Fighting the Fear of What People Think

Being raised in a religious community, the fear of man has been a big struggle for me.
This is not going to be the typical photo-inspirational blog I normally post, but, instead, something my spirit has long been prompting me to share with you.
I kept making excuses for why you, the readers, wouldn't be interested in this blog. Tonight, I'm getting it off my chest. This is my own testimony of overcoming the fear of man and the desire to please people.
Hi I'm Lena Schlabach and I want everyone to love me. *Rolling eyes*
Yet I know this will never happen.

One Sunday, about five years ago, a corner of my world came crashing down. My Amish parents, who live next door, had church at their house. We didn't attend, but later in the afternoon, after their church people left and only family remained, we went over in hopes of reliving some childhood memories of good old church food like "baby soup," and red beets, and peanut butter spread generously on soft, homemade bread, topped with the best pickles you've ever tasted. Yes, pickles with peanut butter. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

All that aside, my ideal world came crashing down faster than I had ever experience before. Soon, my favorite (shhh) nephew asked me, "Lena, can you take me to the Mt Hope auction on Wednesday?" I was surprised by his request and commented that I'd check my schedule. He said something like, "So you still can drive?" I was puzzled, but, before long, all was made clear. He had heard through the gossip of the Amish church men that morning that I had been charged with driving under the influence. This, my friends, was news to me. He proceeded upstairs and returned with the evidence, printed in ink in the local newspaper that reaches thousands of friends, family, in-laws, and clients who know me. Of course, they believed what it said because, allegedly, it happened to me, not to one of the more conservative people in the little Mennonite church where my husband was an elder at the time.
Very few would see the correction two days later, stating that it was a misprint, that, in reality, I had been cited for an improper start on my way to deliver a meal before attending a Wednesday church service.

For the next couple of days, I retreated to my room, pulling the covers over my head, crying in self pity and bemoaning the unfairness of it all. When I got done sulking, I asked myself, "Why does this depress me that much? Why do I even care what people say about me? If I know in my heart what is true, nothing else is needed." Beginning immediately, I grew stronger in my faith through this unfair life experience. On the third day, a strong spirit rose in me, saying, 


It hit me how much I try to please people instead of finding my identity in Christ. I realized how vain I was for wanting the approval of man all the time, worrying what others think of me, of their judgement of me.
Now, I believe that seeking approval and having "fear of man" are two different things, but are somewhat tied together. Fear of what others think when you stand up for what is right is what I would defined as "fear of man." There are so many different ways to have fear of man. I always ask myself, "Do you have fear of man or do you fear God?" That question alone usually delivers me.

Still, it took a couple of years before I didn't feel judged by the people I'd see in a store who would look me up and down. It's such a freeing feeling when those moments happen, and you can tell yourself it really doesn't matter what they are thinking, because you know whose approval you have.

That's when I became a better person even through my pain and shame.
Do I ever struggle with this fear of man five years later? YES! But what I believe is that, on that day, hiding under the covers from my fears, I was delivered. I remember back to that day, when only the Lord could deliver me from fear to freedom of truly not caring what people think of me, but knowing that what I carry in my heart is what is most important. I think fear in many forms is one of Satan's stronger tools. It cannot destroy people and relationships if it's recognized and then rejected.

I've struggled about whether to share this with you, since every time I share my testimony on this subject, Satan tries to tempt me with this FEAR OF MAN.
Tonight, when my daughter was telling me about a bullying situation at school, I was once again nudged to share this. I was proud of how she said, "Tomorrow, I'm not going to fear man. Instead, I'm going to stand up to those girls."

Also, our oldest daughter is adjusting from coming back from missions and she's faced with different realities of living in this community where people care what everybody thinks of them, and we all want to be in the right clique. Trust me, I love this community where we live for many reasons, but it was good for me to see it through her eyes, because so many times, we are blind to what surrounds us. I'm thankful I can encourage her not to have fear of man because of my own experience.

Am I perfect? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I have my own Redeemer who delivers me, and for that I'm thankful.

Sometimes, when we go through our deepest hurts, that's when we are delivered. As Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Driven Life would say, "Our deepest hurts are the ones that give us another notch in our belts."

This is the real life of Lena:)

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