Earlier today, Willa was in the bathroom when it was dark, and sheepishly said "oooo it's so dark in here. I think there's a monster in your shower." In an effort to both reassure her and empower her to conquer her fear, I said, "There's no monster in there! Do you want me to open the door so you can look and see for yourself?"
*opens the door and peeks in, tentatively*
Her ginormous eyes lit up as she said, "Hey! No monsters!"
"See! There are no monsters in our house."
"Yeah, but it FEELS like there are monsters in here."
"...but there aren't."
"...but it feels like it."
Fear is powerful, but fear is just a feeling. Feelings are not the truest thing about us. Like the wise sage (my mother-in-law) says: Feelings are only feelings. Did you know we can actually say no to our feelings? Revolutionary, huh? When our feelings are telling us something that is not helpful, or doesn't help us live out our values, we can choose not to obey feelings.
I know it's hard. I mean, I struggle with it plenty. I realize that it's (most likely) not true my children are hatching elaborate plans to terrorize me and ruthlessly plotting chaos and destruction to torture me, but sometimes it sure FEELS like it. Now, if I lived as if what felt true WAS true, I would treat my kids like a dictator treats a rebellious anarchist uprising. Can you see how that would be just slightly unhealthy (please notice the sarcastic understatement here)? Instead, I have to remember what IS true—these are precious kiddos who love their momma, but who are imperfect just like me. Just like me, they have feelings, and bad days, and heart breaks. Just like me, sometimes it’s hard for them not to snap when another family member is pestering them to death. Just like me, it’s hard for them to choose a good attitude in the midst of disappointing circumstances. They are humans just like me.
I’ve been hearing and seeing the effects lately of many who are listening to feelings instead of truth. Fear is only a feeling, but it sure can be a strong one. It’s a pretty powerful monster, and when we feed it, it gets exponentially bigger. There are many right now acquiescing to darkness by not only obeying the fear feelings, but also feeding the fear monster. This is madness. The fear monster is NOT our friend.
The fear monster causes us to behave violently and irrationally. God knows this about us, his creation, and so some form of the phrase “do not fear” is used over a hundred times in scripture. I think he’s pretty serious about it. God knows fear is like a virus, causing his beautiful creation to descend into destruction and chaos. When we fear the darkness, we forget that our great God is the light of the world, overcoming evil with his victorious goodness. When we fear one another, we forget that we are each created in the image of God, each unique but breathtakingly beautiful. To use one of my good ol’ Kentucky phrases, “we all put our pants on one leg at a time.” We have so much more in common than we do differences, and God is asking us to look at those who are different and see a neighbor, not a threat.
In the first century, when Jesus told the story of the “good Samaritan,” the Samaritans and Jews hated each other. They believed different things and worshipped in different ways. They did not associate with one another. I love how now, in the 21st century, the word “Samaritan” has good connotations. I think of generous organizations like “Samaritan’s Purse,” or people who go out of their way to show kindness to those in need. To Jesus’ contemporaries, however, the connotations were just the opposite. I wonder if Jesus was telling this story to us today, what type of person he might use to illustrate his point? Fill in the blank with who you think fits the bill for the most unlikely person. “The Good _____” Muslim? LGBTQ? Black man? White woman? Police Officer? Republican? Democrat?
Another thing that strikes me in this story is the danger involved in the “Good Samaritan” helping the Jew who was in need. The poor man had been beaten close to death by robbers, as was very common on the road to Jericho, the setting of the story. The Samaritan was taking a huge risk by dismounting his donkey and pausing to care for this man. He put himself in a vulnerable position by walking with his donkey, carrying a severely injured man. Would I do the same for someone different from me, who most probably had disdain and hatred toward me? Or would I be too afraid?
It’s high time to call out the fear monster and dispel the darkness. I think it’s time to own up to the fact that Jesus calls us to a challenging standard, one that stretches us greatly, if we’re to truly “love our neighbor as ourselves.” It’s ok that we feel fear. It’s only a feeling. But we CANNOT obey it. We CANNOT live as if our fear is the truest thing. We must put our trust fully in the Light of the World, the one who came “not to condemn the world, but to save it.” Will we follow him on his redemptive mission? Even if it is costly? Even if it scares us?
What are you afraid of today? There is plenty of darkness in the world, and if we lose sight of the Light, we will succumb to the fear. How can you take a step toward trusting Jesus today instead of feeding the fear monster? What channel do you need to turn off (I am so serious about that one)? What social media outlet do you need to take a break from (I’m looking’ at you, Katherine Fischer…yeah, I saw you throw your phone across the room last night. Time to say enough is enough, girl. It ain’t good for ya.) What person do you need to talk to today? What new friend do you need to make? What book do you need to read that will challenge and encourage you to think outside your own box? I’m taking steps today. Let’s take them together. I have a hunch that if we all went on strike from the fear monster, he’d starve to death and no longer pester us.