Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Jitters

Baxter has a case of the jitters. For all of his calmness and laid back attitude, a strange noise can cause him to stand on alert, speak nervously and run in the direction of the sound to see what’s up.

The other day he was on my lap, and I was using my iPad. A ping sounded from the iPad alerting me to a new message. Baxter became agitated. He sat up, looked out the window and then jumped off my lap with murmurs of trouble and concern. It was all nothing, but I couldn’t convince him to settle down. Once he gets frightened and upset, Baxter doesn’t return to peace and tranquility quickly or easily.

Many of us are in the same boat. The aftermath of 9/11 with all the subsequent terrorist episodes that we have heard and seen on the news has set us on edge. We are suspicious of the stranger, especially if their habits and appearance are not like ours. Our suspicion can lead further to mistrust of anyone different. We feel threatened by the unfamiliar, and this threat gives rise to fear.

When we are afraid, we don’t usually make good judgments. Fear clouds our perceptions so that we see everything through its fog. We draw a conclusion about someone or some situation, and this idea, in turn, leads to other similar conclusions— until we see threats and enemies around every corner. We make our world a compound where we can feel safe, and everyone who is not part of our world we want away from us.

How do we stop ourselves from getting trapped in this prison our fears can create? The gospels give us some guidance. Jesus often enters a scene where people are upset about something that just occurred—a storm is raging; a woman is caught in adultery; a young man just died; a tax collector wants to see him; a paralytic wants to get close to him. What is His typical response?

First, Jesus does something to slow everyone down. He asks some questions to clarify the situation. He speaks to all the parties involved. Then, Jesus says something to help people see the situation from another perspective. Finally, He acts to avoid or heal the harm and remove the threat it poses. Jesus defuses the fear by giving people time to think, to listen to each other, to understand the situation differently, and to do something to better it. In this movement, people come to recognize the power and grace of God at work in this man.

In this troubled world these days, we need to be Jesus for each other. We need to help each other calm our fears. Jesus shows us the steps to take. Let us follow in His foot-steps to find a better way. Baxter, don’t worry.

It’s just the iPad.