In cities like San Jose, we do not think much about going almost anywhere at night. Yeah, we have locations where your awareness is raised but not really communities that when darkness came you would stay away from. Oakland is a different thing. For many, there are parts of that city even a drive through causes a racing heart and fear. I remember one night while in my internship having biked to the church, and it had gotten dark before I headed home. A member of the church, knowing where I was going to pick up the Bart began pleading with me to let him take me to the station, or at least pick up the BART at the station closer to the church. Being young and maybe a bit stubborn, I refused, to say, “If it is my time, it is my time; anyhow, what would they do to me?”
I made it to the train with no incident and back to the seminary safely. Nevertheless, I have always thought about the fear that member had, it was visceral, and I am sure a bit experiential, but I have always thought about the question of what the fear was. Obviously, I am no fool, and anytime I ride through any neighborhood, I keep awareness for my safety and what is going on around me, but the aspect of my life I never worry about.
One thing I have learned both in my past medical life, and my ministry is that death is part of life, and we do not know when it is going to happen. Interestingly I have met many people prepared for a death that never comes and, unfortunately, people who are way too young when it does. The interesting thing is that when we let go and live whether we live or die, we are able to live fully. It is why I love riding my bike when I can; the exercise wakes my whole body and no matter what stresses I might face it reminds me that I am alive.
Fear is an interesting thing. While I speak of the fear of death, there are a lot of other fears that keep us from fully living. As we can see in the world around us, the fear of the unknown is what really becomes debilitating. Interestingly the success of the community that we are in is founded within a “why not?” culture, where the fear of the unknown is changed into the possibility of what could be. That view and approach leads to excitement and a creativity that is boundless. However, we also see how the restraints find their way in and the creativity and exploration become lost to the mundane ritual of getting by.
Fundamentally, as Christians, fear should not be part of our lives. Over and over again God asks us the question of why we fear anything other than him. Like this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah where God said that he would provide and deliver from those who might cause harm. Moreover, knowing and trusting in a resurrection, means that the ultimate fear is nothing to be afraid of, the basis of which is trusting and knowing that our lives are with him.
As you prepare for Sunday, think about the times in your life where you let fear hold you back. Explore the ways in which that fear might have been about you and ask yourself, while in the midst of that fear, did I turn to God and did I listen for God? Did I look for God? Did I Trust in God?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen