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Confessing Our Fears

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 01:00PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in | Comments2 Comments

ew cameo.jpgIn Paul Buckley’s second session at Iowa Midyear, he broke us into small groups of five or six, and set us to discussing our fears with one another. To help us open up, he passed out paper lunch bags that we could use as hand puppets — instead of us confessing our fears, we could let the puppets speak for us!

It was a clever conceit. One of the people in my own group did a splendid job of drawing an Oh-no-Mister-Bill expression on her puppet, which in turn did a splendid job of helping to get our group conversation rolling.

Paul suggested we start with little fears — fear of flying, fear of ham sandwiches — but our group fell immediately into big issues like fear of helplessness in old age, fear for our children, and fear for our aged parents. I thought that starting with the worst in this way would be a bad thing, but it proved to be a good one; as we shared our big fears, my sense of our commitment to each other grew stronger, and I suspect it may have been the same for everyone in my group. I think this exercise was very likely a healthy community builder for our whole yearly meeting.

I was astonished at how many people confessed a fear of environmental crisis as one of their major fears. This in a yearly meeting that has been visibly slow to involve itself in any corporate witness vis-à-vis environmental matters. I’m scheduled to address this yearly meeting on July 26, in the course of our 2007 annual sessions. Dare I let myself hope that what I say might lead to something?

The final fear I personally confessed to was fear of not working things out completely with the Guide in my heart and conscience — fear of not becoming “completely clear”, as George Fox put it on his deathbed. Oh, I wanted to make sure that one got into this journal, where I would be reminded of it whenever I re-read this entry! And here I’ve done so. Now if I could only etch it on the inside of my eyeglasses —

Paul had us write our fears as we named them on the sides of the bag puppets, and at the end of our small group exercise, he had us go outside and convert them into luminaria. Very clever! I posted a picture of the luminaria in front of the meetinghouse in a previous entry in this journal; and I do hope you liked the image as much as I did.

On the following morning, as I wandered around the back yard of the meetinghouse, I spotted a bunch of the luminaria — the upside-down bag puppets — that the teenagers in our meeting had made and left behind. I felt challenged and delighted by some of the fears they confessed — “my sister when she drives on the highway”; “Jules’s upside-down handwriting”.

ew tiny.pngMore to come —

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Reader Comments (2)

What a great way to get talking to the little gremlins that live inside us. And to bid them adieu!

Apr 27, 2007 at 09:11PM | Unregistered CommenterNancy A

Hi, Nancy!

I don't think any of us bid adieux to our fears of helplessness in old age, our fears for our children, or our fears for our aged parents.

But as Paul stressed in his talk, it's really not unhealthy for us to have fears about big problems we cannot control. Even Jesus had such fears, as he confessed in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane; and the apostle Peter, who was Paul's unspoken model in this part of the program, had to struggle with such fears all his life. Such fears are a mark of responsibility. They'd be unhealthy only if they got the better of us.

But you're so right that it was a great way to get talking about the gremlins! I am very glad I attended, for that reason.

Apr 30, 2007 at 05:12AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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