Monday, April 11, 2011

on fear and the adventures of sinbad

Illustration for Sinbad the Sailor by Edmund Dulac

2 Timothy 1:7 in the Amplified Bible says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control".

While praying about overcoming the spirit of fear and negativity today, I suddenly had a revelation, a sort of vision, which -– while strangely incongruous under the circumstances -– really captured the whole "thing" that we do to ourselves when we let ourselves become anxious or fearful. And yes –- I say "let", because it is something we allow to happen; we permit the spirit of fear to rule us.

Almost like a tiny little film clip, I saw… Sinbad and the old man of the sea.

I know -– huh?

I literally saw the character of Sinbad with a horrible old man sitting upon his shoulders; this monster was torturing Sinbad and making his life a misery until Sinbad finally shook him off. I took this all in in about 3 seconds flat, but it was a thought-provoking revelation for me nonetheless.

Needless to say, after I finished my prayers, I went to look up the story. It seems that on Sinbad’s fifth voyage, he encounters an apparently weak and decrepit old man on a desert island. The old man signs to Sinbad that he wants Sinbad to take him up and carry him on his back across a stream so that he can pick some fruit. Sinbad lets the old man get on his back and carries him over, but when he tries to get him off, the old man tightens his legs about Sinbad's throat and refuses.

In Antoine Galland's translation, Sinbad continues the story thus: "Notwithstanding my fainting, the ill-natured old fellow kept fast about my neck, but opened his legs a little to give me time to recover my breath. When I had done so, he thrust one of his feet against my stomach, and struck me so rudely on the side with the other, that he forced me to rise up against my will. Having got up, he made me walk under the trees, and forced me now and then to stop, to gather and eat fruit such as we found. He never left me all day, and when I lay down to rest by night, he laid himself down with me, always holding fast about my neck. Every morning he pushed me to make me wake, and afterwards obliged me to get up and walk, and pressed me with his feet. You may judge then what trouble I was in, to be loaded with such a burden as I could by no means rid myself of".

Well! That sure sounds like me when I’m carrying a burden of worry or fear!

Happily, as with all Sinbad’s adventures, this one ends well; Sinbad gets the old man drunk, the old man falls off, and Sinbad crushes his head to pieces with a stone. How would you like to crush your fears to death?

The story continues, "I was extremely rejoiced to be freed thus for ever from this cursed old fellow, and walked along the shore of the sea, where I met the crew of a ship that had cast anchor to take in water to refresh themselves. They were extremely surprised to see me, and to hear the particulars of my adventures. 'You fell,' said they, 'into the hands of the old man of the sea, and are the first that has ever escaped strangling by him. He never left those he had once made himself master of till he destroyed them, and he has made this island famous for the number of men he has slain; so that the merchants and mariners who landed upon it dared not advance into the island but in numbers together".

What does this curious revelation mean to me? Simply this – don’t let the monster of fear rule you. Don't let it master you till it destroys you. Whenever you’re tempted to let it gain a foothold in your life – SHAKE IT OFF.

The old man of the sea reminds me of the apostle Peter’s words: "Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

If someone warned me that there was such a monster lying in wait – whether it be the demon of fear or worry or negativity or despair – I should certainly endeavour to avoid it altogether. But if I had to confront it – and in life we probably will have to – then – like the sailors who ensured that they did not venture forth unless they were empowered by the strength of their numbers – I would ensure that I was empowered by God, by His Holy Spirit dwelling within me and filling me with divine peace, comfort, hope and strength.

"Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled] (italics mine, John 14:27).

As I confront my fears once again, I remind myself -– yes, the way David reminded himself of God’s faithfulness when he had to confront Goliath, "The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine" –- God IS more powerful than any monster I have to face, and HE IS FAITHFUL.

(And, while I'm on the topic, I could perhaps learn a thing or two from Sinbad, whose fearlessness and zest for life filled volumes in the Arabian Nights. For indeed, while life does have its share of monsters, serpents and sundry crazy people, it is also full of joy, wonder and treasures untold).

1 comment:

Amy said...

THANK YOU. Blessings. xoxo.


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