True Trails of Terror

This is the month where people will celebrate fear, court it, invite it, revel in it even.

Most of them are simply trying to vaccinate themselves against fear.

By injecting themselves with a weakened form of it, they hope that when actually frightening things happen, they will not experience a debilitating level of fear.

I don’t think it works that way, though.

Even the most hardened Halloween revelers have sometimes crossed a line and found themselves in an actual fear-inducing situation where drama and laughter turn to ice water in the veins and silent screams.

That’s because there’s a big difference between fears we imagine and fears that are a result of actual threats.

 I am afraid of a lot of stupid things. I’m sure I’ve detailed them before in other posts.

Suffice it to say, I grew up in a time when parents figured kids were just born with a lot of baggage and, pretty much, that was who they were. So if a kid was born afraid of big dogs, little dogs, water, dark cellars, and roller coasters, well, what could you do about it? Some kids are just “a little off.”

Occasionally, my mom would have to go out for an evening meeting at church or the parent/teachers association and leave my dad home in charge. My bedroom was on the second floor and I was not an easy sleeper.

I’d hear dad watching TV in the living room below and I would wish I were downstairs with him in the light, watching whatever show was making him laugh so hard.

“Dad?” I’d call down the stairs. “Dad, can I come down there?”

“Why? What do you need?” He’d yell, then he’d laugh at something else I’d missed.

“It’s dark up here. I’m scared.”

I’m the one you ought to be afraid of if you don’t get back into bed and go to sleep!” He’d answer without hesitation.

I think about his answer a lot. We won’t evaluate it in terms of parenting styles but I have to say, it sounded a lot like Jesus in Luke 12: 4-9

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.”

I think of my dad and of these words from Jesus when I’m tempted to be afraid of other people’s opinions or of losing my job because I can’t quite compromise my faith enough to fit in or of not living up to the world’s status quo.

Sometimes, when I’m expressing these fears to God, I can almost hear Him say, “Afraid? I’m the One you should be afraid of if you don’t walk back in there and represent the way I’ve raised you!”

I don’t fear punishment from God. Jesus took all my punishment when He died for me on the cross. (I didn’t really fear punishment from my dad either since I knew he’d be too tired to actually get up and come up the stairs and he never hit me or anything.)

And I no longer fear hell because I belong to Jesus Christ.

But the words remind me that my conjured fears of the disapproval of others, financial loss, or low status in life are like Halloween revelers walking through locally devised trails of terror. They evoke fear but there’s no real basis for it. It’s all based on strobe lights, dry ice, and ketchup.

The real fear is not living up to the way I’ve been raised in Christ or not speaking up when someone else is open to understanding who Jesus is or missing the adventure God wants to take me on or the training He’s devised to deepen my faith.

That is a fear of an actual threat that motivates me to do hard things and to overcome the fear of artificial threats barring my way to face the real ones.

It takes little true courage to walk a corn maze in the dark or to follow a line of teen-agers through a haunted house of horrors. Teaching those teens about Jesus? Talking to a coworker about your faith? Leaving a secure job with a pension to pursue a mission or ministry – that takes courage.

Just as little children fear monsters under the bed but don’t fear running into a busy street, we need instruction to distinguish imagined threats from real ones.

God offers that instruction freely in His word. We should avail ourselves of it at every opportunity so we are less tempted to jump at the sight of goblins and more willing to jump at opportunities to speak the truth of Christ.

There are real trails of terror ahead. Jesus is the only competent guide through them all. Are you ready?

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    The Conversation

  1. Marcia says:

    Always enjoy your encouraging blog. Next time I’m stuck in a corn maze, I’ll know what to do.
    Take care–

  2. Leslie Payne says:

    I must confess I’ve never been in a corn maze because I was fearful I’d never find my way out! (LOL :0)
    So good to contemplate this very real struggle with fear and the One who guides us out of it. Thanks Lori.