Have you ever been so scared that you felt yourself losing all control of your body? Have you ever been so embarrassed that you wanted to hide yourself as quickly as possible from the object of ridicule? It’s my sincere belief that every adult person on earth, no matter their perceived confidence or egotism, has felt one of these things at some point in their life. It’s totally normal for us to have feared something at some time and we all have the same basic reactions.
I find this really interesting and was pondering it randomly today, as though out of the clear blue, God was prompting me to really hone in on this thing for some reason. Being the lazy student that I am, I pulled up Google and searched out a description. Of course Wikipedia was at the top of the results. Here’s a link and a quote:
The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response in post-traumatic stress disorder, hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon. His theory states that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing…This response is recognized as the first stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome that regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.
It delves into a lot of science from there, and quite frankly that’s not the point I’m trying to make. The thing that fascinates me about this is how often it plays out in life, not just in reaction to fear, but really any type of adversity. I got to thinking about this in relation to spirituality too. I came to the conclusion, or revelation rather, that we are all hard-wired to make this choice, to fight or take flight, when confronted with the realities of the spiritual world.
Let me explain.
So, just as a disclaimer, I personally I ascribe to the Judeo-Christian belief system and the concept that all humans are given free will from birth. We are created in the image of God, meaning that he created us with a divine purpose and a plan to live our lives in such a way that magnifies and worships him. When we’re made in the image of God we are made in the image of Love because God is Love. Due to the fall of man and sin nature we are born into, the choice to become love must be a conscious one, nobody can force the will of God on us and nobody can even coerce us to believe that there is a God at all, no less a divine plan or purpose for everyone. The beauty of all of this is that our love for God and eachother can become a sincere and honest love, versus a forced and trite expression of devotion. We are not a race of automatons, marching to the beat of the same mindless drum of affection to and from an arbitrary deity. We are free-flowing, flawed creatures, who have become so of our own choosing. We are thoughtful, creative and ever seeking out truth on this physical plane, simultaneously reaching upwards toward a loftier heavenly realm.
Meanwhile, in our pursuit, regardless of the passion or fervor, we are seemingly unaware of the Great Pursuer and the intense battle raging on the front lines of the soul. The “Hound of Heaven” Himself, is ever pursuing the heart of the unsaved, the non-believer or whatever token phrase you choose to articulate. The famous phrase You can run, but you can’t hide comes to mind. The heart chase is exciting and relentless. It’s fraught with dangers, thrills, and mystery. We don’t know how this happens, but some who are caught up are blessed with a realization in hindsight of how lenghty and how passionate the pursuit has been on the part of our Beloved. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime. We find that throughout He has been gentle, but not withholding, strong without crushing. He has this way of perfectly meeting us in our needs and convincing us with love, peace and patience of how wonderful we are in His sight! When we reach this mountaintop, we are compelled by grace to fall just as madly in love with our Great Pursuer.
In contemplating this chase, it came to me for the first time that this invokes in every soul the same fight or flight reaction that occurs in the natural world. As Graham Cooke likes to say, “What’s true in the natural is true in the spiritual”. It’s almost as though God is giving us these little breadcrumbs of truth in the natural world, the concrete life on this earth which lead us into deeper abstract things in the spirit realm, heavier truths that we can grasp more easily because of the parallel in this dimension. It makes perfect sense when you think back on the teachings of Jesus Christ. If you have read any of the gospels you see how He spoke to the people in parables all the time, versus trying to describe the deep things of God straight up.
Going back to fight or flight: if God is ever in a pursuit of the heart of man (woman), our reaction cannot always be to relent right away. That would contradict our God-given free will. We are always either fighting or flying. We have to fight to keep in relationship with Him but we fly when we resist Him, doubt Him or our need for Him, or deny His existence. We fly like eagles when we rest in Him and trust in Him. We fight like wild animals when we want to do things our own way and wrestle with the will of God. As bizarre as it seems, it really can go both ways.
I’ve watched people fight with God. I’ve watched them fly with God. I’ve seen people fight to stay in line with God’s will and I’ve seen them fly away from it.
The fighting takes place when our thoughts and our emotions stand in the way of the truth. We either resist that or succumb. We fly with God, when we learn to lean back, take a deep breath and trust the wind of His Spirit to take us on a journey, to a distant or strange land that cannot be found on the map.
Fighting to stay in relationship with the true God is a daily struggle. To me, it’s sometimes hourly or every minute it seems. When I say that there’s a battle raging, it’s for the affections of our hearts. The darkness longs to drag us down, to pull us into a spiral of self-doubt mixed with selfish desires like a discordant cacophony of clanging sounds of I love myself and I hate myself at the same time. The only ladder out of this cesspool of depression is found in the living God, the Creator of the Universe who longs to hold us and remind us of who we are because of Him and because of His great and passionate love for creation. When our weary souls can fight no more, we relent and let His love prop us up on His wings and fly us away on a heavenly flight path. He is ever fighting and ever flying for us. When we stop to take notice, He laughs and says, “C’mon! Let’s go! I have SO MUCH I want to show you — things you could never even imagine on your own!”
When we fly away from God, it is only due to deception. The ultimate lie seeps into our minds, slithering in and beckoning us away from the light into the dark deep. We are told that no one can save us and we’re worthless. We are blinded, bound and gagged. We are chained up in disbelief and trust no one but ourselves until that trust itself is compromised. Then we are left with nothing and no one. True isolation sets in and we beat the floor with our fists saying “Where are you God?!?!” as though it’s all His fault. This is when the tides can change. This is when true salvation can enter in. The problem is, many choose this time to fight. Their timing is off. When they should have fought the lies, they fight the truth or when they should have fled from the lies, they flee from the light.
I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve seen the destruction caused when I am constantly fighting against God or flying away from Him. I have also seen the greatness of those who fight to stay in communion with God, who will fly into the sun without fear. The beauty of this kind of faith is something that I aspire to achieve in life.
My prayer after contemplating this has become: God help me learn when to fly and when to fight -- and may I never confuse the two.