Fear for our lives.

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There are moments in my life where all I can think is “How did I end up here?” One such moment was a whole bunch of years ago, at a different church, as I was standing approximately 30 feet in the air (it felt like 30,000) on a platform no bigger than my shoes. I was strapped in to a harness, and that harness was attached to a rope, and that rope was being held by one volunteer and three students. The only thing between me and certain death were three students, at least two of whom were itching to pull out their cell phones. Not good.

The goal of this exercise was to some how summon enough courage to leap from the platform into the abyss of nothing, touch a little ball, and fall gently to earth. I had some reservations. So it took me a little while to gather my wits, think fondly of my loved ones, and then leap from the platform. Unfortunately, it had taken me so long to consider everything that the students at the end of my rope (literally and figuratively) had found their way to their phones, and weren’t watching me. I feel a good 15 feet or so in complete free fall, until the adult who was serving as my literal last line of defense caught the rope and kept me from falling to the earth.

This, I would argue, was a situation in which a little bit of fear was required.

We are, after all, animals, and as such have an evolutionary desire to keep ourselves alive. So anything that could possibly cause us harm is to be avoided. Some people are nuts, and actually desire that sensation of feeling your life slip away from you, and so we invented things like Kennywood and Skydiving. But by and large, most of us know to keep ourselves safe.

But like all things in life, I think there’s a dark side to this impulse. I have known people in my life who, usually following some tragedy or trauma, find themselves afraid of just about everything. Every door knob in their lives is infested with too many germs. Every crosswalk is a death trap. You can’t sit in the lower bowl at hockey games, because an errant puck will absolutely kill you. Again, these folks are usually in the wake of a pretty serious stressor in their lives, and with a bit of counseling usually wind up working through these fears. But I wonder if some of the rest of us are so busy fearing for our lives that we forget to live them?

I read recently a little bit about our nation’s growing peanut allergy. In the mid 1990s, the number of kids who were allergic to peanuts was starting to grow, so parents, educators, and doctors did what seemed obvious: limit the amount of peanuts kids could have. But a research study in 2015 discovered that it was in fact because we were limiting access to peanuts by our kids, that the allergy was spreading. Kids weren’t given enough time to build up anti-bodies and resistance to the allergens, so they never allowed their bodies to fight it. What we thought was keeping us safe was actually harming us.

So my argument in all of this is pretty simple: Live your life. Live your life in a way that honors the adventures that God wants to call you on. Maybe go a little lighter on the skydiving, but fear not. Go to the places that God intends you to go, to meet the people that God intends you to meet. Take some risks, because it turns out that risks are actually good for us.

And whatever you do, do not trust your own youth group kids to keep you from falling out of a tree.

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