She was about ten years old when her dad married my daughter. Every time they visited, she could not relax as we had dogs, and she was deathly afraid of them. Time passed. Her anxiety and fear never abated. She did get clever at navigating her way into the living room; it was safety because no dogs are allowed there.
My heart ached for her, and my whole being recognized her paralytic fear, for I knew how unhealthy it was. One day, I asked her if she would like me to help her—she agreed. I asked her what her greatest fear with the dogs was: She was afraid of being bitten. Fair enough. So, I asked her to sit on the bottom stair, and when she was ready, I was going to ask her to walk across the hall into the mudroom. The hall was not safety, and two big Bernese lay peacefully stretched across it. As much as she did not want to tempt fate, she agreed—she wanted more to be free. She crossed the hall in a dead-run. Made it. She came back across, also in a dead-run. Made it back to the stairs. I asked her each time she “made it” if the dogs had bitten her: “no.” We continued with this exercise until she was able to walk slowly back and forth, and she was peaceful. She was freed from her fear that day. Now she walks the dogs and plays with them. She learned a big life lesson: Her perceived risk of danger was far greater than the actual risk.
Fear is a powerful force. From today’s Gospel reading (Jn 20:19-23): On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you . . . Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
My first instinct is to think that the disciples had good reason to be afraid. It was the Jews, who have just crucified the Lord . . . the perceived risk was likely warranted. But then I think about the Lord. When the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst. No matter how locked in I think I am, he can always come to me. With the Lord, there is nothing to be afraid of. Nothing. Not COVID, not violence, not troubles, not hatred, nor anger, nor hostilities, neither persecution, nor even death. The perceived risk in these is greater than the actual risk. For even if I go through the valley of death, the Lord is with me. I trust him; whether I live my life here on earth, or whether I live my life with him in heaven. He has bid me—Be not afraid.
If this seems an implausible approach to our current day, pray about it, and ask him if it really is. But whether you can believe this or not, join me in teaching our children not to be afraid. Let us free our children from the fears of our day, for truly, they are God’s children first, and we are tasked with keeping them in his heart, as they are in his.
Let the children have his peace; let them laugh and play. We can do this.