A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.
–Comedian Steven Wright
People are more afraid than they let on. We won’t admit it, even to ourselves. Oh, we might confess that a near-accident got our heart rate up, or we had a temporary fright on a dark sidewalk. But what about the deeper, chronic anxiety? The fear that we’re not enough? The fear that it is all pointless? We repress that, we medicate it with snacks, 401Ks, busyness.
But it’s there.
There is a certain uneasiness that is part of our existence. “The terror underneath” Ernest Becker called it. The future is uncertain. Our mortality. The elusiveness of meaning. There is a profound, but subterranean insecurity woven into our experience.
Once, on a family car trip to Wyoming, that anxiety caught me off-guard. We were crossing Great Plains, making 70mph and we suddenly topped a rise. As we crested the hill, the landscape before me unfolded endlessly. Vacantly. It felt like we were plunging into a spread of nothingness. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the size around me. Odd, I had been so excited about our adventure, but at that moment, I felt that I had gone too far. I checked the gas gauge. I asked if the cooler was full. I checked the gas gauge again. I gripped the wheel. I tried to talk it away, “Isn’t this amazing, kids? It is so open and wide.” I sounded bold, but inside I felt adrift. Yes, I was definitely afraid, but I just re-tuned the radio.
Whenever I pause and look around – I mean when I seriously take a 360—I feel the vast, vast space around me and feel small and alone. And no matter how fast I rotate, my back is always exposed. No matter how much I plan and pack, I still don’t feel prepared. I can’t know what will intersect this fragile ribbon of road I’m traveling. Something, anything could suddenly slice across my path and maroon me. The world is so very wide. Yes, I am afraid of width.
Is this what Adam experienced when cast from the security of the Garden? Out he stumbled into the landscape, the globe curving away from him in every direction. Any path forward was as good or as uncertain as the next. That is where the anxiety began.
I am afraid, too. I act confident and stay near the yellow centerline, but I am always looking out the corner of my eye.
Admitting the fear has got to be the first step. I know this. That’s what Adam did. When God came looking, Adam answered, “I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”
Well, I said that admitting it is the first step, but I see that Adam didn’t make the first step. God did. He came looking. Maybe God is looking for me. Maybe, right now He is slicing across all the vastness to intervene into my path.
When He asks, “Where are you?” I am going to admit that I am naked and afraid.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed clinical mental health counselor (LCMHC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean; they have seven children and nine grandchildren.
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