Having lived in Florida for years, there are things I’ve become accustomed to.
Tourists driving slowly in the left lane.
Large turtles crossing the road.
Sand hill cranes squaking as they slowly move wherever they please.
Alligators in ponds.
My little sister was here for a visit, and one of the wonders of our area of Orlando is the Wetlands–a prehistoric-looking area where birders enjoy our indigenous feathered friends and alligators are often deposited by animal control when they become a nuisance.
I thought she’d be fascinated.
I didn’t realize she’d be so terrified.
She texted our other sister, “This might be the last time you hear from me.” She explained where we were going.
The reply was laughter.
It was a beautiful day, and as we headed out, there were many others who were there to see the wildlife. Loud and everywhere present, almost everybody took the shorter birding route.
We opted for the long walk around the lakes. Less noise and a greater chance to see more alligators.
I could almost hear Janet’s heart beating.
We saw the top parts of quite a few of the alligators, floating serenely in the lake. Flocks of birds swam unafraid close to the gnarly predators. I kept reminding Janet that the birds would have flown away had they been afraid they’d be dinner.
There were alligators close to the shore as well, none moving with a speed faster than that of a snail.
I’m not minimizing her fear. We have several people every year being mauled or drowned by alligators. They’re not to be taken lightly or trifled with. Knowing what you’re dealing with, however, can allow people to take the necessary precautions and not be foolish.
We made it around, Janet’s heart slowed as we neared the end, and the reality of dealing with a very real fear provoked interesting conversation.
We all have things we’re afraid of. Acute fears are called phobias–an extreme or irrational fear. Less extreme concerns can be unnerving and disruptive.
Fear is part of our broken world. We all experience it at some level. For some, it’s the imagined thing that goes bump in the night. For others, it’s an overwhelming concern for someone who’s sick, injured, or lost. Fear can be personal, concerned over what might happen to us, or other-focused, where our hearts feel wrecked by what is happening to people we may or may not know.
What’s fascinating is the most repeated command in the whole Bible is “Do not be afraid.”
It’s not an empty statement grounded in the attitude of “Buck up and just keep going.”
It’s a promise always followed by the assurance that God loves us and has our backs.
There’s at least 365 times in the Bible where God says, “Do not be afraid.” Each time, there’s a promise of hope, redemption, God’s faithful presence.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will STRENGTHEN you and HELP you; I will UPHOLD you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my Helper; I will not be afraid.’ What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
Fear creeps into our lives unannounced and unasked for. It decimates our hearts and undermines our hope.
God is present. He promises never to leave us or abandon us, never ignore our cries for help or our very real fears.
In a world full of fear and frustration, where isolation and abandonment are more normal than anyone wants to think, knowing that Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, loves us is the greatest encouragement of all.
No alligator can minimize that.
photo courtesy of Lisa Yount on Unsplash
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