Fears, Vacuum Cleaners, and the God Who Has Conquered Them All

Normally I am too proud to admit such things as I do now for fear of others’ perceptions. But I’m getting older. And with age has come the wisdom to realize that vulnerability and honesty are the keys to victories that have eluded me years before.  So here it is:  I’m afraid. There. I said it.

My siblings knew me to be the easiest scare growing up. Regardless of the fact that I was the oldest and (perhaps) the wisest, those jokers knew that a rambunctious BOO! from behind the closet door would always rattle my nerves and reward that particular prankster with an all-day laugh. My wife gets the occasional giggle over how easily I am frightened or alarmed by random things—a car backfiring, turbulence on a flight, or any potential bad news. Yup. I’m a scary guy. Allow me to show how fear can continue to grip me at times.

I fly about 2-3 times a month on average. Here lately I’ve been flying more than I ever have. Guess what? I’ve always been terrified by flying! The early years weren’t so bad. But then 2009 came. We were taking off out of Atlanta and, during takeoff, our engine blew. The plane was rumbling and struggling to climb. And the tell-all sign confirmed my fears—the flight attendants were just as terrified as I was. This was it. Everyone on the plane was holding hands. Some were crying. I kind of ‘knew’ I was about to die. The only thing I was thinking, “Lord I pray this just doesn’t hurt.” Obviously we made it. But now every time I fly I’m usually in a good deal of prayer asking the Spirit to calm my fears. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m always landing in a town they call the windy city. Sheesh.

Most of you know I was sick a few years ago. Doctors found kidney cancer just before our wedding. And all my fears (My mom died of cancer) were confirmed in a sense. But God was gracious in healing my body. The cancer was surgically removed and I’m still cancer free. But I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that every blood test, every ‘strange’ pain, and every story about someone else’s cancer woes doesn’t send me periodically into worry and fears that I won’t get to live out some dreams I’ve been working on. April and I are having a blast in life—and I want that to continue. Camden is growing like a weed and learning new words every day—and I want that to continue. I think maybe some day I actually might be able to contribute to the academic community through my experience in scholarship—and I want that to continue. I love the church. And I LOVE pastoring—and I want that to continue. Fear is real.
We all have fears. It is a part of being who we are—human. Some of us fear being judged. Others fear never ‘getting it done.’ Some of us fear illness. We fear we won’t get the job. WE fear the job we have may NEVER satisfy us. We fear what may happen with our kids. We fear rejection. We fear we may never get married. We fear our marriage may never work out. Many fear having to face our deepest issues or our darkest secrets. And all of us, at least on some level, fear the grandaddy of them all—mortality. Fears fears fears. The world is full of fears. If you fear something I’ve got news for you. You are normal. You are not weird. You’re not strange. You’re not a loser. Just normal.

You’re just like all of God’s other kids…which leads me to what I hope will bear fruit in this note. We. Are. God’s. Kids. God is our DAD. And this is GOOD NEWS!

In his earlier months, our boy Cam was terrified of the vacuum cleaner. When I say “terrified” I mean he would lose it. He was just done. Screaming. Trying to get away. It was bad. He was about 7 or 8 mos. old after all. The sight and sound of a monstrous machine roaming across the carpet can be foreboding. From the start it was apparent that this kid and vacuum cleaners do not mix. Either that or he is brilliantly devising a scheme to keep himself out of housework when he’s older! So we jumped into a rhythm as parents for when Cam has to face the vacuum cleaner. One of us would prepare to vacuum. The other would first pick him up, speak softly to him and tell him what was about to happen. Then the vacuuming parent would get to work while the other parent would caress Cam as the madness ensued. If it was my turn to hold him I’d say, “See bud? It’s just a vacuum cleaner. But I got you. And you’re all right!” He still cried at first. But eventually he grew to at least tolerate the vacuum cleaner and stop crying. His progress is forthcoming. This weekend while we vacuumed, not only was he walking near it, but, still wary of his inclination towards vacuum cleaners, he would give the machine a grimacing look as if to say, “I will KICK you if you come near me!” It appears that, when it comes to our fears, the caressing tactics of a parent goes a long way.

I say all this to pray, “Lord, I invite you to do with my fears what you led April and I to do with Camden’s vacuum cleaners.”  Pick us up. Give us caution about what may happen. But let us know that when things happen you’ll hold us. You’ll tell us that you have us and that we’re all right. And eventually, though we still may have to deal with these things, you’ll give us that spirit of confidence that helps us not only weather those waters, but sail through them with vitality.

Join me today in giving your fears to the God of Heaven. One of my professors put it this way last week. (Paraphrasing) He said something to the effect that, “Mankind’s deepest concern is that of his death and what happens next—and the gospel of Jesus Christ has answered this question.  On the cross and through the resurrection, Jesus has responded graciously to life’s deepest fear and concern.”  Hallelujah. For He has given an ANSWER to life’s deepest fears!!  And I say to myself and to you that if He has answered the darkest fears, He has certainly responded to all those in between.

So what’s next? Here it is: Live. Live! LIVE!!! If we’re not careful, we’ll give more time to fear than to the dreams and desires Jesus has knit our souls with! So rehearse the truth with me friend:  This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice AND be glad in it! Take up the day and seize it for His glory. Get after it. Put hands to the plow knowing that God has you. Get back in the fight. Get back to what God has called you to do. He is our captain and He will make a path for us to know the abundant life in Christ.

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