"Victory of the Sun"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
- At the Desert Retreat House -
I recently had a conversation with a mom who told me that she was grateful for summer vacation because, at least for the next few months, she won’t have to be afraid of sending her kids off to school. In light of the many school shootings over the past year, every day this mom was afraid of what might happen to her children when she put them on a school bus and sent him off for the day.
I’ve been thinking about that mother’s constant, nagging fear, a fear that underlines her everyday life, and I wonder if a sense of constant fear might might indeed be very emblematic of life in contemporary society nowadays? We are fearful of the next terrorist attack, the next shooting in a neighborhood school, a backpack that turns out to be a bomb, a quickly deteriorating climate, a country divided by culture wars. Many people are “constantly on edge,” always on the lookout for the next piece of bad news, afraid to go to a mall or an airport or afraid to send their kids off to school.
Fear saps our spirits, it drains the “joy” out of living every day.
I think about something Buddhist teacher and monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said about this constant presence of underlying fear that so eats away at us.
We are always running, running, running,
Even in our sleep we are running.
We run because we are trying to escape from our fear.
As reflect on this wisdom it makes me wonder if this may help explain why so many people nowadays always seem so busy - busy at work or school, busy at home, even busy on a summer vacation, always on the run, afraid to be fully present in the moment because who knows what horror the next moment might bring.
There is one single line that is continually repeated throughout the entire Bible, throughout the Hebrew Bible as well as the Christian Scriptures. In fact, this line appears more often than any other single phrase.
Do not be afraid!
Over the thousands of years of history out of which the various books of the Bible have emerged, this is the one single piece of wisdom has been given to all people of all time. It is an admonition to avoid succumbing to the underlying fear that threatens to poison and destroy the serenity of the human spirit.
Interestingly enough, when I look at the Bible, I find all sorts of things people might rightly fear - plenty of reasons to be afraid. The Bible is written to people who are experiencing war and famine and threats of terror, it is written to people who have suffered great personal disaster, devastation, floods, earthquakes and exile.
The Bible never says there isn’t anything to be afraid of in life, instead it continuously says “Do not be be afraid” – don’t let fear eat away at you, don’t let fear destroy your spirit.
Sitting in exile on a South African prison, unsure of what would become of his life, Nelson Mandela had plenty of reasons to be afraid. It was during this time that he wrote:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it.
When I reflect on my own life and on the times in which we live, I am well aware that there are lots of reasons to be afraid - the things that might make us afraid are constantly knocking at the door of our lives. But instead of always running, running, running and rather than being constantly on edge, I simply try to embrace what comes to me each day and at each moment, and when I do this I find an abiding Love standing there at the threshold - a Love that will never let us go.
Love abides and we have one another as we walk along the Way – so we can live “courageously” and enjoy every moment of what our life has to offer us.