I am not afraid of spiders. I am afraid of snakes. Spiders for some reason don’t bother me at all. This morning there was a black spider on crawling along my bathroom sink and I simply went about my business. There was a big brown spider in the shower and we avoided each other. But a snake – that is a different matter all together. Snakes make me freeze in fear. My heart pounds, my breath catches, my brain shuts down. The reality however, is that a snake has never bothered me. I have never been bitten by a snake, chased by a snake, robbed by a snake. No snake has ever done anything to harm me in any way. I can’t say the same about spiders. I had a nasty spider bite one summer which resulted in a great deal of swelling and pain. So why am I afraid of that which has done no harm to me and yet not afraid of that which has caused harm?
Fear is often not rational. There is no rational reason for me to be afraid of a snake. And yet I am. The challenge of course is that it is impossible to reason your way out of something you haven’t reasoned your way into. I can’t simply tell myself that I don’t have to be afraid, I can’t give myself all the logical reasons why this fear is not necessary – it is not my brain telling me to be afraid in the first place. What is needed is the willingness to face my fear in an experience designed to help overcome it. So in this case, I need to be wiling to interact with snakes, in controlled and safe ways! And to continue to face that fear until it is overcome. I am not willing to do so.
There are other fears in our lives which are just as irrational, and just as hard to overcome. We fear strange ways of dying – such as shark attacks or bombings by terrorists – which at least in my part of the world have little connection with reality. We see someone who looks different or speaks different or practices a different religion and our fear kicks in. Even though that person probably has more in common with us than has difference, fear doesn’t ask about reason and logic, it simply reacts. If we are to overcome our fears we must face them. We must be willing to accept that we are afraid, ask if we are willing to address those fears, and then do what is needed to experience the interaction with those fears.
Humans tend to be afraid of those who are “different.” God invites us to celebrate the diversity of all creation. In our Scripture the angels are always inviting us to live without fear. Fear paralyses, fear separates, fear can lead to violence. This is not what God desires for any of us.
What are you afraid of? Are you willing to try to work on overcoming those fears? Have you asked God to help you do just that?