I’ve got a busy morning, but before it gets started let me share a brief story about my son and what he’s taught me about fear.
Isaiah is the happiest child I know… except during the last 15 minutes of any movie. He’s a pretty imaginative and empathetic kid. For the most part, that’s wonderful, but it makes it hard for him not to invest heavily in the lives of even fictional people.
Earlier this summer we took Isaiah and his sister to their first movie theater movie: Inside Out. For over an hour he laughed at all the things five-year olds laugh at in Pixar movies — and laughed at me when I laughed at the things near-forty year olds laugh at in Pixar movies. But when the bad things started to happen…
I’ve never seen a child so sad or so scared.
But it’s hard to blame him. I was sad. It’s a movie about sadness, after all. And I can only begin to imagine how terrifying a five-year old would find a story that has a child run away from home and leave his parents.
Then as soon as the drama was resolved and we had passed from the dark theater into the summer sun, Isaiah was back to his happy-go-lucky self.
Then the same thing happened a couple weeks ago.
This summer our town showed outdoor movies once a month. We missed the first one, but the July night went well: Isaiah had seen Frozen before. (“The snowman wasn’t as scary this time,” he reported bravely.) Then to cap the season, we went to see the safe-sounding Paddington, a new version of the venerable story of a bear from “darkest Peru” who comes to live with a family in London. My wife had read the kids the first of the Paddington books, and while the movie took liberties, they enjoyed it.
Until the last fifteen minutes…
As the villain kidnapped and then prepared to stuff poor Paddington, poor Isaiah buried his head in my neck and sobbed uncontrollably, peeking back every once in a while to see if things had taken a turn for the better. In vain, I hugged him and tried to find the right reassurance: “Isaiah, don’t worry. It’ll be okay. Paddington will be fine. His family will rescue him. You don’t need to be afraid.”
It hit me as we were walking back to the car:
How many times have I looked into the near or distant future and desperately wanted to change an ending I couldn’t control? How many times have I imagined terrible fates for those I love? How many times have I abandoned hope for fear?
And how many times has my heavenly Father tried to reassure me, his child? “Chris, don’t worry. It’ll be okay. Everything will be fine.”
How many times has the author of my salvation, the God of the Resurrection tried to remind me, “I’ve already rescued you. You don’t need to be afraid”?
How many times just in Scripture did God, or the people speaking for him, say, “Do not be afraid”? (Approximately this many.)
There are long moments when I wonder if I’m experiencing any spiritual growth. But this past year, I’ve felt this truth sink in again and again, deeper and deeper:
To let fear drive our beliefs and actions is to dethrone the King who has already defeated death itself. To be ruled by fear is to bend the knee to our own desire for control and power.
The future can be frightening, but if we live in Christ, we need never live in fear.