Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side. Later that night, the boat was pounded by the waves, and the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14
Lord Jesus, who brings calm out of chaos: Help us recover our True Selves, that we might trust you with courageous and free hearts. Amen
The Bible tells a story about Jesus’s disciples being afraid during a storm. (A common childhood fear.) One evening after a long day of teaching and feeding a crowd, Jesus directed his friends to take their boat to the other side of a large lake. He then headed into the mountains for an evening of solitude. (A common practice among wise parents and servant leaders!)
At dawn he comes walking to them on the stormy lake. When they see him, they are terrified and telling themselves a catastrophic story—“Not only are we stuck in a violent storm, but a dark spirit is coming after us too!”
The disciples’ emotional reaction lines up with Brené Brown’s research on courage and human nature. When something bad happens to us, the brain immediately concocts a story to make sense out of the events. The story does NOT need to be true; in fact it’s usually untrue. Your brain is looking for the quickest explanation in an effort to protect yourself. This is why it’s so hard to stay grounded in faith when something scary is happening.
The disciples are frightened by the storm. They don’t quite trust Jesus, because they’re not yet convinced of God’s power to walk us through difficulty. Jesus explains to them that they have “hard hearts”—they are stuck thinking in the false and fearful categories of scarcity, victimization and self-protection.
It’s easy in this troubled world to forget that we are the children of God. When get overwhelmed, we fall prey to anxiety about scarcity and catastrophe.
Lent is a good time to remember who we are and what it means to be children of God and disciples of Christ. In the story, Jesus urges us, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid.” The story tells us that Spirit of Christ is more powerful than any threat– and able to calm any chaos. But this confidence can only happen in us when we are grounded in our true identity in Christ. Without access to your True Self, you cannot freely exercise faith when storms come. The opposite of freedom and well-being is fear and greed. But we have the option to choose!
For me, the best way to overcome fear is to stop and really feel it and say to myself, “I’m scared, but it’s only a feeling. Fear has no power; but God’s Love does!” When I don’t stop and talk to myself about fear, it spirals. When I stop, breath and confess my fear, I have the opportunity to remember God’s presence and receive Peace. This is not a perfect science, but it’s a good start.
As I’m typing this, the news is telling scary stories about the consequences of coronavirus in Italy. I’m glad we can practice some simple self-care wherever we are.
Have a blessed evening, and rest safely,