Before I share that story, though, let me touch on something else. I think that everyone has heard that the “definition” of FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. I’ve never liked that because I don’t think it is universally true but maybe it is. Now, I am not sure. I have always thought that, some of the time, REAR exists, which is Real Evidence Appearing Real. The real dangerous thing could be REAF (Real Evidence Appearing False.) That could really throw us off.
Back to my story …
I was walking recently in the downtown area of a large city that I don’t know real well. There were very few people around in the area where I was walking and there were very few cars on the road. As I walked by a parking garage, an older woman walked out. She approached me and asked me for directions to the university. Well, even though I do not know this town well at all, I had just recently looked at a map and I happened to have a good idea of the direction she needed to go. So, I politely pointed her in the right (I hope) direction, she turned the corner, and I continued walking down the street, sort of concerned, actually, for her walking around this area by herself.
I walked a bit further when, near an intersection, an oncoming car pulled over to the curb and stopped near where I was walking. I could see the man motioning for me to come over to his car. That was when fear kicked in. All of those warnings when we were kids about not talking to strangers, not approaching someone who calls to you from their car – all that flooded over me. Remember how phone books used to have a section on safety for kids which included some very dark pen drawings of situations like this? I am showing my age but I remember that and this situation made me feel like I was in one of those drawings.
All sorts of things went through my mind. The age and condition of the car. The man’s skin color. His dress. Fear took over. And this is where I must confess – it was largely fear based upon prejudices that I didn’t even know I had.
I sort of waved him off and continued on my way, refusing to let myself look back at him. I tried to justify it with the fact that I was in a hurry and, if he was going to ask me directions, I could not have helped him anyway. But, deep down, I know that this was the ugliness of prejudice. I would have been fine had I responded positively to him. He was not threatening me. No, maybe I could not have really helped him but that’s not the issue. The issue is the message I sent to him. I could have sent a message of God’s love but instead I sent a message of ugliness, of fear, of hatred, of prejudice. I am sick about that.
Had it been the older lady driving around in her Buick instead of walking on foot, I would have stopped to talk to her. I would have even gotten in her car if she needed me to for some reason. But, no, in this particular situation, I behaved in a rude and selfish way … I did not do what Jesus would have done.
The morning after this all happened, I read Nehemiah 9:16-23. Here it is fromThe Message:
But they, our ancestors, were arrogant; bullheaded, they wouldn't obey your commands. They turned a deaf ear, they refused to remember the miracles you had done for them; They turned stubborn, got it into their heads to return to their Egyptian slavery. And you, a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, Incredibly patient, with tons of love—you didn't dump them. Yes, even when they cast a sculpted calf and said, "This is your god Who brought you out of Egypt," and continued from bad to worse, You in your amazing compassion didn't walk off and leave them in the desert. The Pillar of Cloud didn't leave them; daily it continued to show them their route; The Pillar of Fire did the same by night, showed them the right way to go.
You gave them your good Spirit to teach them to live wisely. You never stinted with your manna, gave them plenty of water to drink. You supported them forty years in that desert; they had everything they needed; Their clothes didn't wear out and their feet never blistered. You gave them kingdoms and peoples, establishing generous boundaries. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. You multiplied children for them, rivaling the stars in the night skies, And you brought them into the land that you promised their ancestors they would get and own.
I took great comfort in this reminder of God's faithfulness to us. Yes, I had messed up badly but this was a new day … God remains faithful … He is preparing me always. He is always leading me, even when I mess up. I feel terrible about messing up but I must move on, held firmly in His grip with my very being resting in His grace and love. I hate myself for my behavior but I thank God for this lesson -- for His love and grace. I need to pass those things along, not try to hold them for myself because if I try to hold them for myself, they wither and fear steps in and tramples them.