by Charlotte O
I don’t really know why, but somewhere along the way, I’ve developed a healthy fear of dogs. Actually, healthy might not be the right word to describe it. It might go back to one of my first nights in the countryside of Taiwan, when my roommate and I innocently decided to go for an evening walk in the small village where we were staying. Unfortunately, our walk lasted a very short time as we encountered a lot of dogs fiercely guarding their territory. Later, I also had the terrifying experience of being chased by dogs while driving my scooter, where it’s like what do you do? Drive faster which encourages it to take up the chase? Attempt to kick it without falling over? Anyways, I’ve come to learn that dogs are not always friendly, and even now, if I’m walking alone I get nervous if there’s a stray dog or pack of dogs on my path. Actually nervous isn’t even the right word, because it’s an almost irrational fear, so that even while I’m telling myself “stay calm, just ignore them, remember, dogs can smell fear!” there is a lurch in the pit of my stomach that I can’t control.
Now obviously this reaction is limited to dogs sans master. I don’t really feel afraid or nervous around dogs owned by my friends or family members.
So this got me thinking about a story in the Bible. It’s a story about fear. It takes place in the book of Mark:
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-40 NLT)
A lot of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, and most had grown up near water. So they would know that you need to have a healthy respect for or even fear of a sea where storms can come out of nowhere. The only one in the story who was not afraid was Jesus, who was sleeping during the ‘fierce’ storm. After Jesus calmed the storm, he asked them why they were so afraid. He wondering why it was that after walking with him, seeing him heal the sick and cast out demons, they still didn’t understand who he was. I imagine that they had that same fear in their gut, an almost uncontrollable fear that triggers the fight or flight response in all of us. And why? Because they didn’t realize that the Master was there. That he holds the wind and waves on a leash. They knew he was powerful, but they didn’t yet believe he was God.
And what about us? Self-preservation aside, how willing are we to trust that Jesus really is who he says he is? How often do we hesitate to put our lives into his hands? The fear of not being in control is an irrational fear because control in our lives is usually an illusion anyways.
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