Most of us have fears. Our fears vary as widely as we do. If it’s a fear that’s shared by many we give it a fancy Latin name and slap the word phobia on the end of it. Many of us have fears that may be unique to us and sometimes seem fairly unusual. I am afraid of the normal things that all sane, rational, thinking people are afraid of: snakes, spiders, needles, clowns and Phyllis Diller. I know some of you are thinking “I’m not afraid of those”. I did say sane people. I ’m also afraid of a few things that are probably unique to me. I’ve always been scared of the closets at my Grandparents house. Now, their old house was torn down years ago but the thought of those closets still frightens me as much as ever. Ok, maybe not.
There were three bedroom closets and a bathroom cabinet that I almost always did my best to avoid. They were dark, mysterious, creepy places. When my Grandparents house was built, about a million years ago, they didn’t put lights in closets so they were always dark (if you’ve seen the Poltergeist movie you’d like a house like that). Also, unlike the cavernous rooms they are today, closets back then were small. People must have been smaller then and wore smaller clothes and thus didn’t need the closet space we do today. The closets at my Grandparent’s house did share at least one attribute with our more modern closets: they were messy. So basically their closets could be described as small, dark and cluttered. You’re thinking, “What’s so scary about that?” It wasn’t any of these alone I guess but maybe a combination of them.
My Grandparent’s house was one of those places I always felt comfortable and “at home”. I could do whatever, wherever, whenever… but there were those closets! So for years I stayed out of and away from them. If my brothers or uncles knew of my fear they would have locked me in one guaranteeing my slow, agonizing death. True story.
When I was twelve my older brother and I spent most of the summer taking care of my Grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. He and I did a lot of hunting (treasure etc. not animals), exploring and adventuring. After we had spent days exploring almost every inch of my Grandparents house, garage, barn, and the neighborhood and woods around it my brother realized we’d never gone in the closets. WELL DUH! There’s a reason we hadn’t! I was convinced other kids had explored those closets never to be heard from again. (My kind and loving uncles used to tell us stories about the closet in the back bedroom that involved repeating the phrase “bloody bones and dirty diapers”.) So instead of explaining to my brother the fears I harbored that certain death awaited us there, I put on my big girl panties and went in.
It was amazing! The sights, the sounds… it was like entering the wardrobe and finding our own personal Narnia. Well, maybe that’s stretching it a little. In reality it was, to a 12 year old boy, an unbelievable adventure. There were funny old clothes, vintage Boy Scout uniforms, items brought home from WWII, long lost hot wheels and much more. Once we’d finished plundering the closets we had enough “new” stuff to keep us occupied the rest of the summer.
I’ll always be thankful that I overcame my fears and explored those dark unknown places with my brother. There is so much I would have missed if I hadn’t. I wonder if Jesus‘ disciples felt that same fear and apprehension of the unknown as they sat in the upper room of a house after Jesus had gone back to heaven wondering “what’s next?” When Paul and Silas knelt and felt the hands of their church family on their heads as they were prayed for and sent to preach to the barbarians did they have butterflies in their stomachs? Were their hearts about to explode out of their chests with the anticipation of blindly stepping out in faith? Whether it was accepting the call to pastor my first small church, leading a group of teens to inner city Dallas to share Christ’s love with Burmese refugees or travelling halfway around the world to hold the hand of an old blind Indian man called Candy I’ve always found unexpected and unbelievable treasures when following God into the scary places.