That’s the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. (Top tip: saying the word a couple of times gets it loosened off your palette.) Then there’s chaetophobia, the fear of hair, and nephophobia, the fear of clouds – a terrible affliction for UK-dwellers. Hey, there’s a different named fear for every day of your life.
But pause for a moment and ask yourself: what are you really afraid of?
Maybe you fear the future? Not being in control? Not knowing where life is heading?
Maybe you fear what other people think about you? That you’ll make foolish decisions and be seen as a failure?
It’s enough to make you want to climb back into bed and under the duvet (unless, of course, you’re suffering from clinophobia).
But there is a way out. There’s a glowing green light and it’s marking ‘EXIT’ out of the darkness, out of the tomb of our fears.
Fear clutches Peter on the night of Jesus’s arrest. Peter is afraid of losing his life, which makes him violent. He’s afraid of what others think of him, so he’s dishonest.
Yet, skip forwards a few months and Peter is absolutely fearless, risking his life courageously in the face of opposition, in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What turns Peter from a quaking jelly to the rock of the Church?
Two things that the risen Jesus says to Peter stand out.
First, Jesus doesn’t say: “Everything’s going to be just rosy.” Counter-intuitively, Jesus tells Peter that the very thing he fears the most will definitely happen to him: he will be killed for his faith. Peter, who has learned that clinging to this life is the way of death, is strangely liberated by the certainty of danger. In the words of the Dr Pepper ad: “What’s the worst that can happen?” The worst that can happen, has happened – the author of life was crushed by darkness. But he was raised again undefeated and he walks the toughest paths with us.
Second, when Peter goes on to question what’s going to happen to another disciple, Jesus responds: “What is that to you? You, follow me.” Peter has a unique call, which no one else can fulfill. The same is true for you. Fear often sprouts up from comparing ourselves to others. Are we being left behind in the skill-acquiring / career-building / house-buying / friend-generating / family-making stakes? Jesus says: What is it to you, how I am at work in other people’s lives? You [insert your name], follow me.
Surrendering control to the one who has overcome death.
Following our unique call, without comparing it to anyone else’s.
In these two ways, we exit the tomb, leaving our old fears crumpled on the ground like grave-clothes, and emerge blinking into the bright light of daytime.
So what are you afraid of today?