Fear. It’s not an emotion people like to think about. It’s not a state of mind people want to live in. It’s a dark and gloomy thing that people avoid.
When I’m afraid — and I haven’t been truly afraid very many times in my life — I become efficient. I make decisions on the spot, and I act on them. I do not cower. I do not cry. That comes after. When the thing I was afraid of is done and the adrenaline is spent and I am overcome by emotion.
Years ago I was staying at a cabin at Covenant Park Bible Camp, south of Duluth, with a bunch of camp staff friends. We were having a great time just goofing around when suddenly there was a huge bang and the porch light went out. Freaking out commenced by many of the girls in the room.
As for me, I started to consider our options. This was either the action of an idiot “friend” or it was something truly dangerous. It was far more reasonable to assume that it was an acquaintance (I had a good idea who) being stupid. I tried to calm people down with my logic. I was moderately successful.
Then came periodic knocking on the back wall of the building. My heart betrayed me by beating pretty hard, because the emotions were real, but my logic told me that it was one of the girl’s dumb boyfriends rather than Freddy from Elm Street.
I was right. The boyfriend came in soon after, bragging about the great shot he’d made with the rock thrown at the porch light. I wanted to punch him. Not sure I’ve ever been so mad at a person in my life. He’d broken a light, which was rude. He’d scared us. He’d ruined our fun evening together. And he thought it was funny.
Our perspectives on a thing make a world of difference. When the threat was made on Wednesday evening against Worthington Middle School, for a brief moment in time most everyone viewed the situation from the same angle: true or false, this must be investigated. True of false we must act. True or false, this is scary.
For some, it was so scary that they decided then and there to keep their kids home on Thursday. For me, I entered efficiency mode. I reported the threat as a friend asked me to do and I moved on. That’s not to say I didn’t take it seriously. That’s not to say I didn’t feel a little apprehensive on Wednesday evening when it wasn’t clear what was going on. But on Thursday morning when it was time to take my kids to school, I did so without fear.
When I lived in West Berlin in the late 1980s, bomb threats were a regular occurrence at Berlin American High School, where I attended my last two years of school. I think we had seven in one week one time. We’d troop out to the football field. The Military Police would come in with bomb-sniffing dogs, and we’d troop back in after the all-clear. It just was part of life.
I’ve mentioned before in this column that the plane my father was piloting with Pan American World Airways was hijacked to Cuba shortly before I was born. It was knowledge I grew up with. It just was part of life. Many years later, a Pan Am plane was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland on a route that could potentially have been flown by my dad. It just was part of life.
There are horrible people out there, doing horrible things. I’m not going to let them control me. My experience, my logic, my faith, tells me that God’s got this. No matter what the outcome … God’s got this.
There are so many verses I could end with but when I opened my laptop this morning, the verse I used last week was still highlighted on my favorite Bible web page. I’ve never used the same verse twice in a row, but I’m going to today because it doesn’t get much better than this: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3,4 NIV
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is email@example.com.