I didn’t know it but apparently I was afraid of bridges. My sister-in-law was getting married in San Francisco. I was officiating so we packed up the kids and made our way to the Bay area for a wedding and a short vacation.
After the wedding we went on a tour of San Francisco. We were driving across the Bay Area Bridge to Oakland and back. The bridge was a two-story structure. The bottom section took motorists from San Francisco to Oakland. The top section took you back from Oakland to San Francisco.
We were making our way smoothly on the bottom section when it happened. Suddenly my heart was racing. I felt like everything was closing in around me. I told Karen we needed to get off as soon as possible.
You may wonder why that drive freaked me out so much. It was a few years after the 1989 earthquake in the Bay area that happened as game three of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s was about to begin. Soon pictures of the Bay Bridge collapse and the Cypress Street Viaduct collapse—both two-story structures—were constantly on the news. Pictures of smashed lower level cars. Death toll numbers. Constantly on the news.
And they were constantly in my head on that drive. “One hard tremor and we could be in big trouble,” was the track looping in my head. So we took an exit and headed back on the top level, which for some irrational reason, seemed safer to me.
You can laugh. But a good question to ask yourself is “What are you afraid of?” According to The Book of Lists the top ten are: Speaking before a Group, Heights, Insects and bugs, Financial problems, Deep water, Sickness, Death, Flying, Loneliness and dogs. I figure the possibility of three of the ten showing up on the bridge was enough to get to me.
And yet I speak in public. And I know how to strike some fear in you if you ridicule me for my bridge experience. I’ll just stick a microphone in your face!
Fear can grip all of us when the threat of storms are near. It happened to the disciples. Their boat was “beaten by the waves.” Literally it is being “tortured” by the waves. If that wasn’t enough, the wind is “opposing them as an adversary.” They’re getting ganged up on by the waves and the winds!
You probably know the feeling. Not just one thing is going wrong. Multiple things are. Two unexpected bills hit you at the same time. The washer breaks and then so does the car. You get slammed with a project and a stomach bug at the same time. When we get hit hard we can become fearful quickly.
That’s why Jesus came to them. This is the story where he walks on the water and they think he’s a ghost. But he comes to them and gives them three phrases to calm their fears: “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Instead of taking fear, take heart. The word means “good courage.” Instead of fear we can live lives of good courage even in the middle of our storms. It’s possible when we believe the next words: “It is I.” Literally he says, “I am.” When Moses asked for God’s name God replied “I am.” Jesus identifies himself by the same name. Jesus reminds them that he is the Creator of the universe. He can handle storms that we can’t.
And because he can, he does not want us to fear. “Do not fear” is uttered by Jesus about 21 times in some form or fashion. He knows fear is a part of the human experience. But he also knows that fear can cripple us and keep us from life.
Learn these three phrases: ““Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” They build a bridge that will take you to a new world of experiences with God.
Question: Is there any fear you are facing right now?