Monday, February 9, 2009

Be Not Afraid

It's amazing how powerfully motivating fear can be. I know that from childhood through just a couple of years ago I was really really afraid of being alone in a house. I literally would have someone come and stay with me (thanks Rachel and Emily!) when Ben went away just because I hated being left by myself. I think that part of what ultimately got me over my two irrational fears (being alone and basements) was transitioning to being a mother. I think that somehow my body just realized that it couldn't have these irrational fears while being a responsible caretaker of another being. Anyway, whether it was that, or God, or both, I am happy to say that I have turned a corner and am no longer terrified of being alone.

So anyway, it comes as no surprise to me that fear seems to be one of the main tools used by advertisers, politicians, even people in relationships, to motivate and manipulate people. Whether it's fear of someone breaking into your house (so buy a security system!), fear of someone leaving you (so comply to my relationship demands), fear of things changing (so don't allow same-sex couples to get married), or fear of terrorist attacks (so start irrational wars in other countries), we are a people of fear. So I wasn't totally shocked, albeit a little disappointed, in the ways that the Obama administration seems to be manipulating fear, namely fear of an economic crash, just as skillfully as the Bush administration manipulated fear of terrorism. I'm left wondering, how can we get beyond this sort of petty manipulation?

And it is in moments like this that I am reminded of Jesus, who himself told us not to be afraid. I just looked up the passage, Matthew 14:27, and, being the Catholic that I am, had never really known the context of the passage. Jesus has just walked on the water, the disciples are terrified because they think that he is a ghost, and Jesus says, "Take courage, it is I. Be not afraid." The disciples are scared, but the irony is that the thing they are scared of is Jesus himself. In this passage at least, the object of our human fear is the very place that God is found-- the very place that is transformed from a place of uncertainty to a place of divinity.

So today I'm left with those words on my mind, wishing for more hope and less fear, and trying to see the presence of God in those dark basement corners.

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