-President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
First Inaugural Address, 1933
When I was very young, about three or four years old, my brother and I shared a small bedroom. The walls were stained pine tongue and groove boards. At night a faint light from the bathroom down the hall weakly rested against the doors of the closet and released the true terror contained in the grain of the boards. The beautiful natural wood grain of the day became nocturnal wolves with fangs bared, or bears or dinosaurs with teeth and claws, all poised to spring on all who would dare to leave the bed and pass by to the hall, which is where the bathroom was located.
And if that were not enough, there was a hole in the window. A hole through which snakes would probably be crawling from the back yard into my bedroom and onto my bedroom floor in the middle of the night. The reptilian portal was created by the impact of a bb shot from a Daisy air rifle (accident). The hole might have been as much as 1/32 of an inch in diameter. Everybody knows that snakes can crawl through really tiny holes if they want to. And I knew they wanted to.
So sometimes, in the middle of the night, in the middle of all of that fear, I was faced with a dilemma. I needed to go to the bathroom. But that would require getting out of bed, carefully avoiding the writhing snakes on the floor and the beasts lurking in the dark shadows of the walls. I could have turned on the light, but my brother would yell at me. And that was scary too. All those fears only heightened my need to go. But I would just lie there most of the time, hoping I could go back to sleep and hold it until the morning light scared the demons of the dark away.
Sometimes I couldn't hold it. So, my fear caused me to wet my bed.
And that really stinks.
In the light of day I knew that was right. It wasn't real wild animals that kept me in my bed. It was just fear. Of nothing real.
But in the dark of night, I just couldn't think right. It was scary.
And that is still true. Not the me wetting the bed part.
The fear. And the darkness.
In darkness created by ignorance, and prejudice, in darkness created by the absence of the light of love with a capital L, scary illusions appear. All young black men are thugs. All young white police officers are bigots Illegal immigrants are taking over the country. Their children are spreading disease willy nilly. All politicians are crooks. All government is corrupt. All government is inept. Gay marriage will destroy the family. Muslims secretly want to kill us all. Ebola will eat us all up by next week. ISIS is taking over the world. Someone is coming to take our guns. .The homeless and poor are scamming us. All Democrats are communists. All Republicans worship money and war. All Tea Partiers are nuts. We will all have implanted computer chips in a couple of years. President Obama is . . . there is not enough space to address the lies about him born of irrational fears.. Facebook is taking my picture all the time . . . okay, that might be absolutely true. You get the idea. Feel free to add your own favorite irrational fears in the comment section.
Sure, there are things in the world that are scary, and real. LIke the snakes and wild animals I had been warned about when playing outside were real. But my fears that kept me shaking fearfully in bed in the safety of my house were irrational and ridiculous.
We can only know which is which by having the courage to pull our heads out from under the safety of the covers, get up and turn on the light. But sometimes we prefer to stay in the dark. Because light will reveal the truth. And the truth is not always easy.
There are people who will yell when we try. They want to keep the light turned off, and the irrational fears to mount. They want us to be scared enough to be paralyzed, to keep us where we are, to keep us in the dark, to make us wet the bed. Because let me tell you, wetting the bed is not exactly an empowering experience.
And that is really what some people want. To create fear. Ridiculous, irrational fear. Of something that doesn't exist.
Because if you are controlled by fear, you are controlled. You are powerless.
And that really stinks.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . ."
I John 4:18