Jealous envy, sabotage, manipulation, and chronic co-dependency! No. I’m not describing the latest episode of “Real Housewives.” But it does describe the blended family drama in a semi-funny movie entitled “Daddy’s Home,” starring Will Farrell. Much of the time, I think Will Farrell movies are only marginally entertaining. Typically the plot, if you can find it, offers very little value. Yet this movie provided a fantastic illustration of what happens when fear occupies the driver seat in our heart.
The crux of the story is about a step father (played by Will Farrell) who struggles, to the point of groveling, in hopes of making his blended family “work.” He is determined to do whatever it takes to fit in, to be a great husband and a terrific dad to his step children. Even though the kids hate his guts and work overtime to make him miserable, he continues to persevere. The devilish little crumb-crunchers he has pledged to love pummel him with numerous cruel pranks and insults. Yet he always finds the strength to turn the other cheek.
And just when things are beginning to click, just when he can see a glimmer of light at the end of a long dark tunnel… the absentee bio-dad shows up at the door…bags packed and ready to move in. The remainder of the movie focuses on the antics of the biological father and his perfected skills of sabotage against all the step dad’s efforts.
Unbeknown to the family, he has no real desire to restore relationship. No goal of repairing the marriage or being the father his children needed. Instead, his primary goal is to ensure the step dad’s complete failure so as to soothe the pain of his own shortcomings and insecurity.
Sadly, he actually works harder to submarine the step dad than to make improvements to himself. He finds more excitement in creating division and disharmony than in giving up stubborn entitlement. In the end, however, he makes a surprising turn-around. The family works through all the difficulty and learns to live in peaceful co-existence.
Equally surprising was how much the story line caused me to reflect on similar circumstances that happened in my own life. Over the years there have been family members, friends and colleagues who felt the need to work against me, to sabotage, undermine, exploit and mislead, in order to cover up (or make up) for their own shortcomings. They found it more expedient to blame shift and scapegoat than to take ownership and call on the grace of God to cover their sense of inadequacy.
And I wish I could tell you I always handled those situations in a Christ-like manner…that I “overcame” through prayer, forgiveness and Godly perseverance. But there were many occasions when I did none of that.
Sometimes I behaved in a similar manner to the step dad. Sometimes I responded like a schmuck. I gave myself pity parties when my sacrifices were ignored. Other times I vowed to work harder, try harder, or prove I was above it all. But those tactics mostly resulted in frustration or bitterness if my efforts were not reciprocated.
Seeing all this played out on the Big Screen helped me realize that only prayer can bring resolution to the heart and offer hope for wounded emotions. Owning what I needed to own and forgiving what I needed to forgive was the only way to make sense of senselessness. So I posed a straight-forward question to God… “Whose fault is it?”
His answer took me by surprise when he responded, “It’s everybody’s fault; yours, theirs, everybody.” In other words, from Adam and Eve to the present moment, we have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We have all been partakers, participants and promoters in the Ecosystem of Fear.
The term “Ecosystem” is used to basically describe an interactive system established between a group of living creatures and their environment. I believe this same description can be applied in a spiritual context as well. Before Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden, all of creation existed in an ecosystem of Love.
Within this divine environment, man existed perfectly and in perfect harmony with God, each other and their surroundings. There was no death – no destruction – no physical, spiritual or emotional imbalance… anywhere! It was the Paradise every human being longs for. And they had it to the full.
By the time Adam and Eve came on the scene, all their needs had already been met completely – from the inner most to the utter most. Their ecosystem of Love was perfectly suited for them, and they for it. The heavens had gone before them to prepare a universe overflowing with peace and provision ahead of time.
The dynamics of their perfect environment was not dependent on their performance. Neither was it sustained by what they possessed or what they could obtain from each other. Their survival was not hanging on the outcome of their achievements.
Mankind’s ecosystem of Love was filled and sustained by the Spirit of God alone – by the Spirit of Love. And their 360 degree cohesive completeness was made available through their unbroken connection with their Father-God, their Creator-Sustainer, with their perfect Soul Mate, the Lover of their soul.
Far beyond anything we can comprehend, it was an environment completely void of fear, because there was nothing to be fearful about. No fear of tomorrow. No fear of failure. No fear of rejection. No anxiety about making up for lost time. That means there was no cause for conflict. No cause for strife. No feelings of inadequacy or intimidation. No religious hoop-jumping. No co-dependency. No antidepressants. No substance abuse. No demands to compromise their individuality just to fit in.
