When we are afraid [and the great joy that is for all]

She looked like a statue, bent over, the ends of her thick brown hair brushing the cement floor. The room was bare, furnished only with a table and a shelf of fine, light-colored yarn, purchased at the market a few weeks before. On the floor were remnants of lunch—homemade chapatti and chickpeas. And outside of the window, the woman selling fish yelled up in her native tongue. Her voice almost as potent as the whole fish that she carried. The breeze carried it up to the window, up high in the wall and it danced in the air with the smell of dirt and cow manure.

The golden fabric of her kurta stood out against her dark, tanned arms. And I held them, watching as her long lashes let tears roll her morning mascara onto her cheeks. The movement of her back was quick and sporadic. She breathed almost as if she had forgotten she needed to—the way a wave pulls back and then crashes because it has no where else to go.

Sometimes, our pain has nowhere else to go. So it comes out in tears and sighs. And then sometimes, our heart and our head don’t know what to do with it at all.

“The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.”

The strong voice of a woman behind me lit a fire in my chest.


 Images of the idols I’d walked past that morning filled my head. The image of the man I’d seen on the way to the store, possessed with a look of evil. My eyes bore holes into the pavement as I’d passed him.

Yes. He comes to steal joy. He comes to destroy. He comes to tell you that the things you’ve done will never be forgiven. That you’ll never be enough.

And he does his very best to convince you that if you’re struggling, you must have done something wrong. That it’s wrong to be afraid. That God looks down on the seed of fear in our hearts.

Photo Credit: lux et amor

I stare out my bedroom window, thinking about my own words. They seem so far off. So distant. And they seemed so much easier to believe in that dusty room in India.

My Bible lays open on my unmade bed, atop wrinkled and twisted cotton sheets, the words are illuminated on the page

Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.

Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.

The words seem to slip off my tongue to the beat of my own heart.

Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel. 

All throughout the pages, I hear the whisper of His voice. The acknowledgement that He understands how very human and made of flesh and fearful my heart is.

Be strong and very courageous, he commands the man leading His people into the promised land. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. 

I picture them there–the shepherds–perhaps in the dark. Perhaps huddled under the light of the moon and the stars–those wonders He made. Those wonders he saw were good. And then the host of angels comes.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.

And he sees that we are prone to fear. He understands the way we shiver in our boots, shiver when we hear things or see things we do not understand.

And he still sees that what He made is good. 

And maybe it’s not my fear that hinders me from walking with Him. Maybe it’s my response. Am I like Mary, the favored mother of Jesus? Do I say, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” Or am I hearing his whisper of reassurance and choosing to bury my head under my sheets?

That’s why He came. Because I am afraid. Because you are afraid. 

Maybe this is part of the great joy that will be for all people. The great joy for you and for me and for our children.

That we can be afraid and not be less than.

That we can be afraid and still be loved.

That when the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, we can feel our ankles shaking and our heart racing and still say, May it be to me as you have said.


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