By Lindsey Weishar
For most of my life fear has been a felt presence, a weight that over the years has become familiar. When I was younger, fear was a particular place: I imagined my anxious self in a stone dungeon where the light could not reach, and where I could not reach the light, chained to the wall, a prisoner. In recent years, the place has changed—fear is an untended garden glutted with dead stems, where nothing grows but a strong hopelessness.
There are still times when this familiar fear returns. When it comes, it wraps me in bleak questions, finds the old footholds in my heart and hangs on to old thoughts: “There’s nothing you can give the world that hasn’t already been given. God is weary of your constant weakness.” These are lies, but fear shifts my vision inward, and what I can see is narrow and dimmed.
But where I see a landscape veiled in darkness, God sees differently. His vision unfolds most beautifully for me in the second chapter of the Song of Songs where Christ, the lover, “gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices” (2:9b) is looking for me, his beloved. He calls out to me, to each of us:
“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone” (Song 2:10-11).
This call is balm to the fearful soul. It’s a call from the places we’ve hidden within. It’s a call to open the windows of our minds and hearts to the healing rays of his light, a light that fills us with the courage to rise from fear.
God is just as familiar with the places I hide, with my interior dungeon, as I am. Later in the same chapter of Songs, he says:
“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely” (2:14).
Fear is a bending inward—away from the world. We hide ourselves in places where others will not look, so not to be a burden, for fear is heavy, and the darkness of it, though terrifying, is at least familiar. But here we have the Lord calling to us a second time to come into the light, and not only so that he can see us, but because he delights in us—in our voice, in our very presence.
And once Christ brings us from the “secret recesses,” the work is not done. The next step is to help us stop our fears from having the last say, from damaging the gardens that are our hearts:
“Catch us the foxes, the little foxes
that damage the vineyards; for our
vineyards are in bloom!” (2:15)
Upon my image of the broken garden is painted a stunning reality: that the garden was never really dead. The “little foxes,” my fears, have trampled some of the flowers, broken some of the vines, but the work God and I are trying to accomplish is not ruined: “for our vineyards are in bloom!” There is life, and I am only asked to step forward, to touch the end of his tassel with trembling fingers, and believe that he will help me bear this cross, the shape and weight of which he is intimately familiar. I am only asked to gather up the foxes that will frequent this garden throughout my life, and stop them from feasting upon the joy and peace of my heart.
My prayer for those of us who struggle with fear is that we may allow God to use it to lead us to greater trust in him. “Behold I make all things new,” (Rev 21:5) he whispers, as he touches the soil of our broken hidden gardens, “It is here that I will begin to build the place through which all who seek you will find you. It is here that you will begin to live.”