Do Not Be Afraid
Snakes. I don't like 'em.
Never have and I don't see that changing any time soon.
I know some of you may have them as pets and that's good for you. My stomach knots up and my shoulders press towards my ears and my knees give way and I just can't.
And within a week and a half, I had 7 snakes come across my path.
First time, well, it was a fairly normal weekend. My parents were in town and plans had been made to go kayaking later that morning with my mom and aunt. Being the task-oriented person I am, I knew the lawn needed to be mowed before we went or the day would get away from me and it wouldn't get it done.
This is not a drat thought for me. I actually enjoy mowing. I get it from my dad. Admiring the new, fresh lines in the yard - is there anything prettier?
Gosh, dang. I know there is, but I just really love it.
It's clean, it's fresh, and it's inviting.
So here I am, pushing the lawn mower out from the garage. This may be my least glamorous chore. Not that chores are at all glamorous, but just to give you a picture - I throw on my oldest, don't care, athletic clothes; "mowing socks and shoes;" a snapback cap; and some black sunglasses that now sit a bit crooked on my nose after enduring a wipeout while snow skiing a few years ago.
Apparently it's a trend now. But, I don't think this level of grunge will ever catch on. Let's hope it doesn't...
So yes, I'm pulling the lawn mower out to the front when Dad comes out of the house, walking to the car. I don't even have to ask. He's on his way to get coffee.
I love being hospitable, but that's where I draw the line. I don't drink coffee, so you're welcome to come to my house but coffee is on you.
I continue working on the lawn, and as he returns and pulls into the drive-way, I'm edging. I'm approaching the gate to the backyard and see what looks like a really long worm.
I look at it for a second and then ask Dad as he's getting out of the car, "Is that a worm ...or a snake?!"
He calmly says, "Oh that? That's a snake."
My heart pounding, I rush into the garage with the edger in hand and grab a shovel. I hand it to him. He takes it and tries to gather the snake from under the fence line, where it had tried to escape. (That's important. We'll come back to this detail soon.)
As he gathers the snake on the face of the shovel, I jumped. Well, bounded or flew back in fear is more like it. I leapt towards the street with the edger still in hand.
I'll never forget Dad's expression as he took care of the snake. He looked up towards me (fear characterizing my entire being in that moment but not his). He was calmly holding a full cup of hot coffee in one hand and a shovel with a LIVING snake in the other.
It's the same expression I see from him when he looks up from his easy-chair.
Calm. Not moved. In control.
As I finished edging the yard that morning, I began to understand God's command of "Do not be afraid" a little more.
Do Not Be Afraid
Why does God keep telling us this? Why is this repeated over 300 times in the Bible?
Is it because fear is not real? Is it because fear is childish or a sign of not being close enough to God?
Like we talked about last week, I really don't think so. Jesus had to tell even His most devoted and closest followers not to fear.
I think He tells us this because He knows we see only in part. And because of this, He knows we have a tendency to fear.
He doesn't condemn us for it.
Similarly, my dad didn't get out the car and say, "Candace, you are ridiculous and sinful for being afraid of that snake. Take care of it yourself."
No, not at all.
He sees my fear and he helped me.
Same with God - He sees us and He helps us. Sometimes we may have to face some fears, but He's always there - just like how Dad showed up at the exact right time. I didn't have to wait for him to get back; I didn't have to go inside and interrupt what he was doing. He was there. Ready and able.
And, God is always present with us.
God is not panicked, freaked, jumping or bounding away when the enemy approaches. No, He is calm. If God was a coffee-drinker, there'd be no need to set the cup down. He's got this.
Rather, the enemy, like the snake in my yard, is the one who is afraid! He scurries off and hides. He tries to escape the presence of God. Why? He knows the power of God. And he knows he's already lost.
What Does This Mean for Us?
Well, I don't think we have to be consumed with living a fearless, one-word, life. We just need to focus on fearing less.
You see the enemy tries to use fear to stop us - to make us turn back. He doesn't want us to go where God is leading us.
Like I said, I came across 7 snakes in about 10 days.
I think not. I think God was using this to teach me something. Maybe next time, God, could you use cute, cuddling golden retrievers?! (I now imagine being like Melissa McCarthy driving the mini-van full of puppies. Yes, that's seems like a way more fun way to learn lessons.)
The other 6 snakes came across my path as I was hiking. Similarly, with every encounter, my reaction was to leap backwards in fear.
I began to think - Maybe I should turn back. Maybe this is not such a good idea after all.
But, my friend did not share my fear of snakes. She calmly stepped around them to help them scurry off our path. If I had let fear control me and turned around in that moment, I would have missed the beauty awaiting me on this hike.
In the same way, fear will knock on the door of our hearts. It's not an if. It's a when.
And when you're stepping out in faith doing something God has called you to do, you should just go ahead and expect it.
But, we don't have to condemn ourselves for not having enough faith. No, we can choose to look to God and rely on His strength. He will provide the help we need and the courage in our hearts to keep going or a friend to help us along.
Reminders in scripture to not fear are often paired with truths of God's unchanging character. When fear threatens to steal our peace, we turn our focus from our circumstances to Him and our peace is restored.
It's about recognizing God's strength has already overcome so we can trade fear for joy - the quiet confidence in what we hope for - even in the unwanted circumstances because His peace washes over and sustains us, allowing us to rest in truth rather than lies.
Be strong in mind. Be courageous in heart. Be full of faith. Resting in His resume of faithfulness, we can fear less.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!
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