It’s really funny how you can go through your life understanding things to be a certain way, and yet for some reason, you still have those moments when you get hit in the face. I am not referring to a slight slap on the face, or even the incidental ball to the face. What I am making reference to is when you are completely still and someone mauls you over, coming out from nowhere at all. You are totally floored, and that feeling of complete shock is followed by a need to do some calculations.
Recently a friend of mine told me I should hop on board the blog train and take a trip down the writing highway. Yeah, I’m sure that sounded stupid, but the actual idea of writing a blog, to me, sounded stupid. I read blogs. I watch vlogs. But why me? That was the question. Strangely enough, not only did my friend try to be persuasive, but she came to the point of what some would call nagging. I am not one to cave very often. I will be the first the admit that though I am really flexible, if my mind is set against something, I will make sure it doesn’t happen. I am very good at digging my feet in the sand.
I couldn’t do that in this situation, could I? See, she didn’t just read a bunch of random writings consisting of ramblings, essays, and more. She actually took a verse that I have clung to for years, and put it right there, smack dab in front of my face. I should explain, that it wasn’t that I didn’t know the verse, nor that I didn’t understand it. It wasn’t even a matter of needing reminding. The verse is proudly displayed in various backgrounds on all three of my computers, and the words “Fear Not” are tattooed on my wrist. I do not really think reminding is necessary. If you’re not familiar with Isaiah 41:10, now is the time. I’m the type of person who likes to give credit where credit is due, but this translation is from my head. I hope you will seek out whatever translation you prefer. I’ve read over twenty, but this is how I repeat it in my head. “Fear not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee. I will help thee. I will uphold thee with my righteous right hand.”
There’s a story behind that verse. You see when I was little, I wasn’t allowed to go to church. Some people believe that religion is just forbidden in some countries where there is political turmoil, or in third-world countries where the funding isn’t available to reach all areas. Nonetheless, even an American child from a middle class family could be denied the opportunity to seek a form of religion. In my case, my dad did not allow me to attend church. My grandmother was Catholic, a religion he detested. I must make a statement here. People can deny you the ability to go to church or to seek out a form of religion; however, no one can get in the way between you and God. God, our amazing Father, has no orphans. He seeks each child out like it was an only child. And so, He wasn’t going to let me go.
My grandmother only had a few chances to sneak me into Sunday Mass before my dad caught on to what she was doing. It was sad when she was forbidden to have me for Saturday night sleepovers, because he didn’t want me going to church. Not only was he cutting me off from church, but he was cutting me off from one of the few role models I had in my life. I didn’t learn manners from my parents, but rather, from observing my grandmother. The way she interacted with friends and family, the way she carried herself., and the particular actions at key moments– I studied it all. I recognized that she was different from my parents, different from many of the people I had seen each day. I could tell that God was with her. I call it “seeing Jesus.” It’s when a person shows the love of Christ and not just on Sundays.
Now getting back to the topic at hand. My grandma didn’t stop when she was left with a firm “no” from my father. She secretly provided me with Sunday School workbooks. I felt like I was hiding some secret documents, carefully placing them in my pillowcase so that they would pass by unnoticed. Surely it would provide me security at night, when there was the possibility of my guard being down. It was a bit tough to sleep at first, but I enjoyed my adventure learning about God by flashlight during the late night hours.
My childhood wasn’t so great, but I was very lucky. My best friend’s Jesus. How awesome is that? I learned so much from the workbooks, and though I didn’t have anyone to guide me, I understood. See religion isn’t simply about learning the traditions and going with the flow. I think too many people get caught in doing religion. Christianity is about having a relationship with God. So yes, Jesus was and is my best friend. We had interesting conversations each night. He helped me keep my sanity and He strengthened me. I didn’t realize there was a reason behind everything, but I figured that out as I got older.
So the “Fear Not.” What about that? Well you see, I’m human. Though some think I am like a robot, able to do anything, with more of this and that piled on top, I’m not perfect and after years of the same struggles, I didn’t travel the narrow path. My grandpa got cancer, Leukemia, and it ate me up inside. I prayed. I prayed long and hard. He was the only grandpa I ever knew, and it came at a time when things were starting to look up. He was the only man in my life at the time that I saw frequently and could say I respected. Everyone loved him. He friends with so many people. He’d give his shirt off his back for someone. And we could sit for hours talking about history, about Abraham Lincoln, and just about anything that came to mind. This Leukemia wasn’t sitting too well with me, and the prayers weren’t getting answered.
I took it very hard when he passed away. He was the first person in my family to die that I knew closely. I was so very angry. I broke down, screamed, had a fit. I even remember punching the wall, filled with rage. I was so angry with God at that time. I felt so let down, and it was more than that. To me, it was a slap in the face, a “you are never going to be happy” ever moment. It was my teenage “why have You forsaken me” moment to be exact. It was then that my naïve mind let me think that I could just walk away, that things would not get better by praying, by putting it in God’s hands. I’ll just suffer through each day and whatever. That’s that.
But life doesn’t work like that. We can’t live with a “that’s that” attitude. When my dad was going through my grandpa’s stuff a few months after the funeral, he discovered my grandpa was a pack rat. He also found that my grandpa had an enormous stash of cigarettes hidden in the garage, but that’s another story. My grandma was hesitant to go through my grandpa’s wallet. She wasn’t ready to deal with all of that stuff. My dad took the wallet, and pulled everything out little by little, as they sat together. Photos, business cards, cash, identification, and then a frayed paper, worn from natural aging.
The paper wasn’t something he cut out, nor something that was purchased. It was scrap paper, with his handwriting. On the paper was Isaiah 41:10, for my grandpa needed the same reassurance I needed. He went through the cancer. As we watched him wither away, he watched us watching. It hurt him to see that, just as it hurt us to watch. But he didn’t give up on God. He didn’t say, “I’m walking away. I’m done.” So why did I?
I think many times in life we are scared. Sometimes we are afraid of the unknown, or of getting hurt. There are times when we are uncertain the path we are to take. There are many fears, but for each one, God has the answer. He doesn’t say “Fear Not” like an unsure parent trying to coax their child into riding the roller coaster. It’s different. Yes, riding the roller coaster typically is okay. But the parent cannot guarantee the child will be safe. There’s always that chance. With God, the “fear not” is God saying that we don’t have to spend so much time worrying, because He is in control. Now maybe we won’t get what we want– we will get better. Maybe we won’t have things work out as we planned– for His plan is greater. The key is to put less time into worrying about what could happen, and invest time in the One who will always make sure you’re safe and never forsake you. See I said He let me down, He had “forsaken me” when my grandpa died, but He was still there; I wasn’t listening. It’s wonderful when we listen, but even when we close our ears, He finds another way. It could be a friend or family member, a dream, or even a withered up scrap of paper that would seem worthless to most.