We hear throughout the Christmas story God’s message to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds – do not fear, but trust! I’ve got a plan. It may sound a little crazy, but do not be afraid. I’ve got this!
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20b-21
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:30
Fear is an interesting human emotion, one I contemplate often. I am easily overcome by fear – often irrational fear. Our decisions and human interactions are greatly impacted by fear. But some level of fear yields reasonable steps of precaution.
One night this week, we sat in my daughter’s room reading books. The kids were freshly bathed, cozy in their pajamas. We had hopes to get the cranky 3-year-old to sleep early. Suddenly, the carbon monoxide detector began to beep. As we made our way downstairs, the smell of gas quickly took over. Earlier that evening, we had lit the gas fireplace in the basement. Our quick assessment was that the gas leaked from there. My husband ran to turn off the gas to the fireplace and furnace, open windows and then call the utility department. As the carbon detector continued to beep, I grabbed coats, the kids and our two dogs and loaded them into the van. We backed up out of the house and sat in the driveway, waiting for my husband to join us.
It was a mad dash, and a flurry of very quick decisions.
I settled into the driver’s seat, took a breath, and turned back to look at my kids. My daughter seemed fine – annoyed that she didn’t have her slippers and that we couldn’t finish the book we had just started. My son, on the other hand, had tears forming in his dark eyes and I recognized the panicked look that had set in. I myself was trying to hide that same panicked look! Through sobs, he said he was worried and peppered me with questions. Why was Daddy still in the house? Are we going to get sick? Will there be a fire? And how can my sister keep talking about slippers in an emergency?!? (Exact words on that last one…)
With the gas off and the windows open, we believed the house was safe, but we sat in the van together and waited for the utility serviceman. My husband and I talked my son off the ledge. We told him we were safe, we were together, there was nothing to fear, and we would be OK!
After nearly an hour in the van and a thorough screening by the utility guy, sensor in hand, we were allowed back in the house. I carried my sleeping daughter to her bed and tucked my son into his. The carbon readings were normal. We learned the leak had come from the fireplace, which was now off. The heater had been turned off and would not turn back on – so we had one a cold night. It has since been fixed and we are safe and warm in our home.
My husband threw out a fun new word to help describe how my son and I respond to uncertainty and fear. Perseverate: to continue something to an exceptional degree. As in, continue to ponder and create drama long after the need to be fearful has expired! (Thanks English teacher…)
We know our God gives hope. We know we do not need to fear!
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
But evil lurks in our human world and scary things happen every day – it is easy to be sucked into overwhelming fear. I think my son, unfortunately, will continue to tackle life-consuming fear. (He has my genetic makeup to thank for that!) My job as parent is to help him control and minimize it. Help him acknowledge and talk through fears. Tell him it is normal to experience fear, but do not let it consume you and do not forget who is in control! Remind him that with faith in God, there is no need to fear.
As we sat in the van on that cold night, the words I spoke to my son helped me find my own peace in that fearful moment. Whatever unknown event is ahead of us, it will be OK. God has my back, and he can use all things for his good! I will say these words to myself, over and over again:
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4
The kids picked the most perfect episode of Veggie Tales this morning. I’ve been singing “God is bigger than the Boogie Man” all day! We watched the story of Daniel unafraid in the lion’s den. Bob the Tomato left us with this message: “God is bigger than anything in the whole world, and because God loves us so much he’s always looking out for us. So we don’t have to be afraid.”
“So do not fear, for I am with you.” Isaiah 41:10