Random Blog Clay Feet: January 04, 2008
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Friday, January 04, 2008

Righteous Fear

(Some of what I refer to here may be very confusing unless you have the context of understanding the explanations about how our brain works by James Wilder. For excellent material for learning much of this, purchase the series called Joy Bonds from the resources listed on my link for Education and Training Resources at the top of the page.)

Fear is what we experience when our brain finds itself trying to operate beyond its joy capacity and strength. Consider the joy-peace cycle of a baby which is easier to see than later in life. In a healthy relationship between the “parent” and child the “mother” engages with the emotions of the baby by subtly synchronizing her own emotional state to approximate the level where the child is currently. Then when there is a connection established the “mother” begins to intensify the excitement higher and higher as the baby's emotions follow along. There is usually a lot of smiling, laughing and positive interaction during this phase of the cycle until the baby maxes out when it reaches the limit of the brains capacity to handle it. For increased growth the brain may be pushed slightly beyond the comfortable limit at this point but not too far. The child signifies their end of capacity by averting their eyes from the “mother” and displaying signs of discomfort.

At this point, the “good mother” will sense the babies need to enter the next phase of the cycle and will back off emotionally allowing the child to relax and begin to experience the “peace” phase of the cycle. This is also in the context of the real meaning of joy (intensely glad to be together) but in a different aspect. There will follow a period of time that is very crucial for the brain's healthy development where the two will just be quiet in each other's presence and rest for a time. After the brain has rested for a bit then the two can once again enter the exciting upswing of the cycle and go through the process all over again. This cycle is the primary exercise needed to develop the right-orbital, pre-frontal cortex of the brain, one of the most important parts of the brain for equipping it to experience healthy relationships with others and to be able to “suffer well” or handle trauma successfully.

When the up-curve is forced beyond the baby's ability to enjoy it the baby eye-averts and wants to calm down. If the “parent” does not allow the child to enter the rest portion of the cycle but intensifies the excitement the child will begin to cry. At this point what was previously perceived as enjoyable now becomes very painful. The more that happens the more fear is instilled. This begins to build a pattern of fear in the relationship and form fear-bonds with the parent instead of love-bonds. A very interesting thing about fear is that the only thing we are ever afraid of is how we are going to feel.

If a child grows up without the needed joy-peace exercises with a loving parent figure they will experience trauma in their heart. If the parent suddenly leaves the child when the child does not meet their emotional needs or they are annoyed with the child's crying, the mind of the child experiences the trauma of abandonment which it interprets as death. After repeated experiences of trauma the brain will develop coping mechanisms to try to lessen the pain. Some will learn to stay disconnected emotionally so as to prevent the confusion of mixed signals from the parents. Others will become very clingy emotionally because they never know when they will receive love and attention and when they will be repulsed or even abused.

Almost all mental disorders (and we all have some of them to some extent) arise out of the brain's attempt to deal with the pain induced or inflicted by insecure relationships with the parent figure in their life. Although this may help us understand from the brain level why we experience fear, it does not reveal how much we are responsible for our own fears when we are older. In the above situation the child could not help becoming fearful from the stress that was forced onto them by someone else who at that point was responsible for their well being. But when we are grown up our own decisions are responsible for much of what happens to us and consequently the results as well.

Faith is deeply intertwined with the joy-peace cycle. In fact, it is the joy-peace cycle that is the strongest builder of faith, for faith is the natural trust that is the essence of our joy capacity, the walls of the internal joy-bucket container so to speak.

The joy bonds that are built up in the minds and hearts of the parent and child through the exercise of joy-peace experiences together create more and more trust in the parent in the heart of the child. That trust acts as an absorbing buffer when something happens that has the appearance of contradiction or inconsistency to what has been previously learned about the heart of the parent. Increasingly the child learns that not everything can immediately be understood or perceived as the loving thing to do on the part of the parent but that the parent can be trusted anyway. This is real faith.

Faith is developed and deepened by the heart's increasing ability to hang onto the deeper roots of love built up previously through joy-bonding experiences when current circumstances appear to convey opposite suggestions about the one to be trusted. If one has chosen to embrace and fully receive the love and deliberately increase their confidence in the parent figure during the times of clear openness in their relationship, then when events occur that suggest the parent is not loving but is an abuser the heart can cling to what was previously known and will exercise trust and faith despite the confusing current circumstances. This will allow them to bridge the canyons of doubt and live above the fear that will overwhelm the one who has not nurtured this kind of faith in their heart. This is using the joy-strength and utilizing the joy capacity to keep one's balance while their capacity is once again being stretched beyond its normal boundaries.

