Everyone knows what it’s like to be halted by fear. Fear of death or serious injury can stop you from skydiving. Fear of financial loss can stop you from starting a business. Fear of ridicule can stop you from living life to your own drumbeat.
I’m sleeping peacefully when suddenly I awake for no reason. Before I know it, my head is awash with a stew of anxiety and worries, my peaceful sleep torn to shreds. Illogical, non-sensical worries that in the light of day might only garner a few seconds of thought, now loom like giant shadows of twisted monsters in an old black and white horror movie. My heart is racing and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of claustrophobia. My warm bed is no longer comforting but now stifling, my dark room not soothing but terrifying. Even to my adult brain, in the dead of night, these tigers are as real as childhood monsters under the bed. Why am I worrying? What do I really have to fear? I know that there are no monsters under the bed or tigers in the closet, but I toss and turn for hours, relieved to finally see the first rays of dawn streaming in. These nights don’t happen often, but when they do, I remind myself that in the morning light the shadows will be swept away, the monsters will disappear and the tigers will be gone.
Greed, like the love of comfort, is a kind of fear. – Cyril Connolly
Some adrenaline fuelled antics with my daughter today. From the ground the tree running looks mild, but in the trees it’s flipping heart pounding.
We all have a tendency to judge and label outcomes as good or bad. We fear, avoid and complain about the bad. We desire and pursue the good. But is good always good and bad always bad?
A Chinese folk tale tells of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbours came to comfort him on his bad luck, the farmer said, “Bad or good, it is what it is.” A week later, the old horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good or bad, it is what it is.” A few days later, as the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off and broke his leg. This time everyone spoke of the farmer’s bad luck. The farmer said, “Bad or good, it is what it is.” Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every young man except the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. Now the neighbours spoke of the good luck of the farmer who replied, “Good or bad, it is what it is.”
These twelve Jesus sent out … no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff. Matthew 10:10
As I pack and repack my rucksack, debating the necessity of every item for my Camino, I think about how we evaluate the necessity of stuff for the journey of life. I read somewhere that we pack out of fear. I’m afraid of blisters so I pack lots of plasters. It might rain so I have a rain jacket and waterproof over-trousers. One extra shirt will do but two will be better.
Life is the same. We’re afraid of being homeless, so we aspire to buy our own house. Three bedrooms will do but what about guests; should have a guest room or better yet two, in case they bring their kids? £10,000 in the bank is a good cushion but £20,00 is better. Ten pairs of shoes will do but twenty pairs are better. Out of fear, we seek security in our possessions, our money, our job, our abilities. But what if those very things distance us from our only true security – our faith in God. Are these false idols that draw our attention from our loving Father, the Creator of the Universe? Do we live a life of faith or a life of fear?
So as I repack for what seems like the hundredth time, I’ve decided to add a small bottle of hand wash (because I’m afraid catching a stomach bug). But, I’m leaving behind my expensive, waterproof over-trousers because I have faith that the rain will be warm and my quick-dry shorts and skinny legs will be just fine.