(Christian Week – May 2015)
KAMPALA, UGANDA ✦It was an unremarkable day, birds and the African sunshine, the sound of a distant lawnmower, the dog laying quiet in back, shoes nearby, tea, a half-eaten yogurt, when fear washed over me like a river. Nightmares, yes, can come anytime.
One of my first came after I saw my Opa Froese dead and cold. His funeral casket was half-closed showing Opa from the waist-up only. I knew beyond a young boy’s doubt that someone had cut him in half, and I later dreamed about Sinbad-like characters with their harem pants and curved scimitars coming to cut me for my own burial box.
I eventually grew to realize that this was a foolish fear, but new fears came. Would my team win? Would I find a girlfriend? (Later to be replaced by would I marry?) Would I find, or even know, what I wanted in life, never mind what God might want of me?
I eventually grew to realize that these fears were also foolish, if not real. But when my children came, an entirely new wolf was at the door. Fear could now be experienced for the ones I loved. To be a good father, I could now fear for my family.
Of course paternal fear can be as foolish, if not selfish, as any other fear. This is why the cross is such an offence to human reason. What sort of Father would abandon His child during his moment of greatest need? Who’d want such a father, let alone such a Father?
In either case, on this day in Africa this certain darkness washed over me, a daydream of killers coming to the house to take our lives, the lives of my wife and my children and myself, in a way as bloody and common as the daily news.
It came in an easy rhythm just like the report came, days before, of 147 killed in a terrorist massacre at a university in nearby Kenya. In Uganda, where we work and live at a university, police and embassy warnings came. Security was stepped up. After the nearby Kenya attack, our American friends—with their children—left for home for good. So did others.
I could now tell you that no work, even good work, is worth your family, so we’ve also decided to leave Uganda. Conversely, I could tell you that we, in fact, did not leave Uganda because God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of love, sound mind and reason.
The truth is neither and both. My family is now in the safety (as if any place is safe) of Canada. But this is only for our annual return. And my fears, well, are still my fears.
Yes, we want heaven, but who wants to die to get there? We want to make a difference in a hard world, but who wants the painful preparation for such a mission? We want God’s abiding presence, but who wants to be stripped naked into this dependence?
Faith? Sure. But trust?
I hope that someday I will outgrow these fears, or at least learn to live with them. I hope you’ll outgrow your fears too, just like you already have with so many.
I believe somehow, somewhere, we will.
Even more, I hope that our fears are more than just things to fear, but, in some mysterious way, angels in disguise: angels to wrestle through the long night with, like a God-Man in the desert, then One to finally walk away from with a strange limp if not a strange blessing.