Sunday, October 9, 2011

We're Scared

This morning I heard a baby crying in church. Its mother quickly took it outside into the hall, but I could still hear it crying. It cried and cried, and cried. The baby could not catch its breath, and its cries continued in rolling waves of distress, separated only by a hiccup of breath intake. And as it cried, its mother’s soft words of concern were lost, ignored in its screams. Too caught up in voicing its own concerns, it could hear no one else, not even the one who loved it most.

It was scared.

And it dawned on me that so many of us in America are scared today, and the newspapers echo each day the crying that we are doing.

But then my thoughts turned from the fear in the hallway back to the altar, as the second reading began:

Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

--- Phil 4:12-14, 19-20

I am no prophet, but I couldn’t help but feel that a dark shadow passed over me this morning, as I thought on the things I had heard. This past week I had people, strangers, come and ask me: “Do you know of someone who has a job available? Do you know someplace where a homeless man, a seemingly good man living in his car, can go?”

In days past I might have seen a good in these requests, for I felt that despite dire reports on the economy, many unemployed people I know seemed to be content sitting at home and waiting, perhaps waiting for things to get better, or perhaps dreaming that a former employer would call them back, but at any rate they appeared not too distressed by their plight, and were not working too hard to seek a solution to their troubles. And so I sometimes said to others, “No one is knocking at my door, asking for work, seeking a place to live. Things can’t be too bad.” So having some actively seek a solution to their problem – finally, seemed to me to be a good thing

But my views changed today, and the activity I might have seen as a good thing, I now feel as an omen. Things may be bad, but they may well get worse.

There are organized protests in various cities. These don’t distress me, even if some of them should turn violent as they have overseas. Like the baby crying, scared of he knows not what, some people may want to lash out in anger: “Someone should do something!!!” And they may expect that then help will come --- because they are crying. What they don’t realize is that the help they are asking for has proved unhelpful in the past. Like the baby, in their distress they want to scream and cry, but not pause to listen. Like the mother for the child, help is there. But in their noise, and fear, those needing comfort are not listening, and sadly, neither are we.

We are the help.

I fear coming months may only be worse in this country, and in the wailing and worry, the ready solution will not be found. Like the mother’s offering, the ideal and quickest solution isn’t from some stranger. It comes from one who loves. Crying for earthly comfort, what will really soothe the worriers is spiritual comfort: love. It’s what we are called to give.

If unemployment is 10% or 20% or even 30%, then there are 70% or 80% or 90% employed, who can afford to help, together, feed one more mouth. In one of the homes of the 7 or 8 or 9, there is an empty bedroom or an unused basement for the one needing it. But these are strangers we might say --- “Stranger-Danger,” as we taught our children. Oh ye of little faith! These are no strangers, they are your neighbors, your scared neighbors, who need your help, who need some love. You have a rainy day fund and you sometimes look at it today with worry, wondering if it will be enough for you at some distant future time. But it is raining on your neighbor, today. And for some, it is a downpour.

And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Many are crying so loudly --- and perhaps even more will in the future --- so many that they can’t hear those who would love them --- you. And we, in our fears, are ourselves crying, and we cannot hear Him who would love us, and make good of our efforts --- Our Father.

Do not be afraid! Do not be anxious! He tells us this over and over. Listen and hear beyond the crying. Don’t scream “Someone should do something,” without looking in the mirror. Don’t march in protest, without having a kneeler to rest upon.

Things may get worse, but God is here, and so is His Body. We trust in Him, and He trusts in us.

How much worse must things get before we begin to organize ourselves to help, and to live up to His trust? Where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth is not meant to be here, because we are here, we who have seen and heard Him, and who follow Him. We need not feel overwhelmed, seeking some massive solution that “somebody” should implement to end unemployment or hunger in this country. That is not His example: He healed and helped, one at a time.

As we should. We may be scared, but let us not be scared into inaction or despair. He is with us. As the reading said: My God will fully supply whatever you need.


  1. Excellent words here Tom! At first I thought "why would the baby be scared? Wouldn't he just be hungry or uncomfortable?" But hunger and discomfort do cause fear for how would he know when his next meal would come or how his discomfort would be relieved? Thanks for this thought-provoking post and the understanding that God will always be there to care for us-can we stop crying long enough to allow Him to comfort us?

  2. I don't know, Anne. Talking in the coffee shop this morning about this, another complete stranger overheard, and came over to tell his sad story.

    I know I am an adult in the Army of Christ, willing to follow Him and defend all His children!!! But in my heart of hearts, I am just one of those children, wary of what's in the closet or under the bed, even while knowing there is nothing to worry about: He said so.

    I trust in Him --- but I still feel better when I can feel Him holding my hand. Alone, despite all my knowledge and trust, I still am an anxious little child, with so much yet to learn.