Heather and I were sitting there at the table, hands curled around cups of coffee with homemade pumpkin spice, my feet kicked up in her purple chair when he came running in from the living room, sock feet slipping on the floor, out of breath, eyes wild.
And he buried his face so deep in her shoulder that I wasn’t sure he could even hear her questions.
“What’s going on? Are you scared?”
He was stock still, arms vise-gripping her neck, but somehow she still managed to take a couple of sips of coffee with her free arm while he hung there. We waited.
And then we realized what was happening.
There was a clown on TV.
And for a 9-year-old in a world where creepy clowns are on the loose, that’s about the worst thing that could happen.
It was a clown that was juggling or something, one that had zero ill will toward this little guy in Heather’s house. It couldn’t have been safer. It was hard to imagine that in this kitchen, where the pumpkin scent was mixing with french toast casserole and the dog was lazily drumming her tail against the floor under the chair that this sweet kid could be having a moment of total, all-consuming terror, as if that clown was going to bust out of the TV and end up in the kitchen.
But he was. He was scared. And I felt for him.
I’ve been that kid.
More times than I can count, I’ve been gripped to my core with a fear of the wrong thing.
It’s not been too long ago, the last time I remember having that kind of sock-footed ragged-breath fear. It comes sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes when I wonder if I’m going to lose someone I love or if I’m going to make the wrong decision or if I’m failing at the thing God asked me to do.
I look at the ifs.
And like a storm, fear comes roaring in.
Many times have our struggles in life been referred to as storms, and many times we’ve been told to keep our eyes not on the waves, but the One who controls them, from the story in the Gospel of Mark.
A storm came on, the disciples were about to die in the boat, so they woke Jesus up, He said “peace, be still” and everything stopped.
Remember He’s in control, remember His peace to calm your fear of the storm — that’s the way I’ve often looked at that.
But what if it’s really fear that we use to fight our fear?
J.D. Greear said in a really great message last month that he’d gotten in a debate with his daughter over “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” In the book, Mr. Beaver had said that Aslan, a lion and king, wasn’t safe, but he was good. And that didn’t make any sense to his daughter. How could he be good and unsafe?
“Here’s how I’d describe it,” J.D. said. “They say that at high altitudes like Mt. Everest, storms can come on suddenly. In the space of a few seconds, the temperature can drop 30 or 40 more degrees, accompanied by severe, gale force winds. Imagine that you were caught in such a storm. The wind effortlessly sweeps away your equipment. You hear the fierce howl of the winds and feel the deep, penetrating cold. You know that death is just a few moments away. But just when you are about to give up hope, you notice a small opening in the side of the mountain, leading to a regressed cave. Inside that cave, another traveler has made a fire and is preparing a meal. As you sit by the fire, sheltered from the storm, you can look back out into the storm, marveling at its awesome power. That storm may no longer be a threat to you, but you still feel a hushed sense of awe before its power.“
That was the disciples after Jesus made the world stop that day on the sea.
In Mark’s storm story, Jesus was bigger than the storm on the sea — He was the storm on Everest.
The far bigger storm.
He was the storm the disciples could marvel at with trembling while held in perfect love. They were in the all-powerful hands of this infinitely unsafe and infinitely good cyclone of a Savior, watching His power from a crevice in the side of Everest.
The disciples had just thought they were going to buried at the bottom of the sea. Then Jesus stopped their world, their storm, their death on a dime. And then they were really afraid.
Who. Is. This. Did you see what He just did?!
It was when they looked straight into the eyes of the Person they feared more than the storm — the good and unsafe Friend and all-powerful God of the universe — that the storm didn’t matter anymore.
His love offered in outstretched hands became even sweeter because fear became so much greater.
What kind of love is being offered to us when the power of a terror-filled, life-threatening, hair-raising storm is held in a mere whisper of the God who invites us into a relationship with Him, one that’s even more secure than a quiet kitchen with pumpkin-spice coffee and french-toast casserole?
What happens when we can bury ourselves with abandon and total trust under the arm of a God who with a word could wipe out anything that could hurt us? What kind of life can we have when we know nothing can snatch us from His hand … and we really know who He is?
We see our storms.
We look at Him instead.
And like a lion, life in all its fullness comes roaring in.
“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.
It’s the story of shaking off broken dreams and expectations to see God for who He really is and follow Him to something better — to a far better story.
You want in? I’d love it if you’d come along.
(And if you’d like to read a free chapter, feel free to hop on over here.)