We are surrounded by a world and media propaganda that tell us being afraid is the same thing as taking responsibility. That’s why it’s so tempting to allow fear make our choices.
We are surrounded by a world and media propaganda that tell us being afraid is the same thing as taking responsibility. That’s why it’s so tempting to allow fear make our choices.
A new Facebook friend made a comment this week about how she, as a sensitive person, cannot watch horror movies. I can’t either.
I liked it better when the dinosaurs looked like they were from the Plasticine Era. This CGI stuff is just getting too real. Horror movies with their detailed scales and teeth, gallons of fake blood, strings of artificial mucous, creepy music and over-the-shoulder shots are abhorrent enough, but what really unsettles me is psychological thrillers. The grandmother/therapist/best-friend/baby did it? You can’t trust anybody! Paranoia on a stick. Why would anybody feed themselves this stuff?
Well, I did, or used to. My brother and I snuck out of our rooms after our parents were asleep to watch “The Outer Limits” or “The Twilight Zone.” We kept the volume on the TV so low we had to lean in to hear. The buzz of the old set added to the flickering light ambiance of tension — and the fear of being caught. After the show I would tiptoe back to bed and lie awake all night, planning what I would do if aliens landed in the backyard. For months I ran past lamp posts or neon signs that made that same buzzing noise, fearing I was being followed by something equipped with a death ray.
Nowadays, if the boys ask me to watch a horror or action flick with them I usually turn them down. I think even chick-flicks should come with emotional content warnings. My empathic tendencies have been traumatized by too many.
You see, I’ve discovered prayer doesn’t work in a movie (except to mercifully let the thing end or break the projector or something.) If I was running from a monster, scaled or coifed, I would be praying, “HELP!” or at the very least “OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod…” (How do people cope without being able to call on him?)
But God doesn’t respond to lies. He’s not afraid of computer-generated dinosaurs. He never falls for clay or cartoon creatures. He knows the hunter never shot Bambi’s mother because Bambi’s mother was never in danger. She was not real. Bambi was not real. Godzilla is no threat to Bambi either. Asking God to respond and save us from imminent hypothetical danger is like my two-year old granddaughter hiding behind my legs and squealing that her brother is going to gobble her up – with a plasticine monster.
“You’re okay honey,” I assure her. “It’s only a pretend monster.”
This got me thinking about how the Holy Spirit responds to fears that have us quivering behind locked doors as we read scary predictions in the media, both broadcast and social.
Sometimes I cry out for deliverance and there is silence. Sometimes, when I join Chicken Little’s persuasive campaign and yell, “The sky is falling,” the Lord hands me an umbrella.
“Will this protect me from the falling sky?” I ask.
“No. But there will be rain later – the same kind of rain that has been falling off and on for centuries. Get a grip, girl.”
I have noticed that Jesus never allowed himself to be caught up in hypothetical questions. “What if…” His answer? “I will never leave you.”
It’s not that bad stuff never happens to good people. The devil still prowls around messing things up. You still reap what you sow. Corrie Ten Boom told the story of how, as a child, her father never burdened her with the responsibility of carrying a train ticket until it was time to get on the train. I think grace for trials is like that. The Lord will hand us our grace ticket when we need it. There is no provision in advance for “what if” questions because there doesn’t need to be. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, but there is no provision of supernatural intervention in a situation that we created in our own fear-based mind.
“Lord! Help me! I am under attack! The devil’s got me in his sights! What’s that strange buzzing sound?”
“You’re okay, honey. Shut the TV off and go back to bed. And quit watching that junk. It’s time to rest.”
Photos: From the woods
So there I was with my camera set up for a great shot when I saw the leaves in the lower left corner of the frame move.
I stopped and watched.
They moved again. They definitely moved, and whatever it was that caused the bushes down by the edge of the water to shake was much larger than a cat, or beaver, or even a coyote.
Quietly I replaced the lens cap, picked up my camera case and stepped back.
Then I heard it. A growl.
Considering the amount of time I spend wandering around in the woods, it’s quite remarkable I had only run into bears three times before (other than the side-of-the-road tourist stoppers in the National Parks) On one encounter my husband was hiking with me and twice I was alone.
The first time I heard that growl, which is definitely not a cow’s, on the other side of a huge boulder I made a hasty retreat. Say what you like about playing dead or walking slowly, I moved –and my plump little arthritic cocker-poo flew past me and jumped through the car window with speed and agility she hadn’t demonstrated in years. Fortunately the car was close by, and the window was open.
