By the Reverend Dr. Johanna McCune Wagner
Director of Spiritual Life
“Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31)
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.” (Luke 12:4)
“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
A professor of mine once said that Jesus was not all that concerned with what people believed. So long as they trusted in God and him, he counted them his friends. Jesus’ focus was fear, and the degree to which this emotion ruled people’s lives.
Time and again in the gospels Jesus tries to get people to see that to fear something or someone is to treat it as if it were God. Fear, for Jesus, was about more than a suite of uncomfortable feelings: shaky hands, racing thoughts, butterflies in the stomach. It was a species of worship.
To Jesus’ mind, people did not just fear. They feared something — and this something had a tendency to become their master.
This week in Constructive Meditation campers will challenge themselves to move beyond the question of whether or not a particular experience is unpleasant to the question Jesus would have them consider:
Do I want to be controlled by this thing?
Do I want to be its servant?
Is this thing, this experience, so worthy of my respect and obedience that I am willing to put it on a pedestal and let it dictate what I can and cannot do?
If the answer is “no,” campers will then learn how to “do it anyway”: to stop waiting for an experience to feel good in order to engage in it.
The problem with fear is that it feels bad — so bad, in fact, that we often think that our number one priority should be to get rid of it as fast as possible.
In doing so, however, we often end up sacrificing our values: exchanging an opportunity to “let our light shine” for a pair of dry palms; trading the chance to show the world what we really think for a face untinged by a blush.
Jesus inspired his followers to shift their focus from the attempt to control their feelings to the question of what they wanted their lives to stand for. “Whom will you serve?” he asked his disciples. “Your most cherished values or the Idol called Security?”
This last week in Constructive Meditation, campers will ask themselves the same question, and consider what it might be like to live with some nervousness, an occasional blush or upset stomach, for a good cause.
Editor’s Note: Constructive Meditation has been offered to Culver Academies’ students for the last several years. It focuses on building age-appropriate mindfulness skills and fostering wisdom through journaling projects and group activities. These are based on disciplines as diverse as Quaker clearness committees and the study of the sunnah by the Prophet Muhammad. This is the first year for Culver Summer Schools & Camps. This series of articles by the Rev. Dr. Johanna McCune Wagner, director of Spiritual Life, describes of what campers are doing week-to-week
Read last week’s post: The Numbers Game