It has been unveiled to me lately, the amount of fear hiding inside me.
One day, about a month ago, on a walk I asked myself, “Barbara, what would you be able to do if you did not fear? Who would you pursue into friendship? Who would you extend hospitality to?”
I was overwhelmed by the breadth of the image that came, what could be accomplished if I was not subject to fear. I have since been trying to feel the edges, notice the limits, and recognize the deceitful promptings of this fear.
In New York I was baby free for a few hours and my brother and I made a mad dash through the MOMA and grabbed a coffee. So as we’re cutting past the park I’m stuffing my face with the flaky corners off of an excellent cheddar chive scone. I’m half watching this long line of what could only be Texan cheerleaders on vacation when I notice this homeless woman lying in the middle of it all on a bench.
Eight million people revolved around her, yet, she was unseen.
I walked a few more steps, stuffed another bite in my mouth, hesitated, and then stopped my brother.
“Just a sec, Dave, I feel like I’m supposed to give this lady the rest of my scone.”
I began to feel the pressure of the fear. It was determined to make me feel insecure and insufficient to this moment. Which I was, always am. I approached the woman.
She lay on her side with her eyes open. The eight million people she was invisible to were invisible to her. She stared through them. Her makeup was so ridiculously thick, that she brought to mind a geisha. But she was under there, in there, somewhere.
The fear arrived and sat heavily on top of me as I prayed desperately for the words this woman needed to hear. Why was I standing here? What exactly was I supposed to say?
“I have half of a cheddar chive scone here. Would you like it? I only used my fingers to break off chunks.”
She glanced at me then away and shrugged concession. I laid it by her head.
“God bless you,” I said.
I was aware of the triteness of my statement. It’s my fear that hides behind a generic blessing and carefully avoids naming the more polarizing Jesus Christ. My heart pounded and I made myself stay as I waited for the words, awkwardly standing over a homeless lady outside Central Park just staring at her.
“God loves you,” I said.
The look she gave me was odd. I couldn’t read it, maybe anger, maybe disbelief. It unnerved me and I succumbed to the weight of the breathless moment and left. As I passed the line of Texan tourists the words arrived suddenly and in a flood.
I was supposed to tell her that she was not invisible, that God saw her, and that, though I didn’t know her name, he knew her name. This is what I could’ve told her if I had rested under the fear another minute until the words had come. Is it strange that my fear would try to eat the very thing that is my strength and my love, glorious healing words?
I did not turn around, but kept walking, the words burning inside of me. There was grace for me in that moment. God and I stared down the massive shape of my fear that had suddenly become oh-so-visible.
Oh, friends, there is work to be done!
It’s coming down.