Years ago I was fearless.
I remember walking up to people on Central Avenue in Albuquerque and asking them if they knew Jesus.
I think I met an angel one night, but that is a story for conversation over a cup of coffee.
I had a deep joy, a delight in life, and a passion to tell people about Jesus. I had friends who were the same, and we would drink coffee from late night into morning hours at the Frontier restaurant. And Frontier rolls, we would eat lots of them. And tell people about Jesus.
After college I went and spent a little time in a commune in Chicago: Jesus People, USA. I walked streets that were far different than any I had seen, and I learned some wisdom from these folks who had been doing this a long time. I worked in their shelter, and lived in their building and felt lonely and at home at the same time.
But I did not feel afraid.
I returned to Albuquerque, then on to Nashville a couple years later. In Nashville I found a group who ministered in the inner city, and I remember outreaches that made me feel like I did when I witnessed on the streets of Albuquerque.
Then I went to Hungary and Amsterdam and I saw Jesus work on the streets of those towns. I street preached in Amsterdam, not just witnessing…I had a microphone and everything, with a group from YWAM. I also worked in the coffee shop, with the outreach to the homeless. We sang, kinda badly, and walked the streets of Amsterdam and told people about Jesus.
Amsterdam was one of the first places I felt a physical presence of evil…I felt it like a wall. I’ve seen what I can only describe as a demon before, but that was in Nashville and Santa Barbara. Another cup of coffee conversation there. This was different. We came to the walking streets, to the square, to tell people about Jesus, and as we came around a corner there was a cold and a heaviness that hit all of us. There was spiritual battle here, and it was real.
But I was not afraid.
Then I returned to Nashville and outreaches and meeting a man who I knew would be my husband. And I flew home to Albuquerque for a visit. I had coffee with a friend from radio and we talked until the coffee shop closed. Knob Hill, still off that Central Avenue.
We walked out to our cars, with a space between us. A car swept in between us and evil emerged. I remember one of the men looking me in the eye. Holding my gaze for a fraction of a second, and then turning and going to my friend’s car.
I thought he had made it into his car as I had. I pulled out quickly and looked back. Five of them? Swarming around his car? I called the police and drove quickly around the block to return to him…and in those seconds they scarred him. He was a bit tougher than they expected, though. And as I pulled around I found him in his car and the swarm gone. In seconds.
And as I pulled around and found him there, with blood on his face….I was afraid.
It changed everything.
I was afraid of the shadows. Afraid of those who held my gaze longer than a fraction of a second.
It eased in time, but a seed was planted, and now there is a fear I have to counter.
Today I fly to Montreal with the middle boy. The one of adventures to China. He talked us into a quick trip for him to see a favorite French singing artist perform. And I am along for the ride.
And he knows no fear. He wanted to come alone at first. 16. Alone to a foreign (even if it is Canada) city.
He knows no fear.
Even though he broke his bones in China. He knows no fear.
And that is something to delight in, and something to hold dear. Because, it will not last.
Is that harsh?
There will be the moment when evil swarms out and shows its face, and fear will appear. Courage, hopefully, will appear in the same moment.
My trips are tainted now, just a bit. I can feel that fear sneak in in the most unusual places…gripping fear that I have forgotten something, or that there is something I am not equipped to encounter. Fear that steals the joy of a trip. Just for a moment, but it is there.
Our pastor tells us often, because we need to hear it, that the two most repeated commands in the Bible are “Fear Not” and “Sing.”
A pastor from many years ago, when some of us in college were confused and experiencing spiritual challenges, gave us similar advice: “worship”
Take your eyes off the evil, take your eyes off yourself and remember who God is.
He is the God who breaks the rules. He entered our world in a completely unexpected and unconventional way. He surprised us…and He has come into our world filled with fear and uncertainty and told us to Fear Not.
And to Sing.
So, this Advent….are you fearful? Have you had that moment that changed things, that exposed evil to you and surprised you? Do you have that awareness of your insufficiency, even in small things (like remember airline tickets…), that fear that can creep in and make you suddenly feel like a small child ill prepared to face this world of evil?
For lo…unto you this day,in Bethlehem town is born.
Sing. Do battle with that fear, and with the evil that would nag you and distract you…do battle with your song. These Christmas carols we sing, the Christmas carols we hear all around us…they are the words of warfare. Listen to them.
Advent is waiting in the dark and knowing that someone is coming to change everything.
Once we have experienced a deep, shattering fear, like I did that day behind a coffee shop with a friend, I think we are never quite the same. Fear, and evil, are real and are not to be forgotten. But, equally, we know that there is a God who is stronger, and who came. So we wait in these Advent days, and we are aware of our need. And on Christmas Day we should be singing with deep joy and gratitude that our fear will not last.
Sing today. Something…and do it with gusto and with faith.
I’m going to follow my boy around and see the delight and joy he has, that has not yet been tempered with fear. I’m going to remember what it felt like to street preach, to street witness and to no no fear. And I’m going to sing (maybe in my head on the streets so I don’t embarrass him), and I will not fear.
How about you/