Halloween’s over. Time for Christmas. Just kidding. Sort of. Today’s post has to do with both of them. Sort of. I’m going to discuss ghosts, angels — things we fear. Halloween and Christmas have the best ghost stories. Don’t believe me about ghostly Christmas stuff? You’ve heard of Ebeneezer Scrooge and his timely ghosts. How about the white figures in the air appearing to people in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night?
Have you ever thought how you’d react if you saw a ghost — like in real life? How about an angel? I’m sure it is the nature of all of us to freak the heck out.
One night a few months ago, I got woken up in the middle of the night not once, but twice with a voice speaking right in my ear, “Anna…”
Of course I jolted awake, adrenaline zipping through my veins in an instant. I sat up and said, “Yes? What?”
At first I thought it was one of my kids with a groggy voice making it sound a little more adult than normal. Because you know how freaky it is when one of your children comes to you in the night and just stands there, looming over your bed like a dark apparition. Sometimes they don’t say anything for a time. They’ve awoken and are ready for you to take care of some need, but they expect you to just know that they need something without speaking. They don’t say anything… They just stand there. In the dark. Waiting…
( ( shiver! ) )
Well, this time, there was no small freaky figure standing over me. There was no one. I waited in the silence for another word, but there was nothing. So I went back to sleep. The second time… same thing. Nada.
I told my husband about it the next day, and he said, “Oh! Did you say, ‘Speak, Lord, they servant heareth’?!”
Unfortunately, no, not at 3 a.m. I was not thinking about the obscure story in the Old Testament of Samuel and Eli, where the voice of the Lord wakes up little boy Samuel three times in the night.
“I’ll do it next time,” I said.
But alas, it hasn’t happened again, so I missed my chance of being the next prophet by just this much. Oh darn.
(Disclaimer: While this experience did, in reality, happen to me, I do not think it was an angel calling me to be a prophetess. I don’t know what it was, but I think God’s a little more persistent with us than one voice in the night, just one time. Or even twice. I mean, Joseph Smith got four times in from the Angel Moroni… Just sayin’.)
But seriously, why wasn’t Samuel scared? Well, we actually don’t know how he reacted, exactly. It just says, “He ran unto Eli and said, Here am I…” reasoning that the only person who speaks to him while living in the temple was Eli. Maybe he was freaked the heck out.
Fear Not, For I Bring You…
Have you noticed when angels of God visit people here on earth, the first thing they usually say is, “Fear not…” or its cousin phrase, “Peace be unto your soul…”?
Think about this logically — humanly. It would scare the ebeneegeezeeers out of any one of us if some random figure suddenly appeared out of no where. In the dark.
Take the shepherds watching over their fields by night outside of Bethlehem, for example. It’s in the middle of the night, people. It’s dark. They had no flashlights. They had no flood lights helping them see what their cute, fluffy animals were doing. Nope. They had just the stars and the moon to help them watch for predators like wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, and thieves who come to steal your livelihood while you’re not looking. Ladies, there’s a coyote who wanders my neighborhood at night, and we see him on our walks at 6 a.m. in the dark. Do you know how freaky that is? Shepherding: it’s not a profession of the faint of heart.
Yet, they were “sore afraid” when a dude appears in the sky above them.
Sore afraid, is right, people. This Christmas in just less than two months from now, if you get to read Luke 2 in your ward’s Sacrament Meeting, I dare you to substitute the phrase, “sore afraid” with “freaked the heck out.” It works. I’ll give you $50 if you do. I’ll need proof, but I WILL pay you.
Then take when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favor with God.”
And yet, remember how Mary reacted? “And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be…”
Modern street translation: “What the??? Who says things like ‘Hail, highly favored,’ and ‘blessed art thou among women’?! ME?! I’m just a girl…”
Even the mother of God needed to be reminded to remove fear from her mind.
What Are You Afraid Of?
I would bet, since you’re a human reading this post, you’re afraid of something. Diagnosed phobias aside, we are all startled when things are not out of the norm. We expect certain things should happen, and when they don’t happen the way we expect, we’re put out at minimum or downright terrified to the max.
The entire horror movie industry makes bank on playing on the expected unexpected. You know that the guy is going to jump out from behind the tree when the kids take a shortcut through the woods one misty, cloudy evening… and yet still, we jump, we scream, we cower or cover.
It’s expected we should fear evil stuff like masked men with machetes, but why would the first response be fear when an angel of GOD appears to a human too?
Is it simply that it’s unexpected? Or is there an inherent part of us that doesn’t feel ready to face something so miraculous?
No Seriously, Fear Not
Some people fear change; I fear endless states of non-change. I crave adventure, progress, and the next thing, and when my direction from the Lord is, “Wait and watch…” or “Be still, the time is not yet…” it’s torture to my poor little soul. And yet, with every message from God comes the accompanying message, “Peace… Peace be in your soul and throughout your whole self. Feel my peace.”
That phrase, “…feel my peace,” is not an invitation to me, it’s a commandment. “Receive peace, Anna. Let it fill you.” The angels’ words are also a command, not an invitation.
“For God hath not created the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7
I would propose that fear can be controlled and handled. While our natural instinct (or in other words,“natural man,” Mosiah 3:19) is to fear the unknown or the unexpected, God has asked us to expect miracles in our lives. The scriptures are replete with unusual things — arrows and knives completely missing a prophet on a wall, strangers in white appearing in the night, the walking dead (!!) — and yet, we think, “That only happens to other people, not to me.”
As followers of Jesus Christ, he’s asked us to see what is not readily seen by the majority, expect miracles, and wait for his return. Because he’s coming, either as a thief in the night, or to the confident and unafraid. The latter is fully expecting it.
Take Courage. Let Your Confidence Wax Strong.
There was a brand when I was a kid that plastered itself in neon and black all over T-shirts, “No Fear.” While it likely intended to induce courage in a young people taking jumps off ledges with skateboards, snowboards, or other sport-ish equipment, I always thought about what it would mean to live without fear — fear of others judgments, fear of what would happen if…, and fear of the endless unknown.
I’m certain the antidote is simple: trust that the Lord has you in his hands, and boldly move forward in your choices. The word that summarizes that sensation of audaciously taking a step right over your fear into the unknown is “courage.”
And guess what: that “courage” and “confidence” is required to attain. How to obtain “courage” is a different post (coming soon!) on virtue. (As a little teaser, read Doctrine & Covenants 121:45.)
Try it. Test out something that requires courage to conquer. You don’t need to worry about ghostly apparitions in the night; the scariest things are the obvious challenges right in front of our faces in the daylight.
And one more adorable scripture, just to tie in the Christmas shepherds at the beginning of the post:
“Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.”