Points to Ponder: Fear can be a Sure Thing
Points to Ponder
Fear can be a Sure Thing
Tim was the first homeless man I ever came to know personally. I was just beginning in church ministry as a director of Christian education. Tim often came to the A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings at our church, He also slept under the church steps in the trash storage area.
Tim was winsome, intelligent, and articulate. He had smashed up a car, and his face, in an alcohol-related incident some ten years earlier. A section of his facial skeletal structure around one eye had been removed; so his appearance could frighten those who did not know him.
Tim came to visit me regularly. Sometimes we gave him odd jobs so he could earn money for food. He really would "work for food," but he would also smooth-talk us into giving him other items he wanted. After I had to cut him off from receiving more aid from the church, he'd bring another street guy (usually a haggard, older man) and try to pluck our heart strings. He was using the guy as a frontman to get something from us for himself. Tim was a con man. I knew it; and he knew that I knew it.
One day he gave me a lesson I've always remembered. Tim said, "Do you know how you can tell an alcoholic is lying?" (Pause for effect.) "His lips are moving."
As a pastor of an urban church, ten years later, I would quote Tim to some of the alcoholics who would come to me off the street. And they agreed - Tim was right on. When you're on the street, the survival mode kicks in. You do or say what needs to be done or said to get what you need to survive.
Tim and I grew kind of close over the four years I served in that church. He claimed he wanted help to get off the street. I remember seeing his father drive up to meet him in a parking lot to give him money. His family would not let him live with them. I soon understood their reasons.
I set up a program with an agency in Columbia. I had lined up a job, housing, and counseling. Several people were ready to help Tim get his life on track. But he didn't show up for the meeting. For ten years he had slept in a trash bin, went without bathing or clean clothes; sweating through summer days and freezing through winter nights. Why would he opt to continue that life style rather than take the opportunity to be employed, in a safe place, and clean?
After I got over being mad at him for standing me up, he told me why he walked away from the chance for deliverance from homelessness.
Because of the car accident and his head injury, he received $400.00 per month medical disability. It was a sure thing every month. He did not want to risk losing that sure thing. So, what was meant to be a safety net had become a dependency. It saved his life but it also had kept him from living.
Are any of us so different from Tim? We latch onto a sure thing - something we can count on, that's predictable. Even if it is destructive, we will grab on and avoid the risk that is necessary for something better - or for that something that just ought to be.
Common sense tells us upon first impression that Tim and others like him are lazy. Actually living - and staying alive - on the street is hard work. The causes and issues are complex and very specific to each individual.
With Tim, the winsome scamming schemer that he was, I saw a side of human nature that cripples even the most gifted and well-off among us. FEAR. When you reach a safe spot, a level of security, a "sure thing," why will you stay there? Some do find the right place to be for them. One should not keep changing things just for the sake of changing. In a way, the constant "being-on-the-run" mode of living can also be motivated by fear.
So some are afraid to move forward for fear of the risk. Some are afraid to stop moving for fear of the risk. The key negative here is the FEAR that is compelling you. From whence does your fear come? Then consider Paul's word to a timid young leader:
"God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
If God is our Guide, His word your authority, then you have a 3 to 1 advantage over the fear that is compelling you. Knowing that it's not from God unplugs it from its power source.
"I called on the Lord in distress; The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me" (Psalm 118:5-7a).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). These articles (and sermons) are also found at www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com. Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:50pm, both days.