Halloween will turn my stomach a little on Wednesday. You know how much I dislike this particular “celebration”. Yes, because it’s the worst kind of borrowed tradition from our American friends, but mainly because it puts fear on a pedestal. But I won’t bore you with my thoughts on this strange show of support for evil: zombies and witches and vampires and devils (I wonder if it would be considered “just a bit of innocent fun” if our kids dressed as drug addicts and hookers… just a thought).
So the whole jack-o-lantern, black cat, witchy hat crusade got me thinking about the thing that holds it all together. Fear. And, if you will allow the stretch, fear got me thinking about a family holiday in Cairns back when the extent of my responsibilities was for my cat Tigger and washing up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was 16.
Dad fancies himself as a bit of a daredevil and thought he’d jump 50 metres from a platform with a rope tied to his ankles. There we were at the bottom of the bungee jumping platform, craning our necks to watch one person after another commit themselves to thin air before screaming to the exhilarating spring-back point. It got boring quickly for a 16 year old.
I said, “Dad! Get up there or let’s get outta here!” (words to that effect).
To which he replied, “You wanna do it too?”
We climbed all those metal stairs and arrived at the top to a breathtaking view of treetops, city and sea. Dad went first. With his ankles strapped, he hopped and shuffled to the gangplank and waited for the bungee dude to count him down.
That little sequence was repeated, oh, three times before he let go (and he has never lived it down). My turn. I could see dad at the bottom with a Guy Smiley grin all over his face (To be honest, his face was little more than a smudge in the landscape below, but that’s what I was imagining – along with mum’s worried grimace and the younger brother and sister wearing a mix of envy and awe). I jumped. The fear was momentary compared with the thrill of the descent as that mega elastic band allowed me to fall and recoil like a yo-yo. It was seriously fun.
Overcoming fear is exhilarating, and God is in the business. He gave me a verse last week. Unfortunately this was no divine missive or booming voice. I was just flicking through the Bible reading a few random verses and this one leapt out at me as if it wanted to come live in my head:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, New King James Version).
My new mantra. It has broad application: financial woes, health issues, jumping from great heights and the spider under the sun visa. It says, God is on my side therefore fear has no hold. And it’s not about siding with fear, feeding it, glorifying it, wearing its grim reaper mask like a crown. No. Fear is something to overcome and in the doing, our character is enlarged.
Now there’s something worth celebrating.
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday October 29.