Fear is a dangerous thing.
Fear can make us behave in ways we would have never expected of ourselves. IT can make us do terrible things.
What is your greatest fear?
Well, after watching the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel IT, I know exactly what I’m afraid of. Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
But on a serious note, this film was too good.
IT (the movie) gives a visceral picture of the power fear exerts on our lives. Both literally and metaphorically in the movie, fear consumes the characters (and the viewer, I might add) and makes them do terrible things. From something as simple as fearing the loss of a paper boat, to the profound fear of an abusive father, fear runs through the movie like a red thread (and you’ll see the red motif consistently throughout). Fear surrounds the characters, and it’s not until they identify the fear that they are able to overcome IT.
I want to suggest something for the short time I have your attention (approximately 1000 words). I want to suggest something radical as it relates to fear that will perhaps unlock a unique understanding of what it means to live a Christian life, if you, dear reader, are indeed in Christ; and even, if you, dear reader, are not “in Christ,” I would like to offer insight into the human condition that may end up being quite challenging. After all, fears cannot be conquered until we identify them.
After the movie I reflected on what I fear the most in my life and even what most humans tend to fear in life. I think at the root of most fears is the fear of death. Or let me put it like this, most normal people have a fear of some radical change to the way things are, a permanent end to what we hold or could possibly hold, i.e. death. Most would probably agree that’s a reasonable fear, but not many would argue that the fear of death is at the root of all fears. I mean, the reason the characters were afraid of the creature It was simply because It could kill them!
As a practical exercise, see if you can trace your deepest fear to death. Let me show you what I mean.
For me? I greatly fear reaching the end of my life and realizing the entirety of my life has not meant anything to anyone. In other words, I’m afraid at the end of my life, my actions and choices and decisions and relationships will not “live” on in other people. Even though I may not be afraid of physical death, I am certainly afraid of relational death.
I really think it’s true that most humans hold this fear in their hearts. At humanity’s core, we are deathly afraid of death.
Because of this fear, humans act in all sorts of funny ways, just as they did in the the movie IT:
- We tend to overwork because we’re afraid that we won’t have enough money when we retire, because we want to enjoy our life while we can because when we’re dead it’s over.
- We go to the gym to stay healthy because we’re afraid we might get sick or die early, or we’re afraid of what others might think of us. They might look down on us, as if we don’t exist, as if we were dead to them.
- We hesitate to make important decisions because we might fail. After all, we only have one life to live and failure sometimes feels like dying.
In a strange sense, we all-too-often find ourselves enslaved to fear and consequently to the actions associated with it, like workaholism, obsessing over our bodies, and simple procrastination.
But I have good news for both the Christian and non-Christian! Even though we tend to fall into slavish patterns with our fear and how it drives us to act, something has happened that reverses the script.
Christianity sometimes gets knocked on for being too restrictive. That is to say, many modern-minded people view Christianity as a set of rules saying don’t do this, don’t do that. I understand why people think such things, but I would like to propose that in light of the cross and resurrection, Christianity has become the single most freeing way of life that could ever be offered. Why? Keep reading.
You know all those fears you find yourself enslaved to? Jesus came down to set us free from those slavish tendencies, our broken tendencies by dying for our sins on the cross and by showing death to be a liar through his resurrection. All throughout the Bible you find phrases like, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free!” or “You received a spirit that no longer makes you slaves again to fear!” or even, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!”
For the non-Christian: You want to fully express who you were made to be? Find Jesus; otherwise you will always be operating under the fear of something, under the fear of failure, the fear of others, the fear of death. I guarantee Jesus did not come down to suppress your personality or who you truly are; rather he came to restore you to who you were exactly meant to be.
For the Christian: WE HAVE BEEN SET FREE!!! Why do we so often act as if we are not free? As if we are shackled to a type of moralism, a set of boring rules? These “rules” are the paths that lead to eternal joy, and that’s worth flipping out about. We have been freed not only from our sin, but freed to be who we were meant to be! This is such good news!
Attempting to simplify what Jesus did on the cross for us and his resurrection from the dead three days later into one succinct point is quite simply, ludicrous; however, one thing I know to be true about the momentous event of the cross and subsequential resurrection is that Jesus arrested death. He walked clean through it’s grip and trampled it underfoot. Because of this amazing truth, we can be free from the fear of sin and death, and since we are truly free from these forms of slavery, we can be exactly who we were made to be, as God originally intended.
Our fears will fade into the sewer, just as the creepy Pennywise did at the end of IT, and all we’ll be able to think of is how silly our former master looked dancing on stage, occupying our attention from the what really matters (see video). After all, it’s not about us or our fears; it’s about the God who stepped down into human history to set us free from our bondage to sin and death and to set us free to pursue him with everything we were made to be.
Death is arrested, and we are free at last. Do you believe that, dear reader?
P.S. Here’s the funny video of Pennywise the clown, I promise it’s funny. The first scene, not so much, but the rest are good.
The song “Death Was Arrested” is a killer jam; it does an excellent job of summing up what this blog is about in roughly 3 minutes time. Also, check out the classic song “Free At Last” by DC talk. I believe my next blog post will be a reflection on that song. Also, also, I would not necessarily recommend the movie IT for all viewers, but only for those who are already interested in scary movies, and for those who are a bit more mature. IT is rated R after all. Also, Also, Also, the featured art piece is none other than The Scream by Edvard Munch. More of an existential dread than a jump-out-of-your-pants kinda fear, but still relevant.