Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Small Flashlights

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
            --Frederick Buechner                   

Most days this is a nice quote in a book or a Twitter feed prompting thoughts demure and banal, “Yes it’s true isn’t it so very inspiring I must remember that.”

In a week like this one, we read with different eyes, eyes that see “…terrible things will happen,” and like vision acclimating to fog, perceive ghost ships everywhere we look.

In 1999 I saw Kevin Smith’s movie, Dogma, at Lincoln Center and walked through protesters for a post-screening panel that included the filmmaker. I’d lived in New York City for a year at that point but it was the first time I looked around a room and imagined where I would run if someone started shooting.

Two years later we boarded a plane ten days after 9/11 and when we landed, Mary Glen, all eleven years and big eyes looked up at me and said, “We didn’t crash.” It had taken all they had for my children to walk down a ramp and fly that day but it was a single pebble in an otherwise empty bucket that told them fear did not need to be their guide through life.

Do not fear.

It’s the command given more often than any other in the Bible and as teacher Beth Moore has said, “No one tells you, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ if there isn’t anything to be afraid of.” It was my awakening thought this morning and the one that seemed most to beg for words, I having no connection to the city of Boston or its storied race.

I’ve waited on doctor’s reports hopped up on fear so bad that I pulsated with it. I’ve been afraid to leave a room—much less the house. I’ve been afraid to start a conversation, answer the phone, reveal my heart, walk alone at night, walk alone through life. Afraid I would lose and terrified if I won.

And then the things I feared didn’t just exist in my mind; they started happening. Bogeymen knocked at the door like suitors. Waiting for the other shoe to drop became my resting state.

Here’s the thing about darkness—the worse it gets, the smaller light has to be to make a difference. 

I began to see beautiful things tiny as a pinprick. On dark and solitary paths, an unexpected hand would slip into mine; wisdom appeared in cookie fortunes, and strangers passed along road maps until I found myself in a new land, realized I was living the Bible verse that jolted me years ago and refused to let go, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day.”* 

The apostle John asserts that perfect love casts out fear. My guess is that the standard is much lower--that our forays into love require far less perfecting and far more “just doing” in order to be effective. 

So in spite of the fear that may be consuming you today, take one step and then another. Ask to find those who need you. Be bold and profess your love. Will yourself to vulnerability and rejoice that your fear will soon dissipate like mist. Hold an old hand; kiss a young face; look at a stranger and remember they were once somebody’s baby. Ask for help. Release your children. Be set free.

The beautiful and the terrible walk hand in hand. So should we.

*Psalm 139:12