After church a few years ago, my daughter used to love to perch herself atop one of the stacks of chairs the tear-down team would be creating. These towering columns were seven feet of irresistible fun for her.
And nearly every Sunday as the adults were standing around talking about where to go to lunch, ahem, I mean spiritually connecting with one another and challenging each other about the sermon, Olivia would tug on my pant leg and ask me to lift her up on one of the “fun towers.”
And once she was perched on high, I was always blown away by the look of joy on her face, enlivened with just a hint of fear in her eyes.
“This is fun!” she would scream.
I could tell her heart was racing and that she is enjoying the audacity of it all. If there’s such a thing as non-prideful pride, I think this is its Instagram moment – she simply knows she’s brave.
And every time I stood below with outstretched arms praying that she doesn't fall and break her arm so I don’t become, “That pastor whose kid caused our landlord to break our lease and kick us out leaving 500 God-loving souls churchless.” You have no idea how often this one kid makes me pray along these lines...
Anyway, as I stood there praying against broken bones, I always prodded Olivia to jump into my arms. And every time the hint of fear in her eyes crystallized into something more certain, but she would hesitate.
“Don’t be afraid. Jump. I’ll catch ya!” I say. And my prayer often turned to a petition that I do, in fact, catch her - what with my then 47 year-old bad back and the distraction of all the people standing around talking about deeply spiritual things and which restaurants have kids-eat-free Sundays.
And she would always smile and leap into my arms.
Recently, I've been thinking about fear.
Jesus tells us to, “Fear not.” In fact, he says this over and over again in scripture. He says it so often that I think most of us (I know I have) think that we are not supposed to fear at all.
But, what if this command is not that we are to eliminate fear, but do entirely the opposite? What if the point of this encouragement from Jesus is that he knows if we follow him, we will find ourselves in places we would not choose to go on our own?
What if Jesus knows that fear is really the cost we have to pay to do anything meaningful for his Kingdom? What if this is less of a command and more like encouraging coaching?
I think Jesus knows that for us to be 7 feet off the ground when we feel like we are only two feet tall is going to be scary.
He’s not saying we shouldn't fear anything; He’s saying, “Fear not, I’m here. After all, I’m the one who put you so high up.”
“Don’t be afraid. Jump. I’ll catch ya!”