Sitting in the library I was just about to read chapter 5 in What Women Fear by Angie Smith when I received a text from a friend. They were at the doctor and had just gotten news that gave them pause and wanted me to be praying. My heart sank. We each have stories or diseases or experiences that grab us more than others. It hit a little too close to home.
I texted back I would and then picked up this chapter to read about the fear of dying. In general, I am not afraid to die and I don’t have strong fears about people I care passionately about dying. At least that is what I think on a normal afternoon if you were to ask me before I get a text about a friend.
Hypothetical situations are much easier to navigate than real ones.
I do not relate to Angie’s paralyzing fear and the need to be on vigil for loved ones, but I have friends who have fears (though they tend to use the word “anxiety”) about loved ones.
Angie had my attention when she said, “I have read stories of incredible M’s who have been martyred for the faith and I can’t help but wonder if I would have that kind of selfless courage.” We know martyrdom is real and there are real people suffering for their faith, but in general, I don’t recognize her fear in my life of cross-cultural work. I know a few people who died (two in a plane crash) and others of natural causes. But I know far more who have lived.
But this is what fear often does, isn’t it? It takes a handful of real situations that are not the majority of experiences and holds them up as the model. I don’t know about you, I wonder too if I would have the courage to be martyred. Years ago, I thought I did and then I had several very painful medical situations and realized the chances were pretty high that if I was actually tortured, I would probably denounce Jesus. Again, hypothetical me is a lot braver in the face of pain than real me.
Later she talked about “rough patches”—like turbulence when flying—”they all carry with them the feeling that we might not be able to escape, and that feeling is like a noose around the neck, day in and day out. We struggle to gain control and we struggle even more to let it go. How beautiful would it be to truly believe without question that we were only in the prelude?”
It would be beautiful. It is beautiful. But those rough patches are real, aren’t they? I was thinking about death scenes in movies and Steel Magnolias came to mind. MaLynne, Shelby’s mom, may have been a bit overbearing, as she parented a sick child who grew up to be a sick adult. In this scene, MaLynne cries the cry of mother’s heart when her child has died.
How about you? I think there is a natural fear for the death of children. But there is a difference between a healthy fear and debilitating fear. Death does change our relationships. It can rob us of the closure we had hoped to get. It can rob us of a person being a part of the story. It can rob the next generation of knowing an aunt, uncle, grandma or grandpa.
In our line of work, the fear of death can wear different masks. Will I get home before he dies? If I take a Home Assignment will precious local friends die and be eternally separated from their maker? If I die overseas, what complications will it cause my family? If my spouse dies, will my organization let me stay on the field with our children?
Do any of those fears sound familiar?
Until the comments,
P.S. Next week we’ll discuss chapter 6.
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