When the parent is truly worthy of trust, this experience will prove in the end to have very similar results as yet another joy-peace cycle that increases the capacity for joy and deepens the bonds. That is how the capacity is increased, by stretching it beyond what is comfortable and understandable as long as it is not too extreme. Of course, the child is not the one with the wisdom to know what is too extreme and what is just painful stretching. But a wise and loving parent will intuitively know when to reverse the cycle while achieving the maximum growth from the experience. This is the natural bonding and maturing process of the human mind.

On the other hand, the counterfeit of this healthy growth process is very similar in appearance but devastatingly opposite in its long term effect. It is the model of the abusive parent. The difference between abusive parenting and love-bonding is the internal desires and interest of the heart of the parent more than the actual activities that can be seen externally. The loving, wise parent is interested in the growth and development of the child and knows the importance of synchronizing the parents emotional intensity level with that of the child to lead them properly through the joy-peace cycle successfully. The abusive parent is more interested in their own feelings, needs and social appearances. They are more interested in looking like a good parent, in protecting their reputation more than they are in the feelings and healthy growth of the child. They are looking for the child to satisfy the parents emotional needs more than focusing on looking out for the needs of the child. They may learn to mimic the external appearances of what a healthy parent would do to make themselves look good but they do not understand how to synchronize with the heart of the child and lead them into maturity with a right spirit.

Everyone on this planet at some time or another finds themselves on one side or the other of an abusive relationship, that is unavoidable due to the selfishness we are infected with from sin. But what is more important is how we relate to God in this model. Do we perceive God as an abusive parent, even though we would be horrified to ever admit such a thing? I think the real answer lies in how much we are really afraid of Him in our deepest hearts.

If we feel nonchalant and distant about God it is not because we do not care anymore about our need for His love but is really a symptom of the advanced effects of perceived abuse in our heart. We are convinced at the heart level that God is really an abuser and we have closed our heart and built reinforced thick walls around it to protect us from further abuse we believe He wants to inflict on us.

If we are angry and hostile toward God or any idea of God, we are simply acting out of the misconceptions about Him instilled in us by those who were supposed to nurture our minds and model to us what God is like. Because of the abuse we have experienced in the past we find we cannot really trust God like what is needed for an intimate relationship with Him that our deepest heart craves for. Instead we harden our heart and look to all sorts of other sources to satisfy our longings. The problem is, there is no other viable source of real life, just events producing pleasure that makes us feel good temporarily but eventually leave us feeling more empty than before.

If we serve God from fear of punishment and hope of reward we are also serving what our heart believes is an abusive God, although we would be horrified to ever confess that we thought such a thing. We may believe that we have faith, but our faith is all too often a forced kind of trust that is self-generated instead of spontaneous love and trust from intimate experiences with One who is completely worthy of trust. The big difference between these two is the difference between being fear-bonded or being joy-bonded. If our “trust” in God is based on fear instead of on love created in response to experiencing His presence and companionship through all sorts of circumstances, then our trust is a forced kind of trust that is not really faith. It is not the kind of faith that results in salvation.

When we begin to learn, both at the heart level and the intellect, the real truth about God and how He feels toward us as well as what He has done in love for us, we will begin to embrace the healing power of grace that reverses the lies embedded in our hearts from all the abuse we have suffered. We will be amazed to find that instead of God demanding that we have faith in Him to be saved, that the reality is that He has enormous faith in us and has invested everything He owns to draw our hearts back into intimacy with His heart of passionate love for us. He is the one full of faith (faithful) and is risking everything to win back our allegiance and give Him permission to heal all of our pains and satisfy all of our deepest longings.

There is only one fear that is healthy – the fear of betraying the faith, the trust that God has in me to respond in obedience to His love for me. The reason that this kind of fear is healthy in contrast to all other fear is because the real motivation for this fear is gratitude and responsive love, not fear of abuse or pain. And while it could be seen as a fear of pain, it is not my own pain that I am afraid of so much as it is fear of bringing pain to someone who loves me intensely. Of course that would in turn bring me pain as well, but it is not the fear of my own pain that motivates this righteous kind of fear but a deep desire to bring satisfaction and pleasure to the heart of God who has given everything to save and restore me into intimacy with His heart. This very different kind of fear is the effect of love-bonding and can never be found in fear-bonds. This springs from a deepening desire to honor the reputation of our loving Father. All other fear is counterfeit.