FEAR: Part 1
Google the word fear and you’ll find the 2005 winner of the Best Action Video Game. You find phobialist.com which lists everything people fear from a fear confined spaces to a fear of the color yellow. You’ll find the heavy metal band Fear Factory’s website. You’ll find Fear Factor the infamous TV. show which forces people to face their fears by locking them in a box full of tarantulas, or dropping them from a plane, or making them eat cockroaches. Sick. You’ll find Fear Dot Com a horror film made by Warner Brothers. You’ll get linked to Freedom From Fear, a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping people heal from their fears. You’ll find F.E.A.R the Forfeiture Endangers American Rights web page.
So what is fear?
Dictionary.com describes it as a noun. 1a. A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger. 1b. A state or condition marked by this feeling i.e. living in fear. 2. A feeling of disquiet or apprehension for example, a fear of looking foolish. 3. Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power. 4. And finally, A reason for dread or apprehension: Being alone is my greatest fear.
So what are people afraid of? Well, phobia.com gave us some easy answers (and some peculiar ones). We’re afraid of the dark, we’re afraid of people with bad intentions, we’re afraid of rapists, murderers, robbers. I can remember as a child praying at night that God wouldn’t let any robbers get into my house. I used to try and lay as flat in bed as I could in case any did get inside, maybe they wouldn’t see me in my bed. I used to lay on the inside of the bed against the wall, so that if they got in and if they saw someone in bed, it’d be my sister, on the outer side of the bed who they would take and hopefully overlook me.
Twisted but true.
We’re afraid of spiders, cockroaches, bees, snakes, mice, rats, cats, dogs.
We’re afraid of losing our checkbooks, forgetting to pay our bill, missing a deadline, not making the grades.
We’re afraid of thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis.
We’re afraid of getting a cold, breaking a bone, hearing the word cancer, contracting AIDS, catching the bird flu when it makes it to America.
And we’re afraid for others too are we not? We’re afraid for our sisters that they’ll date sketchy men. We’re afraid for our children that they’re making poor decisions. We afraid for our best friends who may not get out of the slump they’re in. We’re afraid for our parents’ health and age.
And somewhere in there surfaces our own deep-seeded fears. Fear that we will never be truly loved. Fear that we will never ever please our parents. Fear of losing loved ones. Fear that we aren’t good enough. Fear that we’ll never achieve our dreams. Fear that we’ll never make a difference. Fear that the world is too big and we are too small. Fear that we’ll never amount to more than our mistakes. Fear that God will reject us just like people have. Fear that we can’t control anything in our lives. Fear that we can’t trust anyone, not even God. Fear of facing our past. Fear of facing our future.
And suddenly spiders don’t seem like such a big deal.
I’d rather find a monster in my closest than a past I haven’t dealt with yet.
I’d rather find a cockroach in my bathroom than watch my self-esteem go down the toilet.
I’m get afraid sometimes. And lent reminds me of that.
Lent falls at the most peculiar of times. It is a time in the church calendar that forces us to look inward when all we want to do is play outside. It asks us to examine what makes us un-whole when around us everything is blossoming into fullness.
But perhaps when we turn into ourselves and face our fears, fullness is what we will receive in return.
FEAR: Part 2
The disciples were afraid.
All was fine and dandy at the Passover supper. Good food, good wine, good friends, good times. Now granted, Jesus had been saying some strange things about death lately, but he was always saying crazy stuff like that. Lose your life and find it. Riiight. Be born again. Now how was that supposed to happen? And what about that story about the fig tree? What was that all about? And then there’s that one with the son who went and ate in the pig sty. That was weird.
So the dinner went great, it was Passover, they were in the big city, and then all hell broke loose. Judas got mad and left early. There were guards waiting outside after dinner. Peter thought it was the start of the revolution. Jesus didn’t put up a fight at all, not that he’s ever lifted a finger against anyone, but he usually sweet talks his way out of every tricky move the Pharisees and Sadducees made. God he’s smart. But he didn’t do anything, they just carted him off. And Everyone else just freaked out and ran. Some followed at a distance, but far enough away not to get caught. It was crazy. Everything we were expecting for that weekend went out the window.
And then he was convicted. Not even convicted, but the mob went nuts, you know? They demanded he be crucified and Pilate just kind of gave in and the next thing you know, the women are sobbing, the soldiers are staring and Rome’s got Jesus nailed to a damn cross in the middle of the street.
And then he died.
And then what?
What were the disciples to do then?
They were afraid and hid in upper rooms. They fled the scene. The women, beside themselves, but knowing their duty, wrapped his body and visited the tomb daily to pour the oils on his dead body.
But on the third day when they arrived, there was no body.
And then they were really afraid.
Tomb robbers? Jewish officials? Who stole his body? Why? Will they find us too?
A resurrection? An angel in white? Or was that Jesus himself? A new body? Dead becoming alive? What does that mean? Can a man so powerful care enough to return for us?
For two days the disciples, men and women sat in fear. But on day three, fear took on reverence as they realized the impossible had come to pass. Rome had not won. The Sanhedrin had not won. Death had not won.
And their eyes were opened. The old became new, the dirty became clean, and the desperation became hope.
And Peter proclaimed the message to the Jews.
Paul preached the message to the Gentiles.
The women started churches in their homes.
They all understood that they were called to something higher than a fear of authorities, or fear of a lisp, or fear of being the wrong gender, or fear of being misunderstood. They took their gifts and come hell or high-water, crucifixion or stoning, they pushed fear aside and let God breathe on them.
And then they took that life to the world around them.
I’m afraid of cockroaches.
I’m afraid of tornados.
I’m afraid of the bird flu.
I’m afraid of a lot of things that I only tell my therapist and my diary.
But we cannot be afraid to be who we are: children of God. Breathed on by God and gifted by God to go, be ourselves full in Christ to the world around us.