Before the age of about 5, I was a bit of a dare devil. I would be pulled along at breakneck speeds by my Labrador that was tethered to my bike. I would climb a 20 meter poppet head tower, with no fear. I would ride my BMX over crazy jumps. I sought after adventure. I wanted it. Then, one day, I discovered fear.
There was a raft of reasons for this but I’m not going to go into that now. What I want to talk about, is fear. Helpful fear keeps us alive in situations that are dangerous and it causes us to react quicker than if we had to think about it. Functional fear helps us to keep our distance from things that could potentially harm us, emotionally or physically.
Then we have fear that arises from perceived danger which generally doesn’t match up to the reality of the situation, or the outcome, if we were to do what we were thinking of doing. For instance, there was a time when I wanted to climb a really high tower but, because I was afraid of the height and what might happen to me, I chose not to do it. However, not a single person had been injured from falling from this tower in the 40+ years it had been a tourist attraction.
As I was looking over the readings in preparation for my message for the Thursday service, funnily enough, fear started to rear its head. Why? Well, I wanted to do the New Testament readings which were: 1 Timothy 6:6-19 and Luke 16:19-31. Timothy talks about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil, while Luke talks about a man who loved money, and the good life too much – ending up in hell, unable to help his relatives and warn them, even when he begs to do so. Nothing like a couple of uplifting readings to bring us to the reality of our fallen nature!
So I thought I might have a look at the Psalm for that day.“Oh!” I thought, “Psalm 146! That’s about trusting God.” I liked that, but just as I decided to focus on that, God nailed me down, reminding me to put the teaching of the Psalm into practice, by trusting him to help me with the Gospel readings! So, I did, and you know what? I realised that the two stories are about people who held onto ‘the things of this world’ forsaking the life God had for them. The Psalm says, ‘Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.’ Then it goes on to speak about how God ‘executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free.’
So what does this have to do with fear? Well, God’s way is quite often not the most comfortable way. It requires us to sacrifice the present to create a future we can be happy with – a future in which justice for the poor and food for the hungry is a possibility. We worry about how we will survive even in situations where there is no likelihood of danger. This perceived fear keeps us trapped. It keeps us from living the adventure God has for us.
Over the years I have come to many points in my life where it feels like I’m looking over the edge of the tower, on a cliff so high I can’t see the bottom. The feeling of fear starts at my feet and runs up my body, resting in my stomach as a knot, a ball of worry and fear. As I stand on the precipice of this edge, thinking it’s impossible to take another step forward, I wonder what I have left to do? The fear wants me to step back, to wait for someone to build a bridge and be comfortable. The problem is, no one is going to build a bridge. I will end up standing there forever, making a life without adventure and bound by fear.
It isn’t until I step out, trusting that God is with me, that I realise I’m not floating, I’m not walking on air… because there was never a ledge there to begin with. It was just more of God’s road and my fear led me to believe that there was a metaphorical death waiting for me. But with those first steps, I realise God is there, the road is there, and I just need to trust him.
However, for everyone, there are times when fear feels very real. Hurt, abuse, loss and many other things build up the expectation that something bad is waiting for us if we step out. But, the clear message of Timothy and Luke is that the road will actually lead us off the cliff – the real danger is when we put our trust in the things that we feel keep us safe. God’s way is not like ours, so we need to make the choice to take that step of faith. If we do, a life of adventure awaits. A life not free from fear but free from regret. Not even a life free of danger – but without danger where is the adventure?
As I finish this, I reflect on the fact that these two bible readings that I tried to avoid, actually led me to something new, something interesting, something I wouldn’t have been able to come up with unless I stepped out.
So, what do you need to step out to?