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March 14, 2019

by Will Shelton

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? – Psalm 27:1 
  
Glad you asked! 
  
I fear the weatherman. Technically, I fear the tornado, but you asked whom, so let's blame the meteorologist. Seems safer than blaming God.  
  
We moved to a new church this year, and my wife had lots of questions about the parsonage. I had one: "Does it have a basement?" The longer Alex and I are together, the further that question moves up her list. She's been in a hallway bathroom with me after two claps of thunder enough times to know the depth of my insanity. 
  
When I was a kid, we spent weeks every summer in West Tennessee, and one time a tornado made a pass. That day we were staying with family in a mobile home, which they say is the worst place you can be, and it's safer to run outside and get in a ditch. But I don't know anyone who's actually done that, trading the pseudo-safety of a roof over your head to stare down mother nature face-to-face from the security of a ditch. My mom did what her mom did when tornadoes came calling: put the kids in the hallway and put a mattress over their heads. I just remember thinking, face down under the mattress and waiting for death, that there must be better ways to go. Maybe not the ditch, but something. 
  
The storm itself passed with only minor damage to the windows, as I recall. But the fear remained. And hey, maybe the fear itself is healthy; it's okay to not want to play outside in thunderstorms.  
  
Fear can be healthy. The trouble is almost always in our response. 
  
I'm afraid of other things. I'm afraid we will go our separate ways like Abram and Lot, not because the land could not support us, but because we've failed to see the value in the other's possessions. I'm afraid of being as prideful as Paul is pretending not to be ("I regard all of this as loss, but let me remind you of it one more time!"). I'm afraid part of what motivates me is wanting to be all those things Paul was in the first place. 
  
The psalm speaks of a stronghold, a house, a temple, a shelter, a tent, and a rock. I think David would've asked about the basement. 
  
This comforts me, because we so often think of David as fearless. There he is with Goliath's head on a stick, or in the cave with Saul's cloak, or slaying his tens of thousands. Whom should that guy fear? 
  
But I also find far more instances of David saying not to be afraid than others saying David never was. 
  
It's usually not the fear itself. It's our response.  
  
Because,  of course,  you should be afraid when a tornado is knocking on your door. You should be afraid of Goliath. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't fight. Sometimes what feels about as safe as a ditch is actually our best move. 
  
So maybe here David is reminding himself - "Whom shall I fear?" - because he needs to hear it as much as any of us. We will know fear. But if the Lord is indeed our light and our salvation? We don't have to act out of it. 
  
God speaks to Abram not of a stronghold, or a house, or a temple, or even a basement. What God promises Abram is a land. North and south and east and west and as far as you can see. And the call is to rise up and walk. Abram has a tent. We all need a home - one with a basement is nice - and the Lord is indeed our stronghold. But we will never experience the fullness of that truth if we stay down there the whole time. 
  
The Lord is our light and our salvation. And whomever shall we fear? May God give us faith to raise our eyes, rise up, and walk the land. 

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