By John Pierce
Before Battlefield Parkway (that locals still call “2A”) connected Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold, Ga., as well as I-75, the brief drive from our house to church was over undesignated Daffron Hill. Daily traffic counts were in the mere dozens.
Returning home one Sunday evening, my young eyes were peering out the window of our family’s old Pontiac station wagon when we passed the Davis family cemetery.
“I’m scared (or, more likely, skeered),” I said to my brothers with whom I shared the back seat.
Overhearing my comment, my dad mumbled in his usual understated way: “It’s not the dead ones you have to worry about.”
I’ve never been very skittish when it comes to facing challenges or taking reasonable risks in life. The greater fear for me has always been the possibility of missing out on something due to unfounded fear.
Yet I’ve never found entertainment value in that which is overly violent or designed to illicit fear. And sometimes my daughters have called me the “safety patrol” because of my overemphasis (if there is such a thing for a father) on “being careful” when they head out for some adventure of their own.
What we fear, however, is most telling about our deeper selves. Much of who we are, what we believe and how we act gets tied to our fears.
Some fear any change that lessens the familiar. They spend much time trying to preserve the status quo.
Some fear those who love, speak and think differently. Comfort is only found in uniformity — with oneself as the standard. (Often Jesus encountered persons like this.)
Some fear that their lives are less significant and meaningful than they’d dreamed. They wonder if it’s too late to do something worthwhile, perhaps even a bit risky.
Some simply fear everything — because the future is unknown and uncontrollable. Anxiety rules the day — every day.
Perhaps — no, surely — that’s why we need this good season to come around each year.
Throughout the biblical revelation are the constant calls summed up in the angelic charge: “Fear not!”
Fear can keep us from faith, joy, hope and other good marks that should fill our lives.
Of course, there are reasonable fears — and reasonable responses to fear. Perhaps a sign of maturity is learning what to fear and what not to fear — and then using rightful fear in constructive rather than harmful ways.
My dad was on to that, it seems. For the biblical story clearly assures us that my childhood fear of the cemetery on a moonlit night was unfounded.
“Fear not!” applies not only to the surprising news of the Incarnation. It is the hopeful news of Resurrection as well.