On the Feast of St. Joseph we can reflect on fear and trust. Joseph was in a quandary. Mary was with child and they were not yet formally married. The Torah and its interpreters spelled out specific punishments for this including death for the woman. Joseph had to be afraid and yet he understood that God was calling him to trust and let things work out.
In a speech given in 1990, Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Burma/Miramar said:
It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. . . . Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’ – grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.
Fear does amazing things. It corrupts. It paralyzes. It causes people to make unwise choices. Fear is debilitating to the human spirit.
How many times did Jesus say, “Do not be afraid?” Jesus wanted to shift our focus on God from fear of the sin checker in the sky to trust in a loving Father.
Yesterday I had an experience that taught me something about fear and trust. My first step was to call Gatorland in Orlando and buy a ticket for the zip line over alligators and crocodiles. That was the easy part. On my 71st birthday, we drove to Gatorland. There are five segments to the zip line, the highest being 60 feet off the ground. There is also a cable bridge between the fourth and fifth segments. There are alligators, crocodiles and other creatures lurking below. The hardest part was jumping off the first platform. When I landed rather awkwardly on the second platform and waited for the next ride, I noticed that my hands were tingling. I had really held on to the two tethers securing me to the zip cable. When I glided off the second tower, I sensed my tight grip and and told myself to relax and let go. In an act of trust I entered into the moment of the ride and the rest of the segments were easier.
Experiences such as this help us understand our relationship with the Creator. It is natural to fear heights and illness and death. If we are always asking, “What’s gonna happen?” we certainly cannot live in the present moment. Regular meditation practice teaches us to live in the present and to enjoy what is happening here and now. We all have opportunities to understand, “Do not be afraid” at ever deeper levels.