The Greatest Fear...
Growing up I played football in our backyard with my older brother and his friends. I was the only girl. But I wanted to be a part of the gang. Rarely is there an older brother who wants his little sister to play with him and his friends. But my mom would yell out the back screen door, “Let your sister play!” So, they did…they schemed and plotted to get me the ball just so they could knock the wind out of me, or just knock me silly. It’s a wonder I survived that time without more brain damage! But I persevered until the groping began in the tackle pile. Then, as much as I didn’t want it, I knew it was time for a change.
As humans, we are wired to fear change…especially those changes that are not in our control. Changes bring the “unknown,” which can be good or bad, depending on your outlook. The human brain is constantly trying to predict what will happen next…in sports, in work, and in general life. When we don’t know WHAT will happen, it can trigger anxiety and stress. Or, we may choose to merely avoid the situation if possible.
But some situations are unavoidable. When COVID hit, we saw firsthand how the panic of uncertainty can play out. How deadly is it? Don’t know! How long will it last? Don’t know! Is the virus affected by genetics, by weather, or by geography? Maybe…but don’t know! Are the social precautions worth it? Don’t know…hope so. The uncertainty of the unknown can be paralyzing.
Perhaps one of the greatest fears we face is the fear of death. It is usually out of our control and outside our timing. Most of us try to avoid it. That’s why we stuff ourselves with kale, exercise to exhaustion most days, and slather ourselves with sticky sunscreen. But inevitably, death is central to the human condition. Everyone dies, and the thought of it can be terrifying for many.
That fear can alter our behavior and activities, sometimes in contrast to actual statistics. For instance, I would NEVER choose to skydive. Why risk it? But according to the statistics, I am
two times more likely to die from playing American football than skydiving. I love to SCUBA. But I am three times more likely to die from SCUBA than skydiving. So, where’s the logic?
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer and is faced with adapting to the reality of the possible imminence of death. It really shook him up for weeks. In a recent conversation, he asked me if I thought there was truly a heaven…if there was anything after death. I assured him I was confident there was. He thought about it for a minute and came back with, “I wish I could just grasp the concept! I wish it was more logical.” It was at that point I told him a story I had heard years ago that helped me mentally visualize the reality of God and heaven.
A mother was carrying twins in her womb. One asked the other, “Do you believe there is a life after delivery?” The other replied, “Of course…there has to be SOMETHING after delivery. We’re probably just in here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Naw…I don’t think you’re right,” said the first twin. “There’s no life after delivery. What kind of life could that possibly be? We have it made here! We’re warm and cozy and we get plenty to eat.”
But the second said, “I don’t know how it will be. But there will be more light than here. Maybe we’ll walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we’ll even have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That sounds unlikely. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies our nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short! It couldn’t possibly reach outside delivery. So, life after delivery can be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there IS something, and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical umbilical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “That’s just nonsense! After all, if there IS life after delivery, then why has no one ever come back from there? Nope…Delivery must be the end of life, and in the after-delivery, there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, then where is she now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. It is in her that we live. Without her, our world as we know it would not and could not exist.”
The first responded, “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exist.”
But the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re sitting here in silence, and you focus and listen, you can perceive her presence, and you can hear her loving voice, calling down from above.”
Even in the simplest of stories, we see that logic does not always prevail. From the moment we are born, we are on the path to dying. The paradoxical truth is this: we do not go from the land of the living on this earth to the land of the dying; we go from the land of the dying to the land of the living. But life is NOT primarily about getting into heaven when you die. It’s about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus while we’re here glorifying Him. And heaven gets thrown in as a bonus!
Louis Armstrong, the great jazz musician, tells this humorous story. As a young child, he was living in the little town of Boutté, Louisiana. His mom told him to go down to the creek and fill up a bucket of water. As he went down to fill his pail, he saw two eyes come out of the water, and it was an alligator. He dropped the bucket and ran back to the house. He emphatically said to his mom, “I’m not getting that water!” But she promptly told him, “You go back there and get that water. That alligator is just as afraid of you as you are of it.” Armstrong replied, “If that is the case, that water is not fit to drink!”
We live in a world where there are alligators in the water. Death. Disease. Disillusionment. Depression. Distrust. Dangers. (And that’s just the D’s!) It’s all over the newspapers and internet. Crisis usually dominates the headlines and tries to sweep everyone up in the fear of it. Life is difficult. Sometimes it seems as though things are falling apart. However, WHAT IF there is a larger story beyond the things we can see? What IF things are not falling apart, but are falling into place?
Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of a German concentration camp, was known to often be working on a piece of needlepoint as she talked about her experiences during the holocaust. She would continually look down at her task as she recounted the stories of cruelty and the death of her father and sister. Then, when she was finished, she would hold up the needlepoint for everyone to see. On the backside of her handiwork was a jumble of colors and threads with no discernible pattern, and she would say, "This is how we see our lives." Then she would turn the needlepoint over to reveal the beautiful, intended pattern that was only visible from the front. She would conclude by saying, "This is how God views your life, and someday we will have the privilege of seeing it from His point of view."
Queen Elizabeth, who recently passed away at the age of 96 was known for her great faith, as well as her wisdom and restraint. It is said she only missed church two times in the last twenty years. She once wrote these wise words, " Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed." And more often than not, we need to be delivered from our doubt, our lack of faith, and the desire to do it all on our own.
Approximately 500 million people watched the funeral service that she, herself, designed. It was based on the words of Jesus from John 14:1-6,” Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, why would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” But Thomas (yes, the doubting disciple) replied, “But Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Logic defying? Yes!
Sometimes, even in the midst of all the alligators, when you’re sitting alone in silence, if you focus and listen, you can perceive His presence, and you can hear a loving voice, calling to you from above, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” And the fear, uncertainty,
and lack of logic becomes unimportant.
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative. Kindle version of the award winning, "Bent Pages" is now on sale at Amazon! Click on the link below to take you there.