This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest who raises money for the homeless and lives on a horse farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering daily meditations and reflections
Fear curdles joy and blocks creativity entirely. Fear is hot, dry and sandy. Like betrayal and sex, fear is not something we talk about in polite society, so it can move about like a mugger in a city alley, stalking, beating, terrifying one like a viper in an Arab desert. Or an Eden.
We have so prettied up the story of Jesus’ birth that the sparkle of three kings with merchandise has overwhelmed the smell of dung in a stable, the homelessness of a mother and father, and the murder of innocents. But fear was part of the story. A mother trying to protect her child. Not just Mary. Many mothers.
Fear is something I have lived with all my life like a third arm or a goiter. And I am not alone. Stuck on me like some foreign appendage without the skill set to do my own surgery, fear travels with me. A “six” on the enneagram, I am apparently predisposed to being afraid. It is the shadow-side of great courage with which a six is also endowed, though the sum of the two often feels a zero.
Something happens. A lump in a breast. A letter in the mail. An unexpected bill in the emails of the day. A lie told to scapegoat or deflect blame, impotence, a pink slip, a pregnancy; the lost is long and the list is old.
Around the corner form my office at Heading Home in Albuquerque is a favorite little restaurant called Le Troquet which is a place for a bit of a splurge. The chef is owner and cook and his small French menu is marvelous. His Trout Almandine is life-changing. One day, a film company came to the neighborhood to film a new show. They transformed our little street and the restaurant across it into Tehran and so with a little paint and a poster of the Ayatollah, my favorite little French Restaurant became an Iranian cafe. Two days later, it was The Troquet again, serving ups its usual Mousse au Chocolat.
Fear is like that. It moves in and transforms our selves and our streets, taking everything and making it into something … similar yet not really true. Fear can take a regular life and with a bit of paint and a couple posters and costumes, turn Elm Street into a Nightmare.
So much makes us afraid. Afraid of poverty. Afraid of abuse from those we love and from whom we had expected protection or at least kindness. Afraid of failure. Afraid of loneliness. Afraid of life, really. Of getting out of bed, some days. But we dare not admit it or we will be seen as weak. So we keep it quiet, secret, so that the evil one can paint and obscure with reckless abandon.
The vulnerability of life is pain, and the worry about pain is fear.
I have no wisdom here. Nothing to offer. But I do know this: Jesus was fixated on fear to the extent that His words in our scriptures mention it a lot. In fact, more than anything else he ever says. He talks about love some. He talks about generosity some. He talks about The Father some. Lilies of the fields, etcetera also. But mostly He talks about fear. Over and over and over and over He asks us not to be afraid. I find that hardest of all. Do you? If you were raised in a happy household, perhaps not. Perhaps you are not afraid much and for that you should be grateful. But for the rest of us mere mortals, fear lurks like a buzzard over rotting flesh. Circling. Circling. Circling.
So far, the only remedy I have found is to try to keep going. Movement over moment. No matter what people do or say to hurt us, we keep going. Keep walking. Keep praying or at least keep sitting in morning-darkness, begging the cosmos for peace. Because that is the second word Jesus kept yammering on about. Peace. That, said He, was what He came to bring. That, said He, was what he left behind. Peace is truth. Not twisted disguise.
And as fear comes to steal creativity and joy, peace comes with a cool cup of water in the desert frontiers of our wildernesses. The work of the Christian life, of all life, seems to be to take the daily sip. Just a sip of peace. Then lay your head down and rest a bit in the heat of the desert.