A strange pickup slung gravel and dust as it barreled down our drive. Maybe it’s because it was a drastic contrast to the warm, peaceful afternoon, the bees buzzing around their hive, and unhurried chickens scratching about the farm, but the sight of the truck drove fear into the moment. Who had arrived? Why had they come?
Fear is the frequent companion of uncertainty. For too long now, our world has been plagued with concerns for safety and unpredictable outcomes, so we’re well acquainted with our friend (foe?) Fear. Fear is a great motivator—sometimes for the better, frequently for the worse. As a mother, the strange truck moved me from docile and domestic to fierce Mama Bear.
“Go inside!” I warned the boys.
Much like the unrushed chickens, they dribbled their basketballs to the kitchen.
I started toward the truck, its mystery driver now maneuvering around the side of the house.
Free-ranging sheep. As soon as they saw me, their clueless but adoring shepherd, they bounced their way through the field and followed behind me. How ridiculous we must have been: Mama Bear and her sheep (and ram). The quote of Alexander the Great rang in my ears with bleats and soft beating hoofs, “An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.”
I rounded the corner, ready for anything. I debated on what greeting would sound confident, or even intimidating, not sheepish.
“May I help you?”
The small, older gentleman was bent over a package. When he lifted his head and first laid eyes on our spectacle—girl and sheep posse—he let out an embarrassing shriek and jump.
“BAAA!” A fuzzy head nuzzled my hand in search of sweet treats.
With a sincere hand on his pounding heart, the man said, “Oh, I hate driving up on anybody unannounced, especially in the country. You never know what you’re going to run up on out here,” he gestured toward the sheep, now munching on the lawn in their lackadaisical way.
He was right. You never know.
Fear. I wonder how often circumstances are approached with Fear. Fear fights on both sides of the battlefield. He debates for both parties, and spreads worry to Kindergarteners and college students. Fear whispers doubts to husbands and wives, and keeps strangers from becoming friends. His best trick? Telling us to shield our hearts from Jesus.
“Don’t go to church,” or “Don’t open your Bible,” or “Don’t pray,” and “Don’t trust.”
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve cohabited with Fear for a long time. I’ve been afraid to love as Jesus asks. Terrified what being willing to do the Lord’s will may mean. I’ve been downright disobedient when I was scared His way would be less comfortable, less profitable, less attractive, or less likeable.
Fear, while it’s a great motivator (the fight or flight response), it can also paralyze. Like the small rabbit in the field, still and breathless when the unwitting dog or children tromp by it, we hunker down in burrows of perceived safety. Fear keeps us from reaching our potential, making new discoveries, climbing new heights in our careers, or going deeper in our most important relationships.
Fear. He’s been around since the beginning, spreading doubt in the garden to Eve. I’m sure he was around about 2000 years ago as Mary and Joseph prepared for the arrival of Jesus.
How terrifying it must have been to have angels approach, even despite their charges to “do not be afraid.” How worrisome for Joseph, Mary’s protector, to see his wife going into labor and not having a clean, safe space for the birth. Or for Mary, how distressing it would be to only have rags to swaddle her infant on that cold December night. How about the tyrant Herod and the fleeing to Egypt? Surely, by all worldly standards, there was plenty to fear. But Joseph and Mary had Love, held him tight, rocked, kissed, and lullabied him to sleep in heavenly peace.
Fear. Scripture says fear of God is the “beginning of understanding,” (Proverbs 9:10). Where does that leave us? Fear of the Lord is not servile fear, where we obey God just because we are cringe at the consequences. God is love. He wants us to love Him. To love like a parent and child: I want my children to do what I ask because they love and respect me, not because they dread punishment. Or a spouse: I want my husband, Wade, to be totally devoted to me, not because of any other reason but love. This fear of God changes us from self-serving individuals to reverent adorers in relationship with the God who created the universe, the God who takes sin seriously, the God who knows us and loves us.
Friends, it’s time Fear moves out and we make room for Jesus in our hearts. Jesus’ plan, His way, and His love will always be more extravagantly generous than we could imagine. May we, the sheep of His flock, march forward with the knowledge that the victorious Lion of Judah will lead us.