March 2, 2011

we need no longer fear the closet monsters

Love > Fear.

I feel like in a roundabout way I've been writing/thinking/talking/living about fear a lot lately, so I was excited when at church a couple Sundays ago our pastor talked about this equation and really brought things full circle. He discussed that the world is scary and unsure (long story very short & far less eloquent) and as a result we are often engulfed by fear. He discussed the story where the disciples are with Jesus out on a boat and as a storm surrounds them, they find Jesus sleeping. In the darkness, amidst the turmoil of the storm, Jesus sleeps. The disciples - I can only imagine feeling the sting of what looks like betrayal by the one they thought would protect them - wake him and say, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" [how often do my prayers sound just like this?] But then: "Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" And the wind died down and it was completely calm." From the safety of my chair, I thought of my own storms. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Remember being convinced as a kid that there were monsters in your closet (or if you're me, that Corduroy Bear was going to come to life in the night and eat my face)? Maybe you ran to your parents' bedroom and found them, sleeping. Here you are, in mortal peril, your very life hanging in the balance, and they who are supposed to protect you have the audacity to sleep. But maybe now you are a mom or a dad (or a nanny or an aunt) and you know the other side. You know that even though the shadows look gigantic, they are nothing. That even though your child's fear feels huge, the truth is that there is no monster. Corduroy Bear will remain a stuffed toy when the lights go out. We sleep not because we are heartless, but because we know better.

The world was (is?) looking for a Messiah who would come in power, with force and might and strength. When the disciples were caught in that storm, I imagine they expected Jesus to be at the helm, steering their boat through the rough waters, conquering them. Instead, he sleeps. Think of it this way: if every night of my childhood my parents had taken turns holding watch outside my door to ensure that Corduroy Bear didn't slit my throat, it would have done only one thing - it would have validated my fear. It would have confirmed a danger that wasn't real. In the same way, had Jesus made a great show of steering through the storm, if the disciples had found him furiously bailing water from the deck, it would have done nothing but give power and credence to their fear. Fighting at all would imply that fighting was necessary in the first place. Which (spoiler alert!) it wasn't. It's still not.

And yet we pray: Jesus, don't you care if we drown?

I think the point is not that the world isn't scary or dangerous, because really, it sort of is. As grown ups, we sleep through the night because we don't fear the threat of monsters. But if the kid calls for me, I will go. I will double-check the closet. Even though we know better, we don't ignore their fear; we calm it. As grown ups we are afraid too, but of much realer dangers than closet monsters and demon toys. Jesus sleeps, but he doesn't stay asleep. In the face of the storm, as we cry out, if we listen carefully I wonder if we can't hear amidst the chaos: Quiet! Be still! And then? Calm. Instead of any big show of brute strength, the gentle Messiah calms the storm with a word. And seriously - how much more awesome is that?

"Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

To quote my pastor, 
"The God of love, who sovereignly sleeps through our greatest fears, silences them with a word."

I am so tired of living in fear.

Even when the evidence points to the contrary - 
even when the storms seem like they'll destroy us -
the fact of the matter is this: fear is nothing. 

Spoiler alert! 
Love wins.


Thomas said...

i love this.

mdh said...

i love reading about our church through your words.

i also love that i'll be seeing you in 24 hours. has it been 6 months already? ;)

MEW said...

absolutely beautiful. thinking of fear this way is a revelation. as i read it, i kept thinking that when we make fear into such a huge something, it means that we doubt the infinite love and power that Jesus has for us and over our lives. stupid doubt. stupid fear.

i love you.

Jessica said...

This is a fantastic post - thanks for sharing!