January 15, 2010

Fear and Fatherhood

I've been reading an interesting book lately. It's called Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus' Provocative Questions and is written by Winn Collier. I picked up off a five dollar table at one of those bookstores that tend to pop up overnight in the mall during Christmas season and consists of a dozen tables with books basically poured out on them. Anyway, I picked up this book, and it's proved rather fascinating. Basically the author looks at the questions that Jesus asked his disciples (and others) during His ministry on earth and asks "Why?" What purpose could God have in asking this question and not the dozen other questions that we would have asked? What can learn from answering these questions ourselves? Why did Jesus ask this particular question at this particular time to this particular group of people? The answers that Collier comes up with are both challenging and encouraging. One chapter in particular caught my attention. In his third chapter titled "Why are you afraid? The grace of letting go," Collier looks at Jesus' question to the disciples when caught in the storm on the Sea of Galilee. On this chapter Collier has a lot of good things to say about fear and the way it works with our lives and our faith, but I was particularly struck by two things. One, Jesus was afraid (ie in the Garden of Gethsemane and again on the cross when God turned His face away). Two, often times our more superficial fears (say of monsters under the bed) are actually manifestations of our loneliness and our fear that we really do have to face the "brutality of life" by ourselves. Collier illustrates this by looking to his own discussions of bedtime monsters with his son. Collier writes:

Wyatt fears he will be left to himself to fend off the menace his imagination conjures up for him...Wyatt wants to know that, as he says it, "If I really need something, you'll come up." So, even as I tell Wyatt that there are no monsters, I want to be quicker to tell him what he needs most to hear--that his safety is not in his own hands, that if any scary creatures are foolish enough to enter my son's room, his dad will be there, hell-on-wheels, faster than he can blink, to dish out a grade-A monster butt whoopin'

Collier goes on to explain to his son how he will be there like greased lightning to pummel any monster his son sees. The reason, he tells his son, not to be afraid of monsters is not because they don't exist but because his "daddy is stronger than any monster there is."

I know that's a fairly extended quote, but I latched on to it because just last week talking to my counselor he observed that there must be times when I feel very lonely. I realized that he's right. I've spent the better part of my life not fitting in and not measuring up, and it's been lonely. On top of that I've been scared. I never really saw how the two might fit together though until I started reading this chapter. Because if you'll look at what Collier says elsewhere in this chapter he's essentially saying that to be alone is to be afraid because that means there's no one outside up to help us face up the brutal realities of life. Loneliness says that it's all up to us--there's no one I can rely on except for myself. And I don't know about the rest of the world, but I'm pretty well aware that one very determined cat could wreck some serious havoc on my rear. That's not to mention germs, cars, muggers, earthquakes, loose gravel, stray bullets, political unrest and all the other bogeymen of my imagination. Of course at this point Collier goes on to talk about our need for God, but honestly one of the things that caught me most was his portrayal of fatherhood. Growing up I always had the impression that Dad would throw himself between any of us and an oncoming car cheerfully with no hesitation. What I also learned growing up was that Dad wasn't going to stand between me and the real monsters that scarred my life. The few times I went to him saying "Dad it hurts when Mom teases me about this, can you help me" I came away discouraged and undefended. It was up to me to take the abuse, alone. I had no champion at all until Allen came along and finally asked what the hell was going on. He was the first person who attempted to fight the monsters under my bed.

I find all this immensely interesting because the way I look at my dad is (big surprise) similar to the way I look at God. If Dad wasn't big enough/loving enough to fight for me then I don't see why God would be either. And so the monsters, not seeing anyone around with proper butt kicking gear, keep trying to multiply. I keep trying to push forward into my fears instead of running away from them. And many times I still feel alone. I need to find the God who is there because to be quite honest the God I know is the one who still hasn't figured out how to keep poor children in Africa from dying of malnutrition. Yes, He died on the Cross to save us from the wrath of God. Yes, He is the perfect Creator of the Universe. Yes, He is God as revealed by His word in the Bible. Sometimes I just wish I could find the God who sits by my bed and tells me not to worry about the monsters in the closet because Jesus has a special roundhouse kick for closet monsters and He'll be here in two snaps if any monster tries anything in my bedroom. And then maybe He could help my mom.

I wish my dad had taken the time to show me that kind of God. Maybe Dad doesn't know that kind of God exists either. I wish he could have though.

1 comment:

Winn Collier said...

Hi, Natalie. Thank you for taking the time to read - and for posting. I do appreciate it.