The cancer of fear that begins with a rogue alligator

I bet the fear level of parents everywhere is ratcheted up since the terrible news came in that an alligator snatched up a two year old boy while the family relaxed on the shore of a manmade lake at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort. What started as a peaceful day of fun ended in a nightmare that might never be over for the parents of this little boy. And all of us who know what it feels like to love a little child are pierced with sadness and yes, fear. It is contagious and it is a cancer.

I know that little family who lost their treasure to a creature of the wild wishes they’d stayed home instead of going on a family vacation. Maybe they could have avoided tragedy without even knowing it. Or maybe something else would have happened. This message is not for them. I am not qualified to speak to those dear people in their loss. I can only pray for them.

This message is for the rest of us who have a choice to make.

I don’t have little babies anymore but I wonder if I did, would I shelter them more today than yesterday? Would I keep my boy inside against his heart’s desire because I was afraid of losing him to something unexpected? The boy who died was simply dabbling his feet in the water right at the edge. He was right beside his mommy and daddy. You can’t get much safer than that.

Many times, years ago, I let my little boy do things that could be considered dangerous – I think of the big oak tree in our backyard that Ian loved to climb. He was as agile as a little monkey and though it made my heart pound, I didn’t have the heart to stop him. It would be easy for me to be too protective of him and quench the wild spirit that makes a man grow up strong and free and whole. So I took a deep breath, asked for God’s strength, and let him climb high.

It’s true that freedom is dangerous. It’s expansive, and reckless, and crazy, and beautiful. Or it is simply mundane. A family on vacation at the happiest place in the world, together, enjoying each other and their surroundings. What could they have done? Don’t touch the water. Don’t go near the water. Don’t go down to the beach. Don’t go outside at all. Never leave the house. But people still die no matter how safe they try to make their life.

The fact is that none of us is safe here. No one is moving on from this planet without going through the experience of dying. I can fool myself into thinking that my children are secure because I keep them inside with me all the time, or I can drive myself crazy thinking of all the things that could happen even while we are cozy and snug in our little domicile. A fire in the middle of the night. An unexpected illness. A burglar. I can drive myself crazy and pass my fears straight to my kids and then wonder why they won’t attack life with vigor.

Why does my adult child procrastinate? Why does this one hang back in the game of life, hesitate to take a leap that will set him in the direction of success even if it doesn’t turn out the way he thought it would? Why does that one constantly criticize himself and others and find reasons not to try new things? Why is my child afraid to dip her toes into the water of life?

Could it be that in my desire to keep them safe, I have planted my fear in their hearts and it has found purchase there? So which is more dangerous – the life lived fully, or the life lived with the illusion of safety? The bold dance of freedom spinning wildly but cut short, or a long dim light hidden under a bushel?

There is only one way to have security and that is through faith in Jesus. If we make ourselves secure in that faith, we don’t have to cling so tightly to safety in this realm because we know that with Jesus, we cannot falter or stumble or fail. With faith, I can let go and live my life abundant and free and unchained and unhampered by fear which is the opposite of love. I can let the people I love be who they are, as I entrust their care to the creator and watch them fall and get back up, and fall and get back up.

Dance your beautiful crazy life dance. And be free.

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