Saturday, August 09, 2008

Chewing on the Word - Terrified

This is a word I've been chewing on for quite some time: terrified. Ever since 'the war on terror,' I've been hyper-sensitive to any vulgar uses of this truly biblical word.

How many times throughout Scripture, do the people of God become terrified, never fully understanding that it is, in fact, God at work in their midst?

In the Gospel of Matthew (14:22-33) the disciples in the boat saw someone walking toward them and they 'were terrified.' Jesus, the incarnation of God's love for the whole world, is walking toward those who left everything to follow him, and they don't recognize him, (and, of course, he is walking ON the water–something no one committed to things decent and in order would expect) and they are terrified. Without belittling the truly traumatic in life, how many times are we terrified simply because God is drawing near in ways we don't expect.

I love Jesus response, "take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Again and again and again, the heavenly message, whether through Jesus in this passage, or the angel Gabriel to the young woman Mary, is simply "do not be afraid." Yet, when I stop and chew on that, I realize it is never simple. The pre-existing condition is fear. That which keeps me 'in the boat,' unable to recognize or to respond in faith, is fear.

However, Jesus keeps coming, keeps calling out, keeps saving those who risk stepping 'out of the boat' when the wind is blowing against them, and eventually rides with them in peace.

Has the church, for too long, tamed the unexpected terror of Jesus drawing near and saving us? Maybe Annie Dillard had it right; crash helmets and life-preservers anyone?

Photo by 2-Dog-Farm from

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