The second time a concerned armed man greeted us at the end of the trail and asked if we had seen the wounded bear. We had been talking about smelling something very strong, just like the bear cage at the zoo, that seemed to come from under a little foot bridge as we crossed over it, but thank God, he must have been too wounded or frightened to come after us.
The third time I was shooting waterfalls from a narrow guardrail-less wooden bridge and had just returned to my car at the end of the bridge when a silver tip grizzly came charging out of the trees. He seemed as surprised as I was and took off running into the bush on the other side. From the safety of the car I could appreciate his speed (as fast as a galloping horse) and his glistening fur in the evening light. (My camera was already zipped in the case, of course.)
Last October, on that day in the woods, I was, again, alone.
We live in bear country. We all have bear stories, and some of us even have cougar stories. (I’ve only seen tracks –in front of our house.) In the autumn the bears are desperate to put on weight before the snow falls and can be more aggressive, but most of the time if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.
Most of the time.
I headed back to the car, about half a kilometer away, pacing each step deliberately and calmly, willing my breathing to slow down.
I considered throwing my camera equipment down to distract it and to give me time to run to the car –then I remembered my car keys were deep inside the bag.
More growling. Very, very close by.
I rummaged in the bag and felt some nail clippers. I suppose I could have offered it a trim or maybe asked if it had any thorns needing removal. I rummaged some more –as I walked with great self-control toward the road– and felt the edge of the tiny wound-up metal measuring tape I keep on my key chain. A meter later the jangling keys followed.
More growling. It sounded like it was right beside me and I saw the bushes shake again.
“Ah, forget it!” I said and ran.
I clicked the door opener the whole way to the car and when I finally got there jumped in and locked the doors –because everybody knows a grizzly can open an unlocked door, right?
I didn’t see anything.
My heart was pounding, but I could still hear it. The growl was louder than ever…
That‘s when I realized it was my own stomach making all the noise. I should have eaten breakfast.
A deer stepped into the clearing from behind a trembling bush. I laughed all the way home, but I didn’t go back into the woods that day, or the next.
Some pretty scary posts have been showing up on Facebook and blogs and emails lately. I can’t even vote in that big election to the south (which seems only to mark the beginning of the next campaign) and yet up here in the Canadian Rockies I still receive a barrage of fear-based propaganda. Some of the comments are from very frightened people who have bought the message that the country is on the brink of disaster. They were ready to run a lot of conscience-based red lights to free themselves from this “certain threat” including restricting other people’s freedom. Fear does strange things to otherwise nice people.
It was as though they are willing to throw away a very expensive camera case full of gear to save themselves from a growling stomach.
Is the threat real? It sometimes is. (Maybe it would be wise to examine the motives of the people publishing this stuff?)
On the other hand, I have a delightful little grandson who could do with a bit more fear in his life. When he yells, “Catch it!” I have a split second to turn and get my arms in position before he flings himself off stairs and concrete walls or any other prominent high place. His daddy is a strong athletic man with lightning-quick reflexes who delights in this Pink Panther game with his two-year old Cato. His granny? Not so much. Is his trust in his father a beautiful thing? Yeah. Should that trust be transferable? Not always.
Life without proper fear can also endanger us. Fear is a strange thing. Misplaced, it makes us run from growling stomachs; ignored, it leaves us unprepared for an encounter with an actual wounded bear on the trail.
Bears are real. Every year we hear stories that didn’t turn out so well. Loss of freedom and the existence of hidden corruption is real. Every year we hear of countries where people are imprisoned or slaughtered for their beliefs or otherwise treated unjustly by those who hunger for power.
I read an odd scripture verse today: Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)
Don’t be afraid because the point of this exercise is to make you afraid. Huh?
Again I find myself caught in the crossfire between camps. One side says fear is a sin and perfect love casts out fear. The other says the fear of the Lord is a necessity because it is the beginning of wisdom. Online concordances list page after page of verses each side can lob at the other. Study of original Hebrew and Greek words doesn’t even help. They are used interchangeably.
Fear God/Fear not
Both are true.
This conversation written by C.S. Lewis in the Narnia story helps me (a bit):
“…Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.” (Aslan symbolizes Jesus Christ in the books)
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
Through faith in Jesus Christ we have access to the very throne of God, but it means cuddling up to some extremely high voltage, a privilege never to be taken lightly.
Because God is good we can dare to fling ourselves into his arms fearlessly. We need not be in dread that He will drop us. We don’t need to violate his ways to attempt to fix things by our own desperate efforts. But a good healthy respect of the dangers of flinging ourselves anywhere outside of his ways and his priorities also protects us from the consequences of ill-conceived plans.
There are bears out there. But there is also a good King right here.
