“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
The opposite of fear is not courage, nor certainty neither even power. The opposite of fear is and must be faith. When you face power, especially abusive, reckless or insecure power, do not be afraid. Stand firm, speak your truth and let power hurt you. Faith will then tell a different story.
Faith and gratitude seem to be what this is all about and both can be hard to choose when fear and scarcity are always on the bedside table, within such easy reach at 3:00 am. But if you sit up and turn on the light, you will see beyond fear and scarcity to that glass of cool water just a few inches further on the bedside-table of life and that you may choose instead. Big ghouls in whatever form, will never really prevail. This metaphorical cool water is water for your parched body – parched from fear and disappointment. It is water from your baptism. It is water that has rained down through God’s providence and water in which Leviathan has been swimming. It is a cleansing bath in which your inner, small child paddled and a puddle in which your inner toddler jumped with high hopes of a splash. It is the water into which your inner adolescent looked in the hopes of seeing the reflection of goodness and it is the water your adult, re-parenting-self lifts to your lips.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
How is it that Jesus would go to the cross? How did fear not curdle his will? How was he not intimidated by power which tried so hard to manipulate the people and crush His body and mission? And what is my place there with Jesus? Shall I climb up on that cross too, in my guilt and shame? No. There is really only one cross and it is occupied. No.
Rather, go to that cross and sit down on the rocks set in the hole around the base of the cross – the rocks used to straighten the wooden post of the cross. When you are hurt or cruelly treated or lied about, sit on that garbage heap with Mary and John, and do not say anything. On your lap, hold that bowl you carry around with you – the one that smells so bad – the one with your pains and sufferings, your fears and losses, the betrayals exacted upon you and that you have exacted on others. Hold that bowl with its hot guts rotting in the sun, inter-swirled with the feces of your poor choices and the evils exacted upon you by insecure power. The bowl is warm in the Jerusalem sun and wreaks to high heaven. It gets God’s attention.
Hold it on your lap, this warm bowl with its wet brown and tans. And wait. Wait. Wait at that cross, low beneath, on the rocks into which it has been driven. See the feet of centurions doing their work. See the feet of Mary trembling as only a mother can. See the feet of John the Beloved One, wet with his own tears. See the paws of the dogs waiting for their meal. See the feet of the high priests, all clean and pale, soft and perfumed on fine leather and brushed by long gowns, pacing, pacing, pacing – waiting for it to be over so they may reconvene temple- take control. Wait there with your bowl until one dark, red drop of blood, wetted and diluted with sweat, drops from Jesus’ near skinless body into your bowl. Wait, sweet one, until that happens. For it will. It always does.
And when Jesus’s sweat and blood drips into your bowl of feces and urine, bandages from old wounds and flesh cut from you as well as flesh you have cut from others – then look hard at that red drop which just dripped from Jesus’ sagging toe just above your head. And once that mess in the bowl on your lap has all its needed ingredients for Good Friday’s cocktail, pour it, ever so gently, onto the rocks and dirt crammed against that wood. Watch that red-brown, hot mess sink into the hole between rock and God’s wood. And when it is gone, give Mary the bowl – she is willing to wash it for you. Allow John to hold you as you weep and weep and weep – both of you.
Then turn with them, for the three of you are now the dis-eased Church, for better or worse. And walk together into the dark silence of the thunder in which you are becoming so slowly fluent and within which God is setting about His work of restoring, resurrecting and redeeming. For soon you will be off that garbage dump, off those rocks; and your own feet will feel the soft grasses of Easter morning, stepping over and around eggs. But for now, stay with the mother and the friend and wait while God turns fear into faith before your very eyes – soon to reunite you with the Son, on the other side. Just walk. Just walk. Keep going. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
There will always be fear and intimidation, lies and manipulation – especially in the church. When one sees what evil people do in the name of the church, one wonders what is even left for Satan to accomplish. And yet, have faith for even this is being made new.