Christians are some of the most fearful people I know. (I point straight at myself as I make that observation!) There is fear in asking certain questions. Fear in having an opinion that might run contrary to the popular view. Fear in reading certain authors. Fear of watching certain movies. Fear in spending time with certain people that could pull you away from your faith. And fear in certain behaviors or actions that could mean you're not a "good" Christian, or that could lead you to doing something where you wouldn't be a "good" Christian.

As I have been facing some of my fears and leaning more and more in to my authentic self, I've been challenged with the fact that there is a fine line between fear and wisdom. I find it interesting that the Psalmist writes that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (emphasis added) I've always placed those terms together, but with understanding the term "beginning" I'm learning that what starts as fear and a deep level of respect, should transform and become wisdom, releasing and freeing us from a life of fear.

I have always maintained my reasons for not drinking were based in wisdom. I was protecting myself and protecting others. My amazing wife and two awesome friends have been lovingly challenging me on this issue and in hindsight, I realize they were completely right. In reality, it was fear masquerading as wisdom. My decision was marked completely and totally by the question, "what if?" And honestly, with this issue personally, it was a "what if?" that is quite small.

Jesus said that he came to give us life, but not just life, life to the fullest! And that doesn't include fear. So Saturday, I drank my first beer. And what happened? Nothing! Did I feel depressed the next morning? No. Did I run out the next day to buy a bunch of alcohol and get drunk? No. Did I crash my car on the way home? No. Fact is, I felt nothing. Nada. Zero impact at all from one beer.

I will respect alcohol from this point forward. I'll be wise about how and when I have a drink. But I'm choosing (daily trying to anyways!) to no longer be afraid.

Where do you see fear in your life?

Are there decisions you've made in your life that seem wise, but at it's root is based in fear?

What would it look like for you to face your fears and allow them to be transformed to true wisdom?

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