My first son was born on October 7. For the next day, I thought my heart would burst from the amount of emotion that I was navigating. There was deep, sacrificial love (the movies were correct). There was inadequacy. Humor. Defiance. Exhaustion. It became a 24-hour game of Chutes and Ladders, progressing and regressing into a series of thought and feelings as I formulated a new reality and identity.
But there was one emotion in particular that, no matter how hard or fast I moved my piece, I slid back to. Fear. Dread, as I imagined life with a little one that I was responsible for. I would never have considered myself a fearful person. I am strong. Confident. People jokingly use words like indomitable. I could feel its slick fingers grasp my heart in a way I just wasn’t prepared for. The peaceful, chubby face I cradled in my arms was a study in contrast as I choked back anxious tears, wondering how I could protect him from every ill in the world. From life.
And it just never left. It sits in different places in my heart, an unwelcome guest I unwittingly never completely kicked out. It messes with other areas that used to be off limits. I hate fear. And this month, I’ve hit my limit. I’m done with it.
As I’m writing this now, I’m looking at the figure of Wonder Woman that I keep on my desk. Her arm is raised in a defiant fist. Feet firmly planted. I imagine that if Wonder Woman loved Jesus, she would be shouting Psalm 27:3 at the top of her lungs: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” I’m wondering how I get back to that attitude.
This Sunday, one of our teaching pastors talked about Jesus being completely free from fear. Jesus would echo Psalm 27:3 when he tells the storm to calm down. When he walks through a murderous mob. When he willfully went to the cross. The measured steps of a fearless man. What do he and Wonder Woman know that I have forgotten? What’s the secret?
The writer of Psalm 27 spends the next few verses talking about what it’s like to dwell with God in this magnificent give and take. When he sees God, something beautiful happens (v. 4). God responds to his seeing – he offers protection and salvation. He provides a position of safety and security. It elicits a response of joy and not fear.
One wonders: when Jesus locked eyes with this Father, was there a refresher course on Psalm 27? “I may get rocked by a storm, but you promise to get us to the other side. This crowd may want to throw me off a cliff, but you are protecting me till my appointed time.” And last, “This is a painful death, but I know I will defeat death, and life and salvation are on the other side. I cannot lose in any scenario. So. I. Am. Not. Afraid.” Before his feet were ever firmly planted, Jesus’s eyes were firmly fixed. He knew God was good for the outcome.
Psalm 121 opens with a bold re-directing of the reader’s gaze. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord” (v1-2a). When I’m tempted to fear, I have to re-direct my sight and my focus. Those first 24 hours of my son’s little life were full of coos and squeezes that were almost lost in the torrent of “what if” thoughts that gnawed at my anxious heart. If I allow myself to focus solely on the storm, I’ll drown before my boat even takes on one drop of water.
It’s been five years. I’m wondering whether I at least need the Wonder Woman headband as a consistent reminder to live with my eyes firmly fixed. What I don’t have to wonder is whether the spirit of the one who raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives in me. That’s secure. And I know that’s the resolve that kept the eyes of Jesus on the heart of His Father. I don’t need a headband, or magic lasso, or star-spangled pants for that.