I remember one night, at three or four years of age, being unbelievably afraid. I huddled deep under my covers because I was sure I saw a humongous gorilla sitting in the chair across my bedroom.
I was so afraid that I wouldn’t even call to my mother for fear the gorilla would get out of the chair and get me or my mother. It turned out the gorilla was not real, as I learned later.
We all have fears; small, big, imagined, or immobilizing. A Bible story in Mark Chapter 4 relates to Jesus’ disciples being afraid they would perish in a raging storm at sea, while Jesus napped in the back of the boat.
They call out to Jesus: “Don’t you even care that we are perishing?” That fear symbolized the frightening things that can happen in our lives.
They didn’t remember that earlier, Jesus had empowered them to go out into the world to save others, including themselves and the very boat they were in. Instead, they cried out to Jesus to save them.
To calm their fears, he got up and said, “Peace, be still,” and calmed the raging storm. He then reminded them that they should have faith, not just in God, but in themselves to face stormy seas.
Many years ago as a new mother, I left my children with a loved one while I went on a boat with my father and some friends near our hometown of Gloucester, Mass. The trip started during a beautiful sunny day.
As we made our way out of the harbor at Cape Ann and into wide open seas, we became enveloped by a fog so thick I could barely see the person across the bow, let alone any signs of the harbor we had just left.
I was terrified. A roaring fear bubbled up of being lost in this blinding fog such that I might never see my children again.
My father noticed my fear and reassured me. He took me into the instrument room and explained how they track where the boat is relative to land by using light beacons and sound waves. Once I understood how this worked, I had faith that we would make it back to land safely and be with my children again.
Not only was my fear calmed, but I in turn was empowered to reassure others on the boat who were afraid.
There is a comic strip called B.C. that chronicles the everyday lives of two cavemen. In one strip, the two cavemen are sitting under the night sky, when one says, “Sometimes I want to ask God why God lets so many bad things happen in the world.”
The other asks, “Why don’t you?”
“Because I am afraid God would ask me the same question.”
If we believe in the power’s of God, why can’t we trust in the power of God within ourselves? For example, we often read and hear stories about horrible things, like murders and mayhem going on across the world.
Doesn’t God know that people are dying – like the nine murdered at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, S.C., or that children starve and do not get the best chance in life – all while God is napping?
Doesn’t God know that, like the boat in the Bible story, we are taking on water?
God knows exactly the toll of the storms. The question becomes: “Are we just frightened disciples in the boat unable to stand up and calm the storms ourselves?”
As Christians, we are not called to merely follow. God calls us to lead, to heal, to proclaim, and to reject evil. He calls us to reassure each other, and set an example by making a positive difference in lives.
Is there discrimination? Cast it out. Is there conflict? Resolve it. Are there broken hearts? Bind them with love.
Instead of asking why God isn’t doing anything, perhaps we need to ask ourselves: “Why am I not doing anything? Why am I napping through this storm?”
We each must recognize the power given us to stand in the midst of the storms in our lives, to do our part to calm fears and call out: “Peace, be still.”
Rev. Melissa Remington is pastor at St. Christopher Episcopal Church on Charleston’s West Side.