When It Comes To Destiny, It’s Fight or Flight

flight vs fight

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:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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.

Freedom to Stand Still

This is a really trite statement, but I don’t care:  You can’t help but think about the essence of liberty on America’s birthday. As a collective conscience the entire country is focused on the idea of freedom today.  The very core of American idealism and patriotism is rooted in our freedom as a people. The day is etched in our minds each year, set aside to appreciate the wonder that is the exceptionalism of our nation, the liberties we are granted and the notion of individual responsibility and accountability that we hold so dear to our hearts.

I can’t help but put this idea of freedom into perspective in my own life. So often in the past I have felt as though I was trapped by circumstances.  Like if one thing could change then I’d actually have the freedom I longed for to reorder the entire trajectory of my life. In the past 6 and half months, I have gone through a huge personal transformation and self-discovery process. In the throes of a terrible breakup and subsequent yo-yo of ups and downs, heart breaks and triumphs, I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what really matters in life. I have been forced to come to understand and appreciate the aspects of slowing down, breathing deeply, and taking in the few beautiful and precious moments of life. So often it’s tempting to speed through your day, hit the pillow at night and fall asleep as fast as you can, just to rush into the next day with exuberance. I have found that although life can be exciting when it’s filled to the brim with an endless stream of activity, or when there’s a major project or goal to work toward, sometimes slowing down, just to take in the majestic little nuances can be just as thrilling and more fulfilling than we give credence to.

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There’s something so amazing about standing on the edge of the ocean, watching wave after wave crash onto the shore.  When I was in southern California a few months back, I remember standing on the beach, sunlight tingling on my face and shoulders, staring out into the vast beauty of the Pacific glittering with the brilliance of  a precious stone. I thought to myself, “This right here, this is paradise. I never want to leave.” In hind-sight, this wasn’t just about the beautiful scenery.  This wasn’t about the warm air and the cadence of water rolling up onto the shore. This was about something so much more: a sense of peace, a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt in ages. I was finally in place that I alone was responsible for being in. I finally felt like I had control of a moment. That sensation contrasted so sharply with my daily routine, and so there was a tangibility to all the heart issues I had been aching to cast aside just melting way effortlessly into the beauty of the moment.  Nothing else mattered while standing on that shore. No one could take that away from me, no matter how hard they tried, it was mine alone. I took time to share this with the people I care about via a text message.  This is what it said,

There is nothing quite like looking out upon the ocean, water as far as the eye can see, the ever beckoning of waves ushering you over to partake in the majestic nature of creation. The view is constant, yet changing constantly, breathtakingly wonderful, yet serene in its rhythm. I wonder sometimes how anyone could take this for granted; how a universe devoid of a loving Creator could produce a beauty this profound or this awe-inspiring. How could this be anything but love?!

I have traditionally been the type to second-guess myself, wondering if I’m doing the right thing, expressing myself in a way that doesn’t hurt or offend. Most would label this as insecurity or low self-esteem.  I don’t know for sure if that’s accurate but over the years, it had gotten worse and worse. I was hiding myself away from almost everyone. I didn’t ever want anyone to know how I really felt or what I really thought, unless I felt safe. I’d stay quite and observe. Often times, within the confines of safety, that expression came out stronger because of the hiding. That text message is an example of something I would have never sent a year ago. I would have written that  stuff down maybe but it would be tucked it away in a notebook, for no one’s eyes but mine. I think it really caught people off-guard in a way. I wasn’t doing it for shock value. I sent it as a way of saying, “Hey everyone!  I know you have been really worried about me and my emotional state these past few months, but guess what, my heart is bursting with joy right now!”  But see, you can’t just say things like that. People will think you’re straight up crazy. So, what do I do? Well, I find a more creative way of expressing these thoughts. People generally have a harder time with criticizing or questioning someone’s creative expression –directly /to their face at least. So not many responses were received but it didn’t really matter. I wanted to let people know that I was changing. I was healing and I would be better every day. I am still in that process and I am still riding the wave of emotions, but it won’t be taking me under. Never. Never.

So this whole thought process has brought me to a place in my understanding that I have never been before.  I am at the precipice of realization that in the end, there exists in each of us a longing to be okay. To stand on the shoreline of a vast ocean of self, and appreciate the beauty within. There is, without exception, something exceptional about each and every person.  That’s huge. That’s amazing. Freedom is not just about doing what you want, when you want to. It’s more about being.  When you’re free to just be and not always do, you are propelled into life in a such a way that you may surprise yourself. Then, the doing part comes naturally – you might even say, freely.