We’ve recently introduced our girls to the Star Wars movies. I forgot how much wisdom is embedded in those films. While watching again, I was struck by Jedi Master Yoda’s teaching on fear. “Fear,” he says, “is the path to the dark side.” As he explains to his protégé, “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” For a little animatronic green dude, he’s quite insightful.
Fear is incredibly powerful. Fear can make us do things we don’t want to, or normally wouldn’t, do. Fear can also keep us from doing things we want to do. It is the tool of the bully and the bane of the bullied. It is the weapon of the powerful and often attributed to the weak. But the truth is that fear is much more omnipresent. We know that bullies are really afraid, and the powerful are too – afraid that they will lose their power. When it comes right down to it, we’re all afraid of something. Our fears motivate us, sometimes for good, and sometimes for the not so good.
I’ve been afraid of all sorts of things. I was always more afraid of what my parents would do if I got in trouble at school than I was of the teachers and administrators. I have been afraid of losing my child at times when I’m in public and realize they’re not beside me. And, of course, there is my fear of spiders. I will own up to an episode that involved me standing on the sofa as I hunted down a wolf spider that skittered across the floor one night while watching TV. I stayed safely on my perch until I slayed the hairy beast with my daughter’s cowgirl boot (after missing it with flip-flops and another shoe). I behaved in school, I watch my kids, but I still don’t like spiders.
Fear affects all of us. I find the day and the season of Easter (yes, it’s a fifty-day season) to be helpful in this regard. The Easter message is not about Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies; it’s about so much more. Easter is an antidote to fear. Easter reminds us that even death gives way to the life-giving power of God. Death is perhaps the great granddaddy of all fears. Sometimes we think we’re going to die, whether it’s of embarrassment when we’re teased in middle school (which can feel like dying) or when we have to admit that the doctor did just tell us we have cancer.
At the center of Easter is a little thing called resurrection. Christian theology tells us that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and that through his resurrection we have all been invited to join in living a resurrected life through him. While many may think resurrection is just something that happens after we die, resurrection is also about what happens to us today. A resurrection life is one that is lived without fear. It’s amazing to consider how we would live if we were not afraid of anything, not even death itself.
A resurrection life is about accepting an invitation not to be afraid of what others say about us, of being unloved, of not having enough, of failure, or even of other people. It’s incredibly freeing to admit what we are afraid of and then realize we need not be afraid of it. When Christians say that Jesus calls us to new life, this is the new life of which we speak.
Whether you believe the Christian story about Jesus that lies at the heart of this month’s major holiday or not, one of the themes of Easter is much needed in our world: “Do not be afraid.” There are people everywhere trying to convince us otherwise, and yet God’s steady message remains the same. We can choose to believe whichever message we want. I have chosen to trust God, chosen a new life, chosen light, chosen courage . . . except when spiders are involved.
In close, I’ll paraphrase Yoda again, because he also taught that once we choose the path of fear, it will dominate our future. “Consume you it will,” he says. The only thing consumed this Easter ought to be chocolate. Eat the bunny’s ears first, and do not be afraid.