But The Fall changed everything! And by changed, I mean as if the earth began to rotate in the opposite direction…as if mankind was astro-projected to a distant planet with a completely foreign set of environmental components; none of which were designed to sustain him. From a spiritual perspective, nothing was in place to aid him. Nothing provided an ounce of well-being whatsoever!
Imagine if you will, the mother of all perfect catastrophes. Imagine the worst tornado, hurricane, tsunami, volcanic eruption, and earthquake the world has ever experienced all rolled into one event. Now add to that global nuclear war, permanently polluted water, air, and soil – a totally ravaged existence. And if you can imagine the indescribable cataclysmic devastation those events would cause, you will have only begun to scratch the surface in comparison to the impact The Fall rendered on the human soul.
In the ecosystem of Love, man’s spirit found his completeness and eternal sustainability. But after The Fall, he was thrust in to an environment hostile towards his spirit. Unlike the harmonious ecosystem of love, the ecosystem of fear demanded endless ceaseless adaptation without any peaceful assimilation. In other words, man was now living with the eternal futility of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole; striving to make himself suitable to an environment never suited for him.
Tragically, this is the ecosystem every human soul is born in to, as the scriptures make clear. For example, Paul explains in Romans 5:12 that, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all people (no one being able to stop it or escape its power)…” What a hopeless condition.
Being unable to redeem his fate, man was condemned to an inescapable spiritual existence ruled and governed by perpetual fear! The power of the Ecosystem of Fear prevents us from thinking there might actually be another way to live. So we question neither the origin or the end result.
And it is for this very reason God sent the world a Savior… for you, for me, for everybody. Jesus was born, crucified and resurrected to rescue all of us from the ecosystem of fear. Again Paul explains it beautifully in Romans 5, “Through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For just as through one man’s disobedience (his failure to hear and his carelessness) the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one Man the many will be made righteous and acceptable to God, and brought into right standing with Him.”
Many people claim that faith is the opposite of fear. But I would argue they’re wrong. In fact, I think their dead wrong. The ability to rest in the perfect Love of God is the opposite of fear. As 1John 4:18 instructs, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
That is exactly what Adam and Eve experienced. Fear was their very FIRST ungodly emotion. Makes perfect sense because in their fear environment everything was rooted in fear, perpetuated by fear and sustained by fear. And it was for the sole purpose of keeping them enslaved to fear and separated from knowing the unsearchable love of God.
So how does this play out in our daily lives? Well, I believe Will Farrell’s movie gives a couple of great examples. Everybody was caught up in the ecosystem of fear and behaved according to the standards of that environment. Fear was at the core of all the dysfunction, the strife, the stubbornness and sabotage. Fear infected everyone’s outlook and caused them to act as if there was no God at all.
For example, the step dad was afraid of failure and rejection. That drove him to needless striving and unhealthy submission. It prevented him from understanding the value God’s love placed on his life. He was overflowing with desperation and anger because his efforts were not recognized or appreciated.
The truth is he was hopelessly co-dependent. His fear of rejection caused him to act in a ridiculous manner, especially where the children were concerned. He failed to see his value, independent of other people’s acceptance. As a result, he walked with the limp of insecurity rather than in the upright confidence of God’s love.
The bio dad was also controlled by fear; fear of being out done and fear of success all at the same time. His efforts to sabotage and blame shift was nothing more than a big giant dose of pride. And pride, at its core, comes from putting more faith in the power of our own mistakes and decision rather than faith in the greatness of God’s love to overcome it on our behalf. But it takes humility to go there. And the bio dad was just too enslaved with fear to humble himself. He knew not a Savior to cover his mistakes.
The children were at the effect of everybody’s fear in addition to their own. Might explain the root of their rebellious behavior. After all, if the authority figures are operating in fear, how do you think that gets translated to those under their care? At the very least, it would create a smothering atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty. And that is a perfect breeding ground for fear.
You see, all of us are born with an intuitive understanding that there should be a “somebody” to love, protect and care for us. But the “Somebody” is Christ. That’s why it is so important that our children be raised in the “nurture and admonition” of God’s love according to Ephesians 6:4. It equips them to discover the ecosystem of Love as early as possible. Sadly, the children in this movie had no one to point them in that direction.
