I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?
And they are decidedly not cool.
I cannot explain this.
All I know is, my dear spouse has never allowed me to forget the time he came home and the following conversation ensued:
Him: Sweetheart, why are all of my shoes in the bathtub?
Me: There was a spider.
No further words were necessary.
I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I knew they spent their creepy crawly existence. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.
So what, oh what, could have ever inspired me to willingly walk into a pet store and hold a tarantula?
It was Jesus’ fault.
The team of fifteen adults and teens I was about to lead to Costa Rica for missions had fears. Where will the money come from? What if I get sick? Should I really take my kid? Can I take two weeks off of work? I had answers for all of them. I wrote the book with those answers. Literally.
Yet in the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I realized I had that one niggling fear that I refused to face. The spiders.
It seems small, to think of fear of spiders as a huge impediment to mission, but the truth was, I knew I had to face it or be a hypocrite. I couldn’t coach others to take medicine I would not swallow.
I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.
I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.
“Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8.14-15, The Message)
Grave Tenders or Adventurers?
What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.
So why don’t we? Why don’t we feel like we are created for incredible purpose? Why don’t we wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” Why don’t we expect wonder?
Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We go on tending to the same dead things every day.
If my identity is being God’s representative here on earth, the imago dei to my neighbors, family, and total strangers, it’s a whole lot safer to remain a grave tender. No one in a grave ever expected anything hard of me. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.
It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.
In her new book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, author Kelly Balarie’s relates her journey with fear and living into her identity as God’s child. I think you and I will find it relevant to the question of fearful adventurers everywhere. As Kelly herself relates:
“I wrote the book Fear Fighting as a desperation call to God. I knew God’s greatest callings were before me, but I couldn’t stop trembling and to start walking into them. God answered my cries; he moved me from fear-‘full’ to fear-‘less.’ He took me from unsure to unbelievably excited to move forward with him.”
Isn’t that the identity we cry out for? But grave tending keeps holding us back.
Observers or Participants?
Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.”
Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.
So the question for me in front of that spider aquarium was: Do I want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life–or do I want to participate in one?
Do I want to live into my identity as His child or live into the lie of fear?
God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!