Afraid

Chicken!  What are you afraid of? 

The raggedy collection of boys was gathered around, mostly sneering at the skinny kid with bare feet. He looked at their grinning faces as he ran his browned hand nervously through his short sun-bleached hair.

There was nothing to be seen there but derision and scorn.  Not one of them thought he had it in him.  He knew that.  They were certain the terrified little squirt was about to run home to his mama.

Squaring his bony shoulders and taking a deep breath, he looked at the biggest one of the bunch.

“I’ll do it.  I’ll show you.  You think I’m afraid of that old man? What’s he gonna do—call the cops?

With that, he turned and ambled toward the little convenience store determinedly.  The boys waited to see what would happen.

boysbeingboysMoments later, with a triumphant grin on his face, the skinny kid exited the tiny store.  Taking his sweet time, he sauntered up the street to where they waited under the hackberry tree.

They gathered around him again.  “Well?  Show us!” they demanded.

Slyly looking back toward the store, as if to be sure there were no eyes peering from the doorway, he reached in his pocket and drew out a box—a box—of wooden toothpicks.

The boys howled.  

Toothpicks?  You stole toothpicks?  What a loser!  First, you’re too chicken to go; then, you’re too stupid to steal something good. 

The derision coming from all directions was too much.  The little squirt ran home to his mama as fast as his bare feet would carry him.

What are you afraid of?

I want to tell you the answer is—nothing.  

Nothing at all.  I’m not afraid—period.

It’s a lie.

I do not believe anyone walks this earth who has no fears.  Fears come with being human.  

Danger breeds fear.  It’s not an unhealthy thing.

Fear of pain keeps me from putting my hand into the flame of the fireplace.  That’s good.  Burns are not healthy.  People die from severe burns.  You know—infection and all kinds of nasty stuff happens.

Still, there are some fears we keep hidden.  I not entirely happy about these fears.  You see, I have friends who are fond to suggesting that fear is not pleasing to God.  They quote Scripture to prove their point.

Give all of your anxiety to Him, because He cares for you (I Peter 5:7)

Perfect love casts out all fear. (I John 4:18)

I’m not saying they’re wrong.  Fear that paralyzes is not healthy.  Fear that overcomes us emotionally and physically yields disastrous results.

Perhaps, the problem is that we put all fear in the same basket. I’m assuming it’s not all the same.  After all, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7

Fear then, can be useful. It teaches us to exercise care.  It admonishes us to consider carefully our course of action.

But, fear can also be harmful.  Sometimes it makes us curl up into a ball and let the world go by without us.  Often it takes away the impetus for doing good for others.

So, we come back to the original question.  

What are you afraid of?

I want it to be something noble.  I want to tell you I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to accomplish great things.  I want you to believe I’m afraid of not engaging people for Christ.  

It’s true. Those are, indeed, some of the things about which I’m concerned.  The problem is that most of the things I fear are not nearly so noble.

Not nearly. 

Someone asked me the question today.  They were being facetious.  I (also facetiously) told them I was afraid of what people would think of me.

It’s not a thing to joke about.  I am afraid of what people will think of me.

It is the reason the skinny boy who became a grown-up me went into that convenience store nearly fifty years ago—terror of what his peer group would think of him.

Sometimes though, the fear of what people think about me has a positive effect. It causes me to think about how God would have me live.  Other times—not so much.  In those times, my fear is for my reputation,  my image.

Then again, I have other fears which nag—nothing more—at the edges of my consciousness.  I fear being left alone, being left behind, and I want never to experience that reality.  I’m afraid of crying in front of other people, especially my children and the Lovely Lady.  Who wants to be seen as weak?

They’re not all that pretty, are they?  Not all so noble.  There are still a few I’m not yet ready to admit publicly.  

I wonder if I’m the only one.  Perhaps not.

Here is what I do know.  God uses fearful men to accomplish His purposes.

Moses was terrified of talking.  Simply talking.  He rescued an entire nation.

The prophet Elijah ran terrified from an already defeated king and hid in a cave.  God took Him to heaven in a chariot of fire.

Peter was full of bravado and brag, but he was afraid of the waves when He walked with Jesus on them.  He was terrified of a serving girl outside the trial of his Savior, soon to be crucified.  Yet, Peter became one of the founders of the Church as we know it today.

If we put our trust in Him, our God will turn our fears into actions which will yield good things in our lives.  Not just for ourselves, but for God and mankind.

The skinny kid, afraid as he was of what his friends would think, pulled one over on them.  The quarter he laid quietly on the counter as he slipped out of the convenience store more than covered the nineteen cent price tag for that silly box of toothpicks.

Fear works in more than one way.

Sometimes, it is the beginning of wisdom.  

The beginning.

What are you afraid of?

 

 

 

 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 ~ NIV)

 

There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.
(Aeschylus ~ Ancient Greek playwright ~ 525-426 BC)

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

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