Many of my own experiences have been similar to all three of these examples. There were situations when I operated with the same fears as the step dad, the bio dad and the children (thankfully not at the same time). Looking back, it pains me to think about all the different ways I was enslaved to the ecosystem of fear. It was a hopeless, directionless, insecure life.
And then, right around the Easter season, more than 25 years ago, I found the way out through the forgiveness of Christ. I escaped the ecosystem of fear and found my “true fit” in the ecosystem of Love. I discovered an environment custom-made for me. I found a spiritual Paradise where all my needs were considered ahead of time.
The good news is the same way of escape I discovered is available to anyone at anytime, at any stage or age, no matter the circumstances, no matter what! Romans 10:13 assures us that “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, those who place their faith in Christ, can and will be rescued from the ecosystem of fear.
God’s Son came to earth to restore us to the ecosystem of Love – to redeem what Adam and Eve lost – to refit us in to the environment we were created for – to reconnect us with our Father-God, our Creator-Sustainer, with our true Soul Mate, the Lover of our soul. Because of Gods’ great love expressed on the Cross, everyone can live in a spiritual Paradise where all needs have been considered ahead of time.
Does that mean we will never be tempted to fear? Of course not. We live in a fallen world with fallen people doing fallen things. It’s a part of our earthly experience. However, once we have tasted of the freedom that Gods’ love provides, it gives us hope. It reassures us that we have an Advocate to help us in our time of need, in the hour of fear.
Once we become sons and daughters of God, we are given a new nature, custom designed for our new ecosystem. But often the mind and emotions need a little time to catch up. In other words, assimilating to the ecosystem of Love is a process. And, unlike the ecosystem of fear, it is NOT a futile endeavor.
Peaceful assimilation into the ecosystem of Love is our inheritance as sons and daughters of the God. And our Lord will help us with every single step along the way. Not only so, but in John 14:27 he promises to give it to us as a free gift; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.
When we fully realize the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead NOW lives is us, we can rest with assurance. We can walk with peace and authority away from the heaviness and complication of fear. It’s just a matter of renewing our minds or reminding our emotions of the Truth. As 2Timothy 1:7 confirms, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
If fear filled thoughts come knocking on the door (bags packed and ready to move in), we can take a bold stand and say with confidence what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39; “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Each and every day we are faced with an important decision – What ecosystem are we going to live in? Which environment do we desire for our soul’s habitation? Will it be the ecosystem of fear; an environment that demands our endless ceaseless adaptation without any sustainable reward. Or will we choose the ecosystem of Love; a perfected spiritual environment full of grace and peace from a perfect Savior?
Kind of reminds me of another story about folks who were asked to make an important decision concerning what environment they wanted to live in…
When the children of Israel were brought out of slavery in Egypt, they failed to enter the Promise Land straight way because of fear. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness unnecessarily for 40 years.
God’s plan was to put them in a beautiful ecosystem of Love and freedom. His provision and protection awaited them, it had gone before them ahead of time. But the habits they had formed in the ecosystem of fear kept them enslaved in their heart and minds. It prevented them from being able to receive what they had longed for.
After Moses died, Joshua (who was one of the two who did not shrink back for fear) was appointed to lead a new generation to their new future. Joshua had seen it all; from the wilderness of fear to the Promise Land of Love. At the end of his life, he gathered all the people together for a final word of exhortation as to how they should live.
An old man of 110, he offers a proclamation in Joshua 24:15. Maybe we need to let it speak to us as well… “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
To help you in your journey away from the ecosystem of fear, here are a few scriptures you might enjoy. Let these promises aid you in your determination to live in the ecosystem of Love that God has made available to you as a Free Gift through the death and resurrection of Jesus!
“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2Thessalonians 3:5
- Isaiah 41:10
- Romans 8:31
- Psalm 56:3
- Philippians 4:6-7
- John 14:27
- 1 John 4:18
- Psalm 94:19
- Isaiah 43:1
- Psalm 23
- Joshua 1:9
- Matthew 6:25-34
- 1 Peter 5:6-7
- Isaiah 35:4
- Psalm 27:1
- Psalm 55:22
- Deuteronomy 31:6
- Isaiah 41:13-14
- Psalm 46:1
- Proverbs 29:25
- Mark 4:39-43
- Psalm 34:4
- Deuteronomy 3:22