Photo: the tunnel
(click for larger version)
I’ve done a lot of things I am not qualified to do –at least not on paper. People who live in isolated parts of this vast country are less concerned with how many hoops you have jumped through to obtain a stamp of approval from institutions with stamps of approval from other institutions, than they are with whether you are available, willing to step into a gap, and know something they don’t, or are at least willing to learn.
I heard a story of some highly-paid expert consultant-types, some of them engineers, who were trapped in a burning building. While they waited for outside response to frantic cell-phone calls it was the cleaning guy with an intimate knowledge of the building and his collection of mop and broom handles who punched through the wall and led them to safety. He was instantly promoted to leader.
An expert is anyone with access to pertinent knowledge and the right tools –and in an emergency the “proper” gender, educational accomplishments, political affiliations, physical fitness and impressive resumes can be like cell phones in an area without service.
Someone from another part of the world was trying to convince me to drive to meetings on a weekly basis in Vancouver. She had looked at a map and assumed we were close. Well, by freeway-traversed flatland standards, yes, perhaps, but darling, there are a few mountains in the way here. It takes a while to go around them (like twelve hours if there is no snow or avalanches or construction delays). I sometimes wonder how long it took First Nations peoples to discover the passes on foot.
I was driving home from Alberta recently, hurtling down the highway at a 100 clicks, toward what looked like a solid wall of rock. Logic said there’s a road here, so it’s got to go through somewhere, but I wonder if I had been alone on foot before the road was built if I would have succumbed to fear and despair. It would have looked overwhelming.
Trust doesn’t come easily to me. Fear is always hiding behind a bush or a rock ready to sneak up and tell me I am not competent to handle this situation, that there are too many unknowns, too many factors I can’t control, that I’ve failed before and will probably fail again, that I am not qualified. Fear is such a nag. Sometimes I want to give in just so it will shut up.
I read something interesting lately. God agrees. I am not qualified.
I am not qualified to listen to that voice. I no longer work for that boss. He’s a liar and a cheat and a thief set on destroying the people my heavenly Fathers loves (and then blaming Him for it) and definitely not trustworthy.
This is what God says, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, our Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy?” (Isaiah 51:12)
It’s like he is saying to me, “Who do you think you are that you can ignore what I just told you, to go off and listen to the guy who has publicly stated it is his goal to pull down everything I created? Do you not think I will back you up with all my resources if I have asked you to do something? No, you are not qualified to do this without my help, don’t even try, but if I didn’t think you were the person for the job I would have asked somebody else. Now quit taking your instructions from the wrong side.”
I am not an expert, but I have access to the source of all knowledge and wisdom and He has given me tools, simple though they may appear. As I go about my humble chores I gain experience that allows me to be available and step into the gap and get the job done when necessary.
I’ve been through this valley before. I know where there is a hole in the massive stone wall. I can say with confidence to you, than when his beloved children face impossible opposition, that God provides a way where it looks like there is no way.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
God is good.
Photo: bleeding hearts in my garden
Yesterday, in the wee hours, I was rushed to the hospital with a medical crisis. The hospital staff was wonderful and within minutes an I.V. dripped relief into my arm. I won’t deny that I was in a lot of pain -excruciating pain. I was moaning and writhing and praying but I wasn’t afraid. I knew what caused the pain. I had experienced this scenario before and since capable people moved quickly to help and I knew we wouldn’t be hit with a big medical bill (oh God, thank you for Canadian healthcare!) I could patiently (or semi-patiently) endure.
By evening I was home and still a little stoned on morphine, but doing quite all right. I debated about whether I really needed to swallow the pain meds I was given before I went to bed, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to get some sleep, so I did.
When I awoke I had a horrendous headache, my hands and face and throat were swollen and I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen.
I was afraid.
It’s one thing to trust and patiently endure pain when you are fairly certain of a positive outcome eventually. It’s another when you have no idea what’s happening. This is not the time to introduce yourself to God or to re-new acquaintances. This is a moment when all you can do is squeeze out a “HELP!!” kind of prayer.
Obviously I’m OK now. I’m sitting here listening to Fernando Ortega, drinking Earl Grey tea, and posting a photo I took this afternoon of some of some bleeding heart flowers by my window. Their hearts open wide to sing his praise. God is good.
And if I had been sitting in heaven drinking tea with Jesus instead, he would still be good. My heart opens wide to sing his praise. Allelu.
Let us who are afraid find refuge in Christ and redemption assured in His name.
By day and by night we delight in His love and forever His words will remain.
Sing allelu, we rejoice in Your love Most High…
Fernando Ortega sings “Allelu” from The Odes Project -from the oldest collection of hymns of the early church set to new music: