What is your biggest fear? Spiders? Ghosts? Teletubbies? Well, I have a confession. Up until a few years ago, my biggest fear was priests. Seriously- a heart stopping, unable to breathe must-run-away-fast fear of Priests. If you wanted me out of a room, all you had to do was ask Father to walk in. Priests scared the snot out of me.
So, why the irrational fear of priests? Like most of our fears, it comes from a traumatic experience. When I was seventeen, my youth minister and my pastor, both of whom I was close to, were glad to see me leave their Baptist church, a decision I made after a hard senior year where I struggled with Baptist theology. Ultimately, they were glad to see the girl with all the hard questions get away from the other kids. I felt betrayed and rejected. As a result, I decided that I would not let myself get too close to someone in ministry again. I was afraid of being hurt.
Throughout the bible, God is constantly telling his people to not be afraid. His mantra seems to be “Do not fear. I’ve got this. Trust me.” Apostle John gives us further insight to fear itself in 1 John 4:18. In this passage, he tells us that God is love; there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out fear. In other words, fear isn’t something that comes from God. In fact, fear can keep us from living the life God desires us to have.
The Apostle Peter gives us a great example of how fear affects us. In the gospel of Matthew we find the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water. It goes something like this. All the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus came down the mountain after spending time in prayer, he decided the best way to get to the boat was to walk on the water. So, he does, and the disciples see him coming to the boat but they don’t recognize him. They become afraid. Jesus calls out to them and says, “Don’t worry, it’s just me.” Peter responds, “If it’s really you, then let me walk on the water towards you.” So, Jesus says, “Sure, come on out.” Peter steps out of the boat with his eyes on the Lord, obviously not afraid. He starts to walk on the water. But, then he looks away from Jesus and notices the wind and waves. He immediately becomes afraid and starts to sink. Then, he calls out to the Jesus to save him. And, of course, Jesus does. Jesus also tells him why he started to sink- he let his fear get in the way of his faith in the Lord. Instead of focusing on Jesus and trusting that Jesus was going to keep him safe, Peter focused on the circumstances and immediately did not trust in the Lord. This lack of faith is what caused him to sink.
Peter’s lesson on fear is one we can learn from. Peter let the circumstances of his life get in the way of his relationship with the Lord. He let his fear overtake his faith. How many times do we do the same? How many times do we choose the easy way instead of the right way because we are afraid? Maybe we go hang with friends instead of going to Mass. Maybe we join in the gossip instead of standing up for the victim. Maybe we do something at a party we know is wrong. We do all these things because we are afraid of not fitting in; we are afraid of not being accepted. We are not focused on the Lord, but we are focused on our circumstances.
Well, guess what? You don’t have to be afraid. You are accepted. You are worthy just for being born. God loves you more than we can ever understand. He wants you to have a life of happiness and joy. He wants to be part of your life and help you do great things. In order to do that, we have to choose to focus on him, and not our circumstances. Now, don’t worry, he knows you will make mistakes. Just like Peter doubted and began to sink, we will do the same. And when we cry out to the Lord, he will take our hand and keep us from drowning. So, you see, there is nothing to fear. God’s got this. He is inviting you on an adventure of a lifetime. All you have to do is look in his eyes and trust. Although life will not always be filled with sunshine and rainbows, life with the Lord will be a happy and joyful experience. Who knows, maybe you’ll walk on water someday.