While I don't completely buy into the words: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself", fear operates in mostly a detrimental way in people's lives. Unhealthy fears.
L.L. takes us to the time when she sits with her love watching Indiana Jones in his death-defying last crusade. She makes it plain that this is not her! That she is one who has been given to protecting her life. Understandable when you read what has preceded this time in her life, in the earlier chapters. But paralyzing, and growth stunting, just as she says. She explains how well she identifies herself with Jonah in wondering how she would respond to her stepfather if he was alive today. If she was able to invite him to faith and he repented would she have open arms for him? I can understand her reticence in that and appreciate her vulnerability as well as commitment to the grace of God in Jesus, to work through such questions.
I too have been held back by unhealthy fear in my own life. It has held me back from doing many of the things I could have done in following the sense of call I had from God. I was too often wrapped up in trying to avoid that which might hasten my death. Too busy worrying about dying to really live. My fears took on many faces, but the face of death was the one that haunted me the most.
Thankfully as I'm now in my fifty-third year, I have come to accept much more the inevitable (as long as Jesus tarries). This has freed me more than I can imagine, in ways I've already become accustomed to. So when I do fall into some pit of paralyzing fear, and it still does happen, I especially hate it, and while learning to carry on better than in the past, as well as get out of it sooner, I know it's not of the truth found in Jesus. Better to die living than to live in a fear which takes the life right out of us. I know all too well what I'm talking about, and even at this moment in recalling this, I feel something of the same inner dread and turmoil which used to plague me off and on, regularly.
L.L. gives us on a most interesting look at Jonah. Jonah, whose name means "dove" was called by God to go on a peace mission to a people who not only were enemies of Jonah's people, Israel, but were dangerous enemies, known for their cruelty. L.L.'s venture of guessing that what plagued Jonah through this story was fear, the fear of losing his head or his "wings", seems more and more plausible to me as I consider the story. And at least it's a good application possible from this story.
L.L. points out how Jonah may have thought, at least subconsciously, that he might be that dove cut up with blood flowing, for an offering. And the story goes from Jonah fleeing from death to learning the hard way that there is no safety for God's servant except in God's will and in his hand. And really no sure escape from death by one's own efforts, either.
Of course the One who swallowed the cup of death for us so that we would never have to take that cup of ultimate, final death ourselves, is the One who is with us, telling us over and over in Scripture, "Be not afraid." "How truly brave Jesus was to face the hardness of death and loss, with love and grace to draw him onward. I pray for love and grace to draw me onward too." (page 73)
This is a delightful chapter and one in which most interestingly L.L. unfolds a helpful take on the story of Jonah. We can better see that the same God of this Jonah who is so like us, is our God as well. And that he will see us through, yes even us, just as he saw Jonah through in spite of himself.
We shouldn't forget the "discussion questions" in the back. Here are two of them:
"Hebrews 2:15 says that Jesus has freed us from the fear of death. What might this mean, especially since a Christian may still express fear of dying? Are there different aspects of the fear of death?
"Peacemaking is often viewed as a 'soft' mission as opposed to the 'hard' mission of war. Considering the story of Jonah, do you agree that peacemaking is a soft mission?" (page 157)
What would you like to add to the thoughts on this chapter?
1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
Next week: Chapter 10: "Old Stone Church - love"