A reflection on Matthew 10:24–39, the Gospel lesson for Proper 7a according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
Fear really is the antithesis of faith.
And yet, fear hangs on us like humidity on an summer night. It coats us front and back, and attracts all kind of grime, so that even when it’s dries it’s still sticky.
In adulthood we may not be living in fear of what bumps in the night, what’s under the bed, or in the closet… But how many of us are scared to death of people finding out what our life is really like? How much energy do we expend trying to keep a failing marriage, crumbling finances, problems with the children, our health issues, etc. locked up in an emotional vault so that no one will ever know our struggles? How much focus do we expend on trying to project to others that we’re competant, talented, and successful so that no one will ever know our inner thoughts of critique and failure?
It’s the fear that we’ll be “found out.” Found out that we’re not as put together, smart, or care-free as we’d like to project to the world. Found out that our lives have problems, that we have problems, and that sometimes those struggles consume our thoughts through the day and keep us up at night.
Our ancestors feared famine, war, the rise of an evil leader. They feared for their lives, and the lives of their children, day in and day out.
I’m not interested in minimizing our modern fears and feelings…because I think at their core they are the same thing. The fear of being “found out” is the fear of death. It’s the fear of our own mortality, and the reminder that we aren’t even close to invincible.
We’re held together by tendons and synapses, and the lives we live are held together by so much less.
I’m a mess, and if it weren’t for a little spit and scotch tape I’d crumble onto the floor. And so would you. And, I can either let that eat away at me from the core of my being… I can try and numb it with a bottle of wine or a bottle of pills… Or, I can let it go.
And, that’s what Jesus offers us.
So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known…even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid.
Do not fear the teacher. Or the master. Or the boss. Or the next-door neighbor. Your supremely successful high school classmate who has his own jet. The person who critiques your work…your art…your sermon.
Do not fear them. There is nothing to be afraid of anyway, because God has counted your every hair, your every wrinkle, your every cell. And you are loved.
It sounds easier than it is. We’re wired to fear death from our very genes. And, our culture has wired us to be “successful,” and has very helpfully defined what that success actually looks like. (Thanks, culture.)
One of St. Benedict’s central spiritual truths is to consciously recall our mortality every day. Every day we’re to remind ourselves that one day, perhaps even today, we’re going to die. There’s wisdom there. Because, for Christians death is nothing to fear. It’s not an end, but a new beginning. And, so who cares if we got a “C” in European History, or the big client fired our firm, or our front hall closet could be a SuperFund site, or if our marriage has fallen apart, or if we’re considering filing for bankrupsy, or if we can’t get past a second interview, or if we’re found out.
It’s ok. For even those who lose their whole lives will be found, along with their every hair.
So, do not be afraid.