"They took Jesus with them in the boat...A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?'" --Mark 4:36-41
"The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is fear." --Henri Nouwen
When it happens to me, it's usually late in the evening. That's when I am most vulnerable because that's when I am most weary. Fear will creep into my consciousness. I'll quietly go into my daughter's room to give her a kiss before I go to bed, and as I look at her I'll feel the weight of my responsibility to her--to keep her safe, fed, clothed, cared for. And then the "what ifs" will hit. "What if something happens to me? What if something happens to her? What if there isn't enough? What if.. What if... What if..." And the cold fingers of fear will tighten around my heart. (OK, please know that just as often I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the gift she is!) Other times I'll lie in bed, staring into the darkness, and worry about the future or finances or any other number of things. And again, fear creeps into my heart.
I imagine a psychotherapist would have a field day with what I've just written, but I've been thinking about the times I feel afraid and what happens to me when I do. Suddenly, everything becomes about me. Fear is an important defense mechanism, but there are times when it crosses a line into a kind of ego-centrism. My fear can blind me to the needs of others because I'm too preoccupied with my own worries. When fear dominates my heart, I may not realize that Jesus is right there by my side, in the boat with me, in the middle of the storm--whether it is real or imagined. Fear is like a clenched fist that is not open to others.
I've been thinking about fear lately--and reflecting on my own experience of it--because there has been a spike in fear mongering in our country lately. All of the shouting about proposals to reform health care in our country have given rise to rhetoric meant to elicit fear: "The government wants to kill grandma!" or "You'll have to wait in line for years to see the doctor!" among others. When fear is running high, it's nearly impossible to pry our eyes away from ourselves to see the big picture, to see the need around us, to open our hands to share with others.
Jesus asks, "Why are you afraid?" That's a question worth deeply pondering. Because becoming aware of our fear is the first step in overcoming our fear. And overcoming our fear does not mean getting rid of it, but trusting that no matter what happens, our lives unfold within the love and grace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Caring God, when I feel afraid, help me to place it in your hands trusting in your goodness and your mercy. Amen.