Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Why we are so afraid

For some, fear follows in their every footstep. Waiting, like a shadow, to appear. When the sun is closest, when the days are good, the shadow nearly disappears - though its never entirely gone. And then, slowly, stealthily, when the sun seems to move farther and farther away, the shadow grows. In the late hours of the day, it appears ominously, forbiddingly. Much larger than we are. In the night, the shadow seems to swallow us whole. The darkness of the shadow has gulped up the world. And we are left trembling, waiting, desperate for the morning.

Why is it, we seem so much more plagued by fear. It seems our culture has done everything possible to protect us and thereby abolish our fears. Medical intervention can do so much to alleviate fears. Cure cancer. Replace a worn out heart. Inspire a womb to carry a child. Cure a simple infection that centuries ago would have been a death sentence. We purchase massive insurance policies to protect our possessions and our loved ones - so they won’t have to worry. Build a new house where one burned to the ground. Offer a large amount of money to a grieving widow so that she can pay off the mortgage. Afford a new car after one is totaled in an accident.

Yes, so much of our world today is built to make life better. But why doesn’t it feel that way? Why is it that we have more fear than we had 30, 50, 70 years ago? Shouldn’t we feel more secure - not so afraid of our own shadow?

Perhaps in all our self-protection, self-preservation, self-advancement, we have forgotten what it is like to depend. Even the mere word “depend” has such negative connotations anymore. If you can’t stand on your own, then what good are you? We are taught to do what is right for ourselves, to make our own dreams come true, and to take care to protect what is ours. Our neighbors are busy doing the same, and we are conditioned to think that they will not look beyond themselves and their families to help us in our time of need.

We pursue these things of self with a ferocity and an intensity quite unmeasured. One quick glance at the headlines tells us of the ways scientists and technology experts are examining our world, our bodies, our social structures with great scrutiny. We have a deep need to understand it all, so that we can one day find a solution to every problem. Prevent cancer. Cure AIDS. Build indestructible homes.

We run farther and farther away from depending. Specifically, we run farther and farther away from any reliance on our Creator. We worry, we fear, we dread, we panic because we have forgotten the One who chases away the shadows. We have forgotten what it means to get up in the morning and pray that rain will water the earth so that we might have a good crop so that we might feed our family so that we might not get sick so that we might live through the winter. We have forgotten that there is only one Comfort in life and in death. And until we will remember, the shadows will continue to grow and darken the place where we stand.

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