Last summer, my girls arrived home from camp exhausted and carrying loads of dirty laundry packed into their overnight bags. They needed some post-camp rest and recovery time at home while I started in on the loads of laundry.
They came home a few days after July 4th, but a nearby community had saved their fireworks display for that weekend so I gave my girls the option: Come with us to the fireworks that night or stay home and rest while we go. (Hurray for having teenagers old enough to stay home on their own and babysit when needed!).
So, off we went to the celebration while they hung out in their rooms in the comfort of their own home.
A few minutes into our fireworks display, though, my daughter called me, sounding terrified: There were strange “squeaking” noises outside in the yard.
I coached her through some possible scenarios and made sure she didn’t hear anyone at the door or in the house. They didn’t sound in danger, so I suggested maybe something was making that sound in our neighbor’s yard. Could they just peek outside the window or a door and see what the noise was?
No way! She and her sister were staying as far away from windows and doors as possible.
In fact, they had hidden themselves away, locking the bedroom door and hunkering down in a closet. My one girl had grabbed her bo staff from her karate classes. My other daughter was weaponless, so she grabbed a hobby horse from her brother’s closet, figuring (I guess) that it was part stick and could therefore be weaponized.
I messaged my neighbors, and kept in contact with my girls while we drove home. Then I finally tracked down the source of the “squeaking.” One of our neighbors had set off some backyard fireworks that night, including some that screamed and squealed when lit. Mystery solved.
But my daughters still felt a little shaken. The karate bo staff didn’t make it back into the closet for a few days. I took the time to review the emergency phone numbers we kept by the phone and how to call our neighbors for help if they ever needed it.
Looking back, of course, we could all have a good laugh. A neighbor sets off some fireworks and my kids lock themselves in closets with sticks.
Still, I get fear. I get what it’s like to hide away, to cry out for help, and to grab frantically for defense when I feel trapped or attacked. I get how fear paralyzes and how it backs you into a corner.
In the book of Mark, I read about how the disciples scattered in terror when Judas betrayed Jesus. The Roman soldiers marched into the garden where Jesus was praying and they marched out again with Jesus as their prisoner.
Then they all deserted him and ran away (Mark 14:50 CSB).
Unlike most of the others, Peter had enough courage to linger nearby. He “followed him at a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard” (Mark 14:54 CSB).
How brave would I have been? Would I have scattered? Would I have followed at a distance? Would I have stormed into the trial and tried to defend Jesus or instead hunched by the fire so that no one knew I was his follower?
Would I have denied Jesus as Peter did that night, three times pretending not to know Jesus when people asked?
I think perhaps Peter was braver and more courageous than I could have been. He loved Jesus enough to follow that mob of soldiers and stayed nearby even thought he risked being caught himself.
The notes in my Bible say this about Peter, though:
…as with many believers, he allowed his human fears to overcome his spiritual resources, which were available to give him strength for the difficult times.
My girls heard a scary, unidentifiable noise and they reached for every resource they had available: a phone call to mom, a lock on a bedroom door, and some big sticks (including a hobby horse).
What do I grab for when I’m afraid?
God has equipped us with these spiritual resources: HIS Word, HIS Character, HIS Strength, HIS Promises, HIS Spirit, HIS fruit.
May I never allow my human fears to overcome all that God gives me. May I learn to rely on who God is, on His great love, and on His might and His mercy instead of any human strength (weak as it is) I can muster on my own.
As the Psalmist said:
When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4 CSB).