Fear curdles joy and blocks creativity entirely. Fear is hot, dry and sandy. Like betrayal and sex, fear is not something we talk about in polite society and so it can move about like a mugger in a city alley, stalking, beating, terrifying. on like viper in an Arab desert. Or an Eden.
We have so pretty-ed up the story of Jesus’ birth that the sparkle of three kings with merchandise has overwhelmed the murder of innocents entirely. But it was part of the story. A mother trying to protect her child. Not just Mary. Many mothers.
Fear is something I have lived with all my life like a third arm or a goiter. Stuck on me like some foreign appendage without the skill set to do my own surgery, it travels with me. A six on the enneagram, I am apparently predisposed to being afraid. It is the shadow-side of great courage with which a six is also endowed, though the sum of the two often feels a zero in the plus and minus morality game with which the Church is so fixated.
It helps me to mediate on this mother and on this child, both. In the one, the pain of reckless violence and victimization. In the other, innocence. Waiting. Eyes a little larger than a child’s usually are. Large, wide eyes from awareness that all is most definitely not well. Might never be. Eyes which are painfully aware that a hunt is on.
So many of us are afraid like that. Afraid of poverty. Afraid of abuse from those we love and from whom we had expected protection or at least kindness. Afraid of failure. Afraid of loneliness. Afraid of life, really. Of getting out of bed, some days. But we dare not admit it or we will be seen as weak.
The vulnerability of life is pain, and the worry about pain is fear.
I have no wisdom here. Nothing to offer. But I do know this: Jesus was fixated on fear to the extent that His words in our scriptures mention it a lot. In fact, more than anything else he ever says. He talks about love some. He talks about generosity some. He talks about The Father some. Lillies of the fields, etcetera also. But mostly He talks about fear. Over and over and over and over He asks us not to be afraid. I find that hardest of all. Do you? If you were raised in a happy, well household, perhaps not. Perhaps you are not afraid much and for that you should be grateful. But for the rest of us mere mortals, fear lurks like a buzzard over rotting flesh. Circling. Circling. Circling.
So far, the only remedy I have found is to try to keep going. Movement over moment. No matter what people do or say to hurt us, we keep going. Keep walking. Keep praying or at least keep sitting in morning-darkness, begging the cosmos for peace. Because that is the second word Jesus kept yammering on about. Peace. That, said He, was what He came to bring. That, said He, was what he left behind.
And as fear comes to steal creativity and joy, peace comes with a cool cup of water in the desert frontiers of our wildernesses. The work of the Christian life, of all life, seems to be to take the daily sip. Just a sip of peace. Then lay your head down and rest a bit.