“From ghoulies and ghosties, long leggitie beasties, and things that go bump in the night. Good Lord, deliver us! “ Anon.
Are you afraid of the dark?
From some of the rabid rhetoric we’ve heard lately, it sounds like darkness has fallen over the land.
Capturing the mood, Garrison Keillor, somewhat tongue in cheek, wrote this in this week’s Washington Post:
“A week ago, I felt good about America, but no more. Coyotes are running freely in the streets of our big cities, the stock market is teetering on the verge of collapse, the monetary system will soon go belly up. China and North Korea and Iran have knives at our throats, our schools are in chaos, politicians corrupt, the media stupefied by political correctness, and everywhere you look, you hear foreign accents. We are on the edge of the abyss.”
“Praise the Lord, I’ve seen the dark.”
Here comes the apocalypse.
If you weren’t afraid of the dark before, possibly now you should be – very, very afraid.
When we lay our children down to sleep, kiss them goodnight – all seems right with the world.
But then we turn out the light and darkness creeps in. Shadows fall and play tricks on the eyes. And a pile of laundry in the corner becomes a monster in disguise.
“Mommy, Daddy, come, quick, come quick! There’s a monster in my room.”
So, of course, we do what all parents do: rush in; turn on the light; open the closet door; check under the bed; and hug our child tight.
“See, Sweet Pea, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
But just in case, we leave the night light on.
There are indeed some very real things to be afraid of in this world. But it is a heresy to believe that darkness in the end can overcome the light.
And much of what the world may be afraid of – like FDR so famously said – is fear itself.
Two years ago, Scott Stossel, the editor of Atlantic Magazine wrote a book:“My Age of Anxiety:Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind”. In an NPR interview, Stossel says he wrote the book “to help him understand and find relief from – and redemption for – anxious suffering.”
Anxiety is the most prevalent form of mental illness. Stossel’s book is a “graceful guide to this pervasive and much misunderstood affliction.”
His quest to understand himself personally takes him on a psychological and philosophical journey to conquer his fears. And to quote Kierkegaard, the experience of his fear is very real indeed.
“No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety, and no spy knows how to attack more artfully the man he suspects, choosing the instance when he is weakest, nor knows how to lay traps where he will be caught and ensnared, as anxiety so well knows how, and no sharp-witted judge knows how to interrogate, to examine the accused as anxiety does, which never lets him escape, neither by diversion or noise, neither at work or at play, neither by day or by night.”
Stossel fears fainting, and flight, and cheese among a thousand other things. The fact they are irrational matters not.
“There’s a vast encyclopedia of fears and phobias and pretty much any object, experience, or situation you can think of, there is someone who has a [fear] of it.”
“Sometimes people say that in stressful situations, I can seem unflappable, and I think that’s partly because I’m always kind of internally flapped. And so when there’s actually something real to be concerned about, it’s actually less anxiety provoking than these irrational things.”
In other words; if you’re afraid of the dark, the only thing to do is to turn on the light. Is there really a monster hiding under the bed?
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
A scholar, Audrey West from “Feasting on the Word”, says – “that given the number of times Luke reminds his readers not to be afraid – indicates that they did indeed have some very real things to be afraid of.” The little flock of Jewish Christians encountered some very real hostility in the Roman world. They were poor, bedraggled, and marginalized.
And make no mistake, we have some very real things to be afraid: the violence, and hatred, and discord that roams abroad and roams at home. But my friends, let’s be realistic and not let fear take root in our bones. Darkness is not the rule. Light is.
Light opens our eyes to the universe about us: its cosmic mysteries, its intimate joys, its particular peculiarities and delights. We worship a God “who attends to sparrows, ravens, and lilies, whose care extends to the very hairs on our heads, whose good pleasure is to share the blessings of the kingdom.”
We live lives filled with both blessing and curse. Yes, a whole lot of curse but mostly blessings, mostly blessings. Not just in the great bye-and-bye but in the beautiful here-and-now.
So friends, try to let go of all those baseless fears. Try to let go of all of those earthly trappings we cling to – believing they can protect us from the things that go bump in the night: Hoarding our possessions and building walls – all under the selfish pretense to keep ourselves and ourselves alone safe. Blessings aren’t to be hoarded, they are to be shared.
We are called to walk not in darkness but to walk in the light. We are called to sow love and not fear. Have your lamps lit. Be ready to go.
So friends, are you still afraid of the dark?