Monday, November 05, 2007

Fear in the fog

“...in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!”
- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream



I had a strange experience last night.

It was late - after 10pm. I went for my customary walk and pray through the large park behind the roads where I live. It’s my time to close one week and open another one: something of a lifeline. I listen to my thoughts, to the silence, and to God.

Last night, was a dark night and misty.

I got to the park and could only see three or four steps in front of me as I walked, so thickly was I surrounded by fog. I quickly got lost, even though I know the park well. Trees loomed up out of the darkness. Unexpected hills and dips in the ground took me by surprise. It was surreal. Strange. Uncanny.

Suddenly I heard a footstep behind me; I froze. It might not sound very scary now, but believe me, my heart was hammering. Then more footsteps, not far off. But I was completely blind to who it was. I began to walk away. The footsteps followed, unevenly. Pad, pad... pad, pad pad...

I headed out to the open green, away from the path and the footsteps didn't follow. I walked on through the pale sea on my three foot round island of grass, blindly.

Unexpectedly, oddly (I thought I'd walked in a straight line), some time later I found myself back at the same tree-lined path. I decided to follow it out of the park. Then I heard them again. Footsteps. Not far off. Uneven. Pad, pad... pad, pad, pad. They'd waited for me, at the path...

I quickened my pace, then slowed right down. Pad, pad... pad, pad, pad... pad. The footsteps were following me, but keeping out of sight. I was frightened.

Then – suddenly – I realised. It wasn't footsteps: it was leaves.

Leaves, big horse chestnut leaves, loosened by the damp air, were dropping off the trees and landing on the ground near me, in the fog. Pad, pad... pad.

I had to laugh at myself. Man of God? Leader? Radical Christian? Afraid of falling leaves just like Mr Jelly!

I walked on down the path and it was then that God spoke, in my heart.

“What were you afraid of?”

“Er,” (feeling foolish in the presence of the Almighty) “ - leaves, Lord.”

“No, what were you actually afraid of?”

“Well, that someone was following me.”

“Why were you afraid of that?”

“Well, they might have been a mugger; they might have attacked me or stabbed me, here in this big, foggy park...”

Then, in that moment, I realised (God didn’t even have to say it as such): how wonky, how back-to-front our fears are. We fear those who may hurt the body; but how often we run pell-mell into the sin which can damn the soul.

We’re afraid of leaves. The real enemy – the sins which cut us off from life – we’re old familiar friends with.

I walked on, humbled till I came to part of the park which was lit by a beacon light high up on a war memorial.

There, I asked God last night to give me a healthy fear of sin, and – in the right sense – of Him.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Jesus, in Matthew 10:28)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a word pre-eminent to persecution

Anonymous said...

dear Friend, thank you for this post about fear. i have been reading your blog for some time and have a prayer request...i am joyfully single after a messy past before i knew the Lord and have been single and celibate for 10 years now. i am in community in a wonderful church that is focused on sound reformed doctrine, with the Holy Spirit welcomed....a church that is Gospel-centered and focused on the cross. however, my church subscribes to the view that it is of extremely high importance to be in pursuit of marriage, and that to not be in the pursuit of marriage, or in my case as a woman, in reception to marriage invitations, is unbiblical and perhaps even unselfish. however, my life as a single married to Christ alone is not "easier" in my experience. my request for prayer is that singles who are walking with the Lord would be honored and not thought negatively about or ignored. i love my church and am so gratetful that i am there. but it is increasingly difficult to see the emphasis placed on the "sorrow" of being single, when i am happier than i've ever been, in spite of not having much money, my own apartment, etc. also, i have been told that the gift of singleness is for those who have never been married, not those who are divorced like me, and that the gift is given for "unusual" levels of service like foreign missionary work, which i am not doing. i don't believe that. so i'm asking for unity for us and that we will grow together in seeing marriage and singleness the way the Lord desires. thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

sorry, in last post meant to say "selfish" not "unselfish."

Rob Halligan said...

You don't know how on-time this is mate
R

Anonymous said...

Good entry, well shared
Darren Deliberate

Piers said...

Ah God speaks through creation

normal said...

A reply to 'anonymous' (the second one - not quite sure what the first one meant, truth be told...)

I'm glad you love your church, anon, and that the wonky thinking you've been on the receiving end of (about marriage and singleness) hasn't caused you to be bitter. Bitterness is poisonous - well done for avoiding it.

But, to encourage you: singleness is indeed a lifestyle that the New Testament recommends. Far from being 'selfish', it can be an opportunity to serve God and live for kingdom more fully (1 Cor.7:32-35, Matt.19:10-12). And there is nothing to suggest that a positive choice to stay single is only for those who have never been married and nothing to suggest that it is only for missionaries!

God bless you. I pray that you'll find deep joy in serving the Lord as a single person. Who know - maybe your radiance will be such that others may catch your enthusiasm!

You may be interested in reading my friend's blog on the celibate life - see the link on my blog to 'The celibate life unveiled'.

God bless you.