Saturday, 3 March 2012

No more fear

GospelMark 9:2-10 

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
  As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

“Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.”
― Alan Cohen

Strange; the memories that Scripture finds  - and as far away from a high mountain as you can get. 

My earliest experience of transformation was when my dad decided to teach me how to swim in that time honoured method of 'throwing me in the deep end'. In the echoing chambers of the Victorian public swimming pool I can still remember falling into deep, cold nothingness then flailing against the ceramic tiles until I got a purchase of the lip of the gully that drained away the water. I hung on, coughing on the burning sensation of the chlorinated water and retching as little dead bugs floated by, legs and wings akimbo, rocking in the tidal currents caused by panicking children and resolute 'laners'. 

I had really wanted to learn to swim; I had felt the water calling for a long time and had persuaded my mum and dad that the fact that we were 4 children under five should not stop us from going. The 'sink or swim' methodology was a disaster. One brother remained afraid of water for years to come. I persevered, although the riotous melee of public swimming baths was not what I had envisioned and I would never, ever, take a stroke that would put me out of my depth. The very thought that I might put my foot down into blank, unsupporting coldness filled me with dread - the idea of being able to float, to relax in this foreign but desired atmosphere was outside the imagination of the big, clumsy, awkward me that I was. Eventually I gave up.

The next transformation came when I started to travel abroad - in Britain we may be surrounded by sea but it has a quality all of it's own - a quality called 'cold'. Off the Greek islands or the shores of Portugal, this was a different matter. This was nearer to what I had imagined; although I still never swam any further than my feet would reach.

Until one day when I swam out on a beach where the bottom fell away quite dramatically only a few yards from shore. As my feet relaxed down and didn't find either rock or sand  It was another sink or swim moment. In seconds, every physical and emotional memory of the first encounter with the 'deep' returned; foolish or not - I panicked.

Then something made me stop panicking; something made me stop. It was virtually a surrender; a submission. And, for the first time in my life I floated. It was amazing that doing nothing could feel so free. That 'doing nothing' made me part of everything - the mixture of temperatures as I was wrapped in the warm and cold currents of seawater; the taste of the wind; the heat of the sun; the hum of nature's silence (which isn't silence at all); the holding and the belonging and the timelessness. I was captivated, held in the palm of the Creator God; captured by the gentle awesomeness of a loving parent.

It's an experience I love; although it never quite surpasses that first time when I realised that  all my fears; all my fears were unfounded. And, even out of the water, I have become someone who tries not to let fear live too easily within me.

And so to the mountain.

Part of the Lenten journey is to grapple with our fears. Jesus tells us not be afraid over and over again. But at this time in his journey, in his humanity, was this a mantra he was also saying to himself?

The thing about mountains is that once you are up you have to come down; so this is a step away from the path towards Jerusalem - a detour. 

Could it have been the place where the devil tempted him, not that many years before, to use his divinity to save his life?  Was this an acknowledgment of his human frailty; his need of his Father; of the One who lives in him? The need of friends; on both side of the darkened mirror. Even in his frailty, perhaps because of it, his Father is delighted; exclaims his pride and his joy.

Einstein made a remark that you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it - you must learn to see anew. 

Fear is much the same; we are changed more by fear than by lack of it - and for the better if we want to be. But we need to change our mindset; we need to see with new eyes; we need to become more than we were. And we cannot do that by ourselves; we need to find the high place; we need to move, like Jesus, closer and closer to the Father.

Then we, also, will become transfigured.


A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more. 
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter


claire said...

No more fear...
A wonderful program. For someone who has been plagued by anxiety attacks for all sorts of reasons, the idea of no more fear sounds wonderful.
I hope some day to experience this glorious feeling you had in the sea on the shores of Portugal.
I must say I am learning to let go, or at least not to indulge in fear-mongering thoughts...
As to being transfigured... In Godde's own time :-)

Thank you, Word. A great post, as usual.

Word in the Hand said...

I've used it to deal with a lot of my own fears Claire - who knows? And a recent discovery is that I often fool myself by renaming a fear - it not that I am afraid - it's just....

actually - it is that I am afraid so.....

A bit like tough love - on yourself

In Godde's time

log said...

I well remember being thrown in at the "deep end" in Wavertree public baths and like you clinging to the guttering around the side. It has taken me many years to begin to learn to Let Go and it is a constant process. It was also divine when I could float. In her book "The Wisdom Way of Knowing" Cynthia Borgeault says, "When learning to ride a bike..I came to know something about interior balance.....From learning to float, I discovered that trust means relaxing and letting something else hold you up." Floating, as Clare Weekes points out in her books is an excellent way of dealing with panic attacks which I found extremely practical as in Float through the experience.
God Bless. Laurence+x

Bea said...

I learned to swim the same way... dad threw me in a lake. Water was dark... I am terrified of dark waters. And sandy lake/pond bottoms. I cannot stand to walk in the sand of a lake, though I don't mind swimming for short periods of time in deep water with a life-jacket on.

Your final paragraph is the point of a lifetime, isn't it? Find the high place... become better than we were... get closer to the Father.

great post!

Mari said...

Very true what you say about fear. It can help us change and hopefully it's for the better. By overcoming our fear we succeed in gaining an experience or feeling we didn't have before. I love how you narrated your story of swimming at the beach, I felt like I was thee too!

Have a blessed evening :)

Word in the Hand said...

Thanks all; perhaps that 'baptism' of water is something we can all relate to - fear is the real challenge in the journey towards becoming more than we are.

sattler said...

Claire, I'm a fellow anxiety sufferer. Emerging from several months as a virtual recluse, I know what fear means. I've been away far too long and forgotten what a wonderful blog this is.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Sattler - you have been in my prayers