Because sometimes we're just scared
When I was in the ninth grade, I watched my dad fall off of a horse and land, unconscious and facedown, in the grass. He was fine in the end, but it is one of the only times that I remember my knees actually giving way beneath me. I wrote a whole paper about it that year because, well, this is what I have always done. I write the words that I cannot speak but also that I cannot silence.
And today I’m working out some things about fear. So bear with me.
Anyway, there was that day in the ninth grade when my dad fell off his horse, and fear literally crippled me. There was also a night during my first week at college when two guys tried (unsuccessfully) to get into my car, and I called home sobbing and scared and homesick. A few years later there was a drug bust at a bar that I was at, and there were guns and yelling, and for a few moments, I didn’t know who was good and who was bad, and someone pushed me out the door, and I ran to the sidewalk on knees that wanted to buckle but did not. I lay awake for a long time that night.
Those were times (and I’m sure there have been others) when I was scared—when my heart pounded loud and hard in my ears, and my body tensed for action. Life hung in limbo, suspended there until the crisis at hand was resolved.
But that’s not really the kind of fear that ultimately cripples. Oh, maybe it drops us to our knees for a moment. But it’s just as likely to propel us to the sidewalk and away from danger or to give us the resolve to slam the door and throw the car into reverse to get away.
Some things are downright scary, and a surge of adrenaline is just what the doctor ordered (maybe, kinda, in a very non-medical way).
The kind of fear that cripples is more insidious than that. It is the what if that wraps itself around today, and squeezes the life right out of you. It grabs hold of the relief that should come, and smothers you with dread instead. Because maybe this time it turned out okay, but what about next time?
Fear holds a knife to our throat demanding we work out hypothetical and horrendous futures as though they were a present reality.
But God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
Oh, but sometimes I am so very scared. And not in the fight-or-flight kind of way. In the lingering kind of way. Fear of the debilitating kind.
On Friday night a deputy was murdered at a gas station, and I stayed up half the night waiting for the killer to be caught. Because my brother wears a very similar uniform. He drives a very similar car that also runs on gasoline.
And somewhere, somewhere not that far from me, that brave man’s wife and children and maybe his sister too are missing him.
And what if it was my brother?
And fear would like to keep me here. Because the truth is that it could have been him. But the truth is also that it wasn’t.
The truth is that there is a real family mourning a real man.
The truth is that I got a little obsessed with reading the news. The truth is that I had to stop.
The truth is that I had no words when a friend pointed out the street where it had happened. The truth is that I wanted to ask her to drive past it. The truth is also that I wanted to ask her to run the light and get away from it as quickly as possible.
The truth is that I haven’t said one extra prayer for my brother or his friends or law enforcement officers in general.
Because the truth is that I don’t know what to say.
Our pastor said this morning that God hadn’t turned his back when the officer was shot. And I have to believe that he is right. I have to believe that God was there, that He was watching, that He wasn’t caught unaware. (I don’t believe that God desired it—but that’s another blog entirely.)
And the truth is that I’m not sure what to do with that. I’m not sure what to pray in light of that.
Fear wants to demand that God guarantee that it will never be my brother.
Fear wants to be relieved that it was someone else.
Fear wants to keep my eyes wide open and my mouth squeezed shut.
Fear wants to cripple me.
And then this morning, while I sat on the floor of the church nursery, a policeman came to the door. And he smiled, and he silently surveyed the room. Just like he does every week. Gentle strength. Reassuring power. And I fought back tears.
Fear, at least in me, wants to stand stoic.
And sometimes we just need to let it break us open for a minute, to let the tears fall, to tell God that we don’t understand, to weep for a widow we will never know, to mourn an unfamiliar man in a terribly familiar uniform, to beg God to let us trust Him even when we cannot understand.
To tell Him we are scared.
Fear wants to deny itself, to explain itself, to appear reasonable.
Faith cries out to confess the fear.
And the Father--our Father kneels to comfort.
And this daughter, this child, this sister is grateful.
I don’t know if fear has wrapped its fingers around your neck this weekend. But I know your Father bends to hear, to comfort, to whisper what He alone knows that you need to hear. May we bow to let the fear fall awkward at the feet of a faithful Father. May we stand in faith that may never understand this evil but that still trusts a God who is good.