First Commandment: You Shall Not Have False Gods/My Faith You Are Going to Die… and Other Thoughts from 35,000 Feet in the Sky by Joel Stepanek I’m on a plane writing this at about 35,000 feet. We are flying through some “weather” which is pilot code for storms. It is pretty bumpy and if you are afraid of flying this is literally the worst. It is funny that I’m actually working this and not curled up in my seat, sweatily reciting a rosary and asking God to save our plane. I used to be terrified of flying (I wrote about it before) but by the grace of God, some great counseling, and an awesome fear of flying program, I overcame that fear. During that process, though, I came to a realization with the help of my counselor and some prayer and it is a major truth about all fear – Every fear is rooted in the “worst case scenario” which ultimately is a fear of dying. Wow