i’ve been in 6 ambulance rides to the emergency room, and one of them unconscious.
you’d assume that fear would be the first natural reaction to a situation like that, but you’d be wrong.
when you are faced with death, everything goes still. there’s a peace. i could only feel my heart swell thinking of how beautiful life truly is. rather than panic, i find that it’s most natural to quarry courage.
an ambulance ride isn’t the only ride that insinuates valor though. you personally may not be down to your last heartbeat or gasping breath, but you very well could be down to your last paycheck, solution, or thimble of faith. it seems like each sunrise can bring new reasons for personalized fear. we fear the economy, the middle east, nuclear war, global warming, swine flu, terrorism, or even the cranky old neighbor’s rottweiler chained to their not-so-sturdy fence across the street. did you know that, according to the Report Newsmagazine back in 2001, ‘ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s’? ironically, i find that fearfully terrifying.
Fear, it seems, has taken a 100-year lease on the building next door and set up shop, unwilling to share our hearts with Love. why must Love comply and leave? but yet, it does. you never see Fear out walking about town, linking arms with Happiness, or buying a nice dinner for Joy. this begs the question: can one be happy and afraid at the same time? clear thinking and afraid? confident and afraid? merciful and afraid? nope. Fear never wrote a symphony or thoughtful poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage, relationship, or buisness. Courage did that. Faith did that. Love, Joy, and Happiness did all that. but fear itself … it herds us all into a prison and slams the doors, just like they do in the tower of terror at disneyland. except this time, you’re not guaranteed a safe exit.
Fear really just corrodes our confidence in god’s goodness, releasing a swarm of doubts with the potential to lead to anger. this causes the “control freak” phenomenon. trust me, i’ve been here. i am a self confessed struggling control freak, and believe me – it’s a daily battle. fear, at it’s center, is a perceived loss of control. when life spins wildly, we grab onto something we can manage: our diet, the tidiness of our lives, the armrest of a plane, or most often, people. the more insecure we feel, the more our inner tyrant emerges. Martin Niemoller once said that Hitler was really just a “terribly frightened man.” How true.
i think Fear also deadens our recall. like when jesus took the disciples out on the boat, and a great storm arose when jesus had fallen asleep. everyone came rushing down to where he was slumbering, and panicked. did anyone mention jesus’ track record or review his resume? shouldn’t his disciples of all people remember his accomplishments, much less who jesus even is? they didn’t. Fear is a form of spiritual amnesia :) dulling our miracle memories, it makes us forget the goodness of god … even when it’s staring right at us in the face.
if we medicate fear with angry outbursts, sullen withdrawals, drinking binges, self starvation, or viselike control – we really just exclude god from the solution, and exacerbate the problem even more. we just subject ourselves to a position of Fear, allowing the anxiety to dominate and define our lives and who we are. WHAT ARE WE THINKING?! joy-sapping worries? day-numbing dread? paralyzing bouts of insecurity? Fear fills our world, but it does not have to fill our hearts. this is a choice, people. it will always knock on the door. YOU CHOOSE to let it in, much less stay for dinner, or sublet out your room upstairs for a few months, years, decades.
i used to be incredibly afraid of pool cleaners (this is no joke haha). it got so bad I could barely look at one, much less be near a pool with one. one day I came home from school, and glanced over at the backyard pool to see our pool cleaner, doin’ it’s thing, crawling up and down the sides of the chlorinated walls. subsequently, i had an anxiety attack that crippled me for the rest of the day. summer was coming up, and my family was at a loss for what to do with my seemingly random obsessively paranoid behaviour of pool cleaners (this was before i was diagnosed with OCD, but i digress). in short, my brother made sure that pool cleaner was nowhere in sight everytime we went outside, or went swimming that summer. i don’t think i’ve actually ever thanked him for that, but it meant the world to me. i was so baffled at his nonplus attitude at the machine, showing no signs of any kind of terror whatsoever. he seemed almost superhero-ic to me that summer.
i can remember looking at him and wondering in awe, how can he do this?
the disciples on jesus’s ship cried out, “who is this man that calms the seas?”
who is this man, indeed. silencing waves with one word. showing that love surpasses fear. and equipping my brother to be able to yank out that disgusting pool cleaner out each time his no-longer-terrified sister went outside, and slowly helped her work her way back into the water with the once-dreaded machine drying out besides the pool beside her, anxiety-free.
way to go, kris. you helped your sister refuse to let fear win.
here’s a prayer that you and I will too.