Mondays are my days off.
This past Monday was spent in the very small half-bath just off the kitchen stripping wallpaper. Make that - stripping wallpaper that was on top of wallpaper – truly a task that can make one lose her religion. It was tedious and messy and performed in a very confined space. If you come to visit or to attend our Christmas Drop-In, please do make a visit to said bathroom, and please “ooh” and “ahh” over this renovated face-lift.
So as I sprayed the remover goop on the wall and waited, and then peeled away layer by layer, and sprayed more and waited more and peeled more and scraped more, I listened.
I had turned the kitchen TV to CNN and upped the volume. And I listened. Paris was all over the news. And Syrian refugees. And words like “ISIS” and “mastermind” and “retaliation” and “suicide bombers” filled the silent space of a wreck of a bathroom. And by the end of the day, with shoulders and back and neck sore from the process, I can honestly say that I felt . . . afraid.
Not just afraid to travel, but afraid to leave my own home. I think being afraid is one of the worst feelings in the world. I’m almost 50 years old, and I still don’t like the dark very much. Spiders, snakes, and mice – don’t get me started. I hate being afraid. And I hated seeing fear in the eyes of my sons when they were little and experienced something that caused panic to set in. It’s just the worst feeling in the world.
And if you listen to enough news, you too will be afraid. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to know what’s happening in the world. We must be informed. We cannot remain ignorant concerning current events. But if you listen long enough, I can almost guarantee you they will make you afraid. Very, very afraid.
For those who love and believe the Bible, let us be reminded: Fear Not! One of the most frequently used phrases in all of Scripture – Do Not Be Afraid.
But it takes work to overcome our fears. Daily, persistent, intentional WORK. You have to decide not to be afraid. You have to take deep breaths, utter phrases that are filled with Truth rather than propaganda over and over to yourself, and then push yourself to press through the fear and decide to live life to the fullest. (John 10.10)
Just because one is a follower of Jesus will not make this come naturally. It’s going to take some creativity. It’s so interesting to me that Paris gets attacked and now we are afraid of Syrian refugees. REFUGEES! The very calling of the Church. It’s an irony, really.
Could someone wanting to do harm get past the serious and tedious vetting process? Of course. Frankly, I’m shocked that a 9/11 or a Paris attack doesn’t happen every week given the number of people so filled with venom and hate that they would gladly die for their cause. But we must not give in to those fears that paralyze us from doing what is good and right and just. That is the insidious nature of fear – paralysis.
And that is no way to live the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So back to the creativity. I’ve seen the photographs. I’ve read their stories. I’ve heard both sides of the arguments about what Governors are saying about taking in refugees. And still, I can’t get those refugees out of my mind. Have you seen their faces? They are afraid.
And did I mention how much I hate that feeling? I see our Youth Building that sits empty for the most of the week. Mattresses and cots. Sheets and blankets and towels. Washer and dryer. Showers and unlimited hot water. A full kitchen. And I wonder . . . could we take in a refugee family for a year so that the fear would leave their eyes?
Perhaps one of the refugee families that North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory wants to keep out. Could we take them in? Could we help them access services and teach them English? Could we help them start a new life and turn their fear-filled eyes into lenses of hope and joy?
Could we? Should we?
If the Church can’t open its doors, who can? But if people like Gov. McCrory can’t see fit to let them come, how can the Church use its creative options for Compassion – you know, welcoming the stranger and all.
Fear not. Fear not. Fear not.
Saturday is my next day off. I’ll be painting the un-wallpapered walls. I think I’ll leave the news silent. Maybe just listen to a ballgame or two. And maybe I’ll let every stroke of the paintbrush fuel some more creative thinking about how to turn fear into Hope. Tis the season, you know . . .
Photo Credit: Bengin Ahmad
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