The happiest people I have known have been those who gave themselves no concern about their own souls, but did their uttermost to mitigate the miseries of others..
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
It was a dark and ominous walk. My friend Pat and I, neighbors at the time, walked home after an evening movie at our local cinema. The night was made more ominous by the fact that the movie we had just watched was the acclaimed supernatural horror film, The Ring. There is a special kind of terror in the demon-like antics of a small female child who hides her hideously dead face behind ratty jet-black hair. Needless to say, we were on edge during that walk home, eyes on high alert for demon-children lurking in the dead-of-night—though neither of us openly showed it.
We avoided conversation about the movie as that would only increase the inner anxiety of having to walk home in the dark after watching a movie that rattled us to our very bones. At one point along our long trek home we came to a park that we commonly cut through to cut the distance we would have to walk in half. The one problem at night, however, was that it had no lights. It was not a welcoming sight. We both paused and trembled internally at the black veil of darkness that lay before us. Then, without words, we both entered into the menacing void of darkness. We talked about nothing just to remind each other that we were together—present and okay.
Eventually I could see, by the pale moonlight, a small bridge over an even smaller creek coming up before us. I had the eerie feeling of being watched. I had a goose-bump feeling that in all this darkness that enshrouded us we were not alone. Because of the nagging fear I said something unusual, “I’m really glad I have my knife with me.”
Pat, who was clearly caught off guard by this sort of random interjection, said, “What in the world are you talking about?”
“My knife, I’m really glad that I brought it with me. Just in case, you know?” I said.
Again, totally confused, Pat responded, “You didn’t bring a knife, what are you talking about?”
At that point I was irritated that he did not pick up on the not-so-subtle hints intonated in my words. As we stepped onto the bridge I began to express my irritation, “Dude, I was saying that because I thought I heard someo…”
And before I could finish my sentence, before I could tell him the truth about my fear, everything beneath us began to quake. A huge and ungodly noise erupted under our feet. It sounded as if some monstrous leviathan sprung out from the water below us. Then there was the scream, that high-pitched, bone-chilling scream that riveted my skull and at the time I knew not from whence it came. Though in retrospect, I think it was actually Pat who was screaming so inhumanly in my ear. And in that moment where fear showed its strength, it was a fight or flight situation… and we both took flight.
We ran with total disregard for each other, Pat could have been dead on the bridge with some swamp monster devouring his insides and salvaging his femur for a weapon to use on future victims. I cared only about my own safety in that moment. And, as it turned out, Pat was doing the same thing. We still to this day do not have any idea what it was that we ran from.
Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!
It is a funny story for us both to reflect on, but it is also a hard reality to face. What kind of person are we when the lights turn off? In moments of crisis where fear is at its pinnacle are we wholly selfish? It is a bitter truth to face. We do not want to be people who, when the smoke of a crisis settles, looks back at the scattered remains of tragedy and sees only a hopeless mess of those who never knew what was to be helped.
Someone once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that
something else is more important than fear.”
Pray for courage. That even in the small things, here and now, you will learn learn to sacrifice of yourself for others. That when the lights are off and fear whispers in your ear, beckoning you to cower, to hide, or to simply run away, you will say as the Psalmist says in the 23rd Psalm, “I shall fear no evil, for You are with me.” Pray that as Christians we learn to live without regard for our selfish wants, so that in moments much larger and in crises more pressing, where fear threatens to consume us and beckons us to abandon our neighbors, we will not.
Recognize also, that often times the fear is not grandiose, but is rather so insignificant that we often miss it. The simple fear of rejection by strangers, friends, and family. The fear of not fitting in or looking cool. The fear of not being liked. The fear of being embarrassed. The fear of looking stupid. The enemy knows what we fear and while this will cause many others to flee, ask yourself this: what will you do?