Be Not Afraid
Though the doors were locked,
Jesus came and stood among them
and said, “Peace be with you!”
John 20: 24b
The closest thing I've experienced to what I've been feeling in the past couple of days is the first part of a triathlon. We swim. Hundreds of us. Together. In all three of the tris I've participated in have been lake swimming. Truly I can't imagine an ocean. We take-off in human waves. 25 or 50 souls. Really it doesn't much matter. It's a gaggle. We all hit the water at about the same time. And bam. Three times out of three times, I've panicked. Full-on panicked. Folks who have been doing tris for years call it the fight/flight thing. It's real. It takes your breath away. What I've learned is the importance of gathering myself. Slowing down. And focusing on just the next thing.
Perhaps my fear is partially rooted in haste. Perhaps I am caught up in all the uncertainty and unknowing, and so much of my life experience has been to hurry and scurry and figure "it" out. Whatever "it" is - figure it out. No matter how big and looming and impossibly complicated - do something. There is a madness in this, a breath-taking energy-suck that leads to run full out in a random direction heading for an unestablished finish line.
Or perhaps my fear is that so much is unknown. It's hard to order my life these days. Plans I was counting on are being changed with no clear notion of how anything can be rescheduled. Not being with the people I'm used to seeing, people I love is heartbreaking.
I’m drawn to this text because Jesus’ friends are in a locked room. I’m there. I know for me what that might have felt like for them. It is that running down the steps into the storm shelter before the winds blow through and life as you know it is changed forever. It is that kind of locked room. Many of us are in that kind of space and place these days. The life that his friends had known, the world as-they-knew-it was changed forever. It is in that room and that moment. And Jesus enters. “Peace be with you.”
Perhaps what makes these words so very powerful to me is that he knew. Somehow, he knew the words that could melt their worst fears, could dry their fresh tears, could enter into their hearts in both the gentlest and strongest way – Peace be with you.
It is to this time and to this place that these words come today. Not as a declaration, “all manner of things will be well.” Or, “be not afraid.” Or “don’t worry, be happy.” Instead, it is as simple and as full as this: “peace be with you.” Somehow the locked door is no longer locked, I am no longer holding my breath, I am no longer curling myself inward until there is little left of me. Instead, I turn and return to the one who lived his life to teach us the one thing that can get us through the darkest night of the soul: Peace be with you. Emmanuel. “I am here, right here with you. You are not alone.”
These words don’t fix it. These words don’t cure the pandemic or our unknowing or these unexpected, uncharted, social distancing days. They just don’t. But for me, there is now a beginning place for the peace that passesth understanding to enter is and find a place in my head and in my heart. Thank God, I am no longer alone. Thank God, peace is being offered in a way that has never meant more to me than it does this day.
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Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Her passions are listening to her sons, John Brogan and Sam sing; great conversations, long walks and baseball.