This Week in Church: Creation, Fear, and Stepping Off the Boat

Welcome to the series wherein I share my take-aways from church. The things that, I think, are beneficial to all of us to know or think about, whether or not we believe in any church-related things.

A picture of a small chaple with a steeple in a field, with the text This Week in Church written on the sky.

This week in church we talked about creation.

The term ex nihilo means making something out of nothing. It is darkness to light and chaos into order. But you can't do it without experiencing some of the darkness and chaos first. You need an overlap. Too much chaos and everything's a mess. Too much order and everything is stifled. Creating anything (art, a glorious spreadsheet, a program to provide meals to school kids, etc.) means stepping into some level of chaos and finding the order.

This week in church we talked about fear. (AGAIN!)

"I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist or an unexpected ending. My fear was a song with only one note. Only one word, actually. STOP!"
-Elizabeth Gilbert

"Most of the things we avoid are avoided because we're afraid of being afraid... The negative outcomes that could actually occur due to speaking up in class, caring about our work product, interacting with the boss–there's not a lot of measurable risk. But the fear… the fear can be debilitating, or at the very least, distasteful. So it's easier to just avoid it altogether."
-Seth Godin

These two quotes that were shared in the service really hit me. One, that our fears are uninteresting, repetitive, and predictable, and two, that the negative outcomes are almost never that bad. It's just that we want to avoid feeling the fear. (Which is why I still haven't made a real list of my fears, because I am avoiding even thinking about them and feeling afraid as a result.)

We also did an exercise where everyone wrote down a fear they hold onto. We then tossed those fears around so they got all mixed up and then read each others' fears out loud (it was anonymous). Hearing other people's fears, I realized that I believed everyone in that room was strong enough to face their fear, which probably meant that someone else believed the same about me and my fear. Wild.

This week in church we talked about stepping off the boat.

In the story where Jesus walks on the water, he comes to his disciples who are on a boat in a terrible storm. They think it's a ghost and Peter weirdly calls out, "Jesus, if it's really you, command me to walk to you." (Like, on the water.) He does, and after about two steps, Peter starts sinking and needs saving.

Here's the thing with this story: when we are stepping out of our comfort zone into the chaos of creating something new (be it art, spreadsheets, or a new direction in life), we are usually stepping out of a good place. The boat was a good place. It wasn't entirely safe (it was at risk of capsizing), but it did provide protection from dying on the bottom of an icy lake. The first step out of the boat and onto our journey of creation will be rickety and uncertain. The ground will feel about as solid as water. After a few steps, we'll think we've made the worst mistake of our lives and we're now going to die alone in this storm of unknowingness.

So basically, taking first steps is the worst. It's hard and terrifying and not only do we need a bunch of faith, but we need supports in place. People and things that will save us and keep us on our new course. Peter didn't walk on water alone, and we don't need to try to step out alone, either.

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