Fear Itself

Each year, Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas puts together a collection of meditations for Advent. Contributions come from current and past members and there’s a different meditation for each day of Advent. I’m proud to say this is my seventh year to contribute. This year’s theme is “And None Shall Be Afraid.” My contribution this year was to be for December 15.

The Advent theme takes its life from the angels’ announcement to the shepherds: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. . . .’ ”

~ Benjamin Eakin, 12/13/15

In 1933, Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Some 2,000 years earlier, however, we’re told by the Gospel writer Luke that God’s angels appeared to shepherds guarding their sheep by night. Such an unexpected sight threw the shepherds into some major terror – rightly so, one might presume. According to the King James version, the angels said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” In childhood, we read the Christmas stories each year as a family and were not, as I recall, afraid.

Life has a way of throwing a few curveballs your way over a lifetime and there were many times I found myself afraid. I was afraid of lots of things – some of them real, some likely only imagined. But fear is fear whether real or imagined. Once you’ve overcome your fear of the dark, you’re tempted to think you’re home free. Sadly, there are many forms of dark.

I had surgery a few years ago to stop the effects of vertigo. My doctor cautioned me this would be brain surgery but by then I was so continually sick, any danger seemed an acceptable risk. The night before going into the hospital, I stayed in Austin so Tom could return to Waco to bring my mother back for the surgery. Early the next morning, I walked across the street for check-in. As I crossed the street, I was struck by the fact I wasn’t afraid. I knew somehow everything would be okay. If I survived the surgery, all would be okay. If I died on the operating table, all would be okay. I found myself in tears, unable to remember ever having felt this at peace.

What had happened? Approximately fourteen months earlier I’d shown up at Lake Shore after decades away from church. My return was accompanied by a good deal of terror – rightly so, I thought. Still, I’d decided to walk through that fear and the people of Lake Shore proceeded to remind me that God hadn’t actually been taken away from me all those years earlier, rather had been there with me all along. I knew they were right and realized I had somehow always known.

Surgery was a success and I’ve since been able to celebrate the mystery of Advent and angels appearing year after year to proclaim, “Fear not: … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

I find I’m surrounded by God’s reminders that fear is, after all, the only thing I have to fear.

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