Do Not Be Afraid
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7
While I was pregnant with my daughter our house was broken into three separate times. On no occasion did the person intruding take anything of great value. Some change we’d left sitting on a counter for bus fare. An X-Box. But it was still wildly unnerving.
I remember standing in my kitchen, my arms wrapped tightly across my chest. I was trembling, both from the immense sense anger of having my home intruded upon and from the cold Wisconsin air pouring through the broken window above the sink.
My husband and I went looking for houses the following week. We weren’t sure if we could bring a child into a home that had been robbed repeatedly. We weren’t sure if we wanted to stay there either. Every day when I pulled up the street after work, I’d wonder if I would find our house as I left it that morning or if I would walk into papers strewn on the floor, drawers rummaged through and left gaping.
We didn’t find any other homes we loved, and as weeks passed we started to regain a sense of steadiness in our house. We invited friends over to talk and pray with us, we leaned hard into gratitude that nothing more serious was taken and that—aside from a kitchen window that still needs a prop to stay open—nothing was broken. Over time the feeling of intrusion began to fade and feelings of warmth and rootedness grew.
We abandoned our search for a different home, and eight years later we’re still here. (And we haven’t been robbed since.)
In a similar vein as Philippians 4:6-7, Daniel Steindl-Rast notes that “if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent.” As I consider the headlines of the news each day, there’s a lot of reasons we’re told to be afraid (some of them are valid), and then how often we act on these fears in violent ways.
We separate families.
We isolate ourselves from our neighbors.
We cut ties with friends who disagree with us.
Fear dresses up in a superhero cape and parades around proudly as anger, leading me to lash out at anyone who would dare look behind the mask and see how utterly terrified we all are.
What if we chose instead to look our fear in the face, and invited it to take off the cape?
What if instead of nervously uttering prayers for our safety we remembered the liberating and infuriating truth that in this world, both beautiful and terrible things will happen,* and there is no formula that guarantees which of these will occur.
It’s all a gift.
Which means it’s not mine to lock up or set alarms around.
The change I discarded on my table is someone else’s bus fare.
There is enough.
Today, as you go about your day and see news stories flash across your screen, notice when your anger is stirred. Then sit with it, and ask if there is fear puffing itself up underneath the mask of anger. Who is on the receiving end of your anger or fear? If that person or group of people had the opportunity to share their story with you around a dinner table, what might you learn from them? Would you still be afraid at the end of the meal?
“If you’re grateful,” Seindl-Rast continues, “you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.”
Today, rather than react in anger or fear of the differences between yourself and others, how can you seek to appreciate them? How can you celebrate the immense gift that we are not all the same?
*Frederick Buechner is credited with this lovely bit of wisdom.