Are you feeling anxious? Scared? Weighed down by dread? With all the sad, scary stuff going on with the Covid-19 virus and the uncertainty about what the future holds, these feelings are universal.
I read a sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber (a Lutheran pastor and author) recently where she spoke about “Be not afraid,” which we read often in the Bible (it’s in there over 100 times). In one way, it’s reassuring to know God tells us not to be afraid, but on the other hand, as Nadia says, just being told “Don’t be afraid” does not actually make us stop being afraid.
So what do we do? How do we deal with this fear? Nadia uses a passage from Luke 13:
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day — for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
First, I kind of love to think of Jesus saying, “Go and tell that fox…” As Nadia reminded us, Herod had killed Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist and here Jesus is showing how unafraid he is. Then he says, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Isn’t that a beautiful image? The hen spreading her wings over her chicks, providing shelter, warmth, and love.
First a fox, then a hen. Nadia writes (emphasis mine):
A mother hen cannot actually keep a determined fox from killing her chicks. So where does that leave us? I mean, if danger is real, and a hen can’t actually keep their chicks out of danger, then what good is this image of God as Mother Hen if faith in her can’t make us safe?
Well, today I started to think that maybe it’s not safety that keeps us from being afraid.
Maybe it’s love.
Which means that a Mother Hen of a God doesn’t keep foxes from being dangerous…a Mother Hen of a God keeps foxes from being what determines how we experience the unbelievably beautiful gift of being alive.
God the Mother Hen gathers all of her downy feathered, vulnerable little ones under God’s protective wings so that we know where we belong, because it is there that we find warmth and shelter.
But faith in God does not bring you safety.
The fox still exists.
Danger still exists.
And by that I mean, danger is not optional, but fear is.
Because maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery. Maybe the opposite of fear is love. Paul tells us that perfect love casts out fear. So in the response to our own Herods, in response to the very real dangers of this world we have an invitation as people of faith: which is to respond by loving.
“Faith in God does not bring you safety.” That sentence was kind of a shock to my system. When I think about it now, I realize of course it is true, but my first reaction was, “Wait, God doesn’t keep me safe?!” It reminded me of the part in the Narnia chronicles where the beaver tells Lucy that Aslan “is not safe, but he is good.” And I remembered a song Anne Murray sings called “The Other Side” where the refrain says:
The journey may seem endless
When you know the road is rough
But on the other side of fear… is love
So, we are not safe from this virus. AND. We are loved.
Sometimes I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning with my mind full of worry, dread, and sadness. I try to remember that I can decide what to think about. I try to remember and focus not on my fear, but on God’s love. God gathers us under his wings. He is sheltering us in his love, giving us the warmth of his love. He is with us, loving us through whatever happens.
Originally published at http://www.mavismoon.com.