Only idiots aren’t afraid

I am afraid of fear. For most of my life I’ve been trying to hide from it, vanquish it, get away from it, rationalize it. And now that I look back, I can see the truth to the saying “what you resist, persists.”
One of the more obvious sources of fear in my life is from religion. Lets be frank, most Muslims aren’t the most touchy-feely people. No matter how many imams and mothers might tell you of how Islam is the religion of peace and love and etc, it’s an obvious contradiction compared to all the other times those same imams and mothers will tell you how you shouldn’t do this and you shouldn’t do that and you have to do this and do it this way and this many times. And if you don’t.. well.. then may Allah save your soul, which he won’t, cause you’re not doing what he, meaning your parents and the imam, told you to do.
So my first task as an independent human being was to reject all indoctrination that I’ve been put through as an innocent, helpless child. But there was no rhyme or reason to this rejection, I was rebelling, and part of that revolution was a re-evaluation of who Allah is to me. And I took the polar opposite view of what I’ve been told in my childhood, I made Allah into a very lovey-dovey entity, willing to forgive and look past any misdeeds or sins. Allah, I thought, couldn’t possibly find anything wrong with me or be mad at me. He loves me unconditionally, nothing I do can keep him from turning away from me and he will forgive me for the sins I commit. All gracious, all merciful.
What I was doing was essentially trying to run away from the fear that has been ingrained into me from my first cognitive thoughts. I remember one time in college explaining to someone who was interested that Islam was like having a giant sword over your head, and at any moment if you made a mistake, the sword would drop and chop your head off. That was what Islam was to me during my childhood, and that is still what orthodox Islam is to me today. And I’ve been blindly running away from it and making “my” Islam into something opposite of that.
Whatever reality is, it’s not just one or a small group of people’s perception. So Islam isn’t a sword hanging over your head. But it’s also not a blind rejection and polar opposite of an incorrect perception either. Islam isn’t lovey-dovey, no questions asked, unconditional forgiveness either.
What is Islam? I don’t know. But I might have an idea of what Islam isn’t.
The impact over time of this rebellion has been a slow submergence of the fear that I grew up with as a child. On the surface I seemed cool, calm, collected, awesome. Like I know everything, and have all the answers. But, contrary to how amazing everyone perceived to be, deep inside I was still that same scared child. No real problem with that, except that I started believing myself that I had all the answers. It’s fun to fool others, but the bigger fool is the one who fools themselves.
Throughout my childhood, there would be a lot of instances where people would tell me to fear Allah. But usually they would say that after they made statements that made no real sense, where the logic was obviously flawed. For instance, they would tell me that all Americans disrespect their parents, think badly of them, and forget about them, fear Allah and respect your parents. And when my mom said that to me, I just thought about how ridiculous and small minded she sounded, and I wished that I can get away from such a negative environment and a prejudiced person. The logic was obviously flawed, not just because it was blatantly racist, but also in how the response it caused in me was the feelings and thinking that she wanted me to avoid. And then when they would tell me to fear Allah, all it did was link fear of Allah with some nonsense belief. Be afraid of Allah and believe that all Americans are cold hearted, that’s what they seemed to be saying to me. Fear of Allah equated, in my head, to the irrational statements that people made. So fear of Allah became, over time, an irrational thing to do.
So is it any wonder that I rebelled and became such a heathen? It’s not my fault, I’m sure Allah will understand that and in his loving all mercifulness forgive me without me having to change my ways, Right?
I look at my life now and I have so many things I want to do and so many different ways that I want to be, and I can’t, no matter how hard I feel like I’m trying. And the key element that is both missing and is a hindrance, is fear. I have too much fear of the loss of my identity, fear of being wrong, fear of failing, fear of being yelled at, fear of being alienated. I have no fear of disappointing Allah.
Love God, trust in God, and fear God. Not fear his wrath, as I’ve been told to all my life, but fear his disappointment. These three prongs makes a stable basis of faith, more of a foundation of Islam then the five pillars.
It’s funny now to pray and then ask Allah to instill more fear in me. It feels funny to me to ask him to help me be more afraid of him. But how different is that then asking him to help me love him more? How different is that from asking him to help me trust in him more? The person you love, you trust and you also fear disappointing that person. The person you fear disappointing, you trust and you also love that person. And the person you trust, you love and are afraid of disappointing that person and losing the mutual trust you’ve developed. Each of those three elements are related and not one supersedes or is in a causal relationship to the other, all three are necessary in a relationship.
I would like more fear in my life now. I am ready for more fear. I finally want to stop running away from fear and face it and embrace it and be even more afraid.
And I’m afraid to do so.
So I ask Allah to please give me the courage to be afraid.

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