Welcome back to this Summer’s Lawn Chair Catechism, hosted by CatholicMom.com. If you want to catch up or learn more about this series and the book we’re using, you can go to my main page, found here.
Everyone is afraid of something, and most people are afraid of the same kinds of things. There is the perfectly normal and rational fear of anything with more than four legs, which makes this meme something that looks reasonable and rational:
What? That’s a perfectly reasonable reaction!
Many people fear public speaking or being around large crowds; others fear dogs or snakes or another kind of animal.
Then there’s the fear of death, which is among the top fears of all people. Since the beginning of time, people have feared death, especially in ancient pagan cultures where people didn’t know what was going to happen to them after they died.
But this should not be so for Christians, because we do know what will happen when we die. And if we are living a life for Christ, we have nothing to fear. Even if we still face struggles, temptations, and the fears of this world, Christ has overcome death and sin in the end. If we cling to Him, if we embrace His plan for us, we can take comfort in knowing that death does not have the final word.
But Christ is key to this whole endeavor. We cannot overcome sin and death alone; we have to let Jesus do this for us. We can’t be like obstinate children who cry, “I’ll do it myself!” all the time. We don’t have that kind of power. That’s why we need to let Christ and His Cross do it for us.
• What is a fear that you have overcome? How did that happen? Why do you think people are afraid of death?
As an introvert, I get very nervous about public speaking. Anything in front of a group of people makes my knees knock a bit. (Well, really, any interaction with strangers does this to me.) There were two things that helped me get past this: acting and the Dale Carnegie public speaking course.
When I was in high school, I got involved in drama. I never held a lead role in anything, but I did figure out that if I needed to interact with strangers (say, waiting tables in an after-school job), I could act like an extrovert. I learned that no one could tell the difference if I took a deep breath, braced myself, and dove into the role of Outgoing and Perky Waitress.
The next thing I did was after I was married. Nathan took the Dale Carnegie Effective Human Relations course and eventually was a Graduate Assistant. At that point, I had the opportunity to take the class myself, and I learned how to effectively speak in front of groups and how to relate to people and interact like a normal person. (This, as opposed to when I was a small girl and would literally hide behind my mother to avoid public interaction with people I knew from school.)
What I learned in the Carnegie class was that almost everyone is afraid of public speaking, but that there are techniques that help you remain calm and focused during your talk while still able to relate to and reach your audience. I figured out that I could apply these things to one-on-one conversations, too.
Now, as far as a fear of death, perhaps we forget our Sunday school lessons, or perhaps we worry that we aren’t spiritually ready to face judgement. Or maybe it’s like the old fable comparing being born with dying. In this fable, a child is waiting to be born and conversing with his guardian angel about his fear of leaving his home, where he has spent his life, and going to a new place to be with someone called “Mom.” The angel calms the child, helping him understand that Mom loves him, that the world outside the womb is beautiful beyond any description, and that he will be happy there. He must just trust and let go of his fear of being born.
• How does the Resurrection of Jesus Christ take away our greatest fear?
As Christians, I think we do forget all the lessons that mirror that fable. We forget that Christ has conquered death, that Heaven awaits us if only we let go of our attachments to this world and our fears of the next.
One of the best depictions of this fear — complete with examples of those who are able to let go of it and those who are not — is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. In the book, travelers take a bus from a dull, colorless town to a beautiful place where they are invited to go further to an even more beautiful place of light and beauty. There, they are told, is unspeakable happiness and love, where conflict no longer has a place and we find the acceptance and love we have longed for our entire lives.
I won’t do it justice if I try to sum it up, so I’m just going to recommend you get a copy.
Jesus’ Resurrection should take our fear of death away; He died upon the Cross, but rose from the dead. His Ascension to Heaven shows us that in Heaven we will be complete: body and soul in perfect harmony at last. If we are doing all we can to be close to Christ and remain there, we shouldn’t fear death at all!
• How can faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ help us to battle despair?
If we remember all of this, it can help us in moments of fear and doubt. I think this is a big part of why we Catholics use a Crucifix rather than an empty cross. Our Protestant brethren miss the point of the Crucifix, saying that it emphasizes Christ’s death more than His Resurrection (which a bare cross symbolizes).
What I see in the Crucifix is a reminder that Christ’s power over death is so great that He overcame even this horrible, torturous death and rose triumphantly. Even this could not stop God from opening Heaven’s gates for us. This is where Christ was, but now He is triumphant. Now He reigns at the right hand of the Father.
And someday, I can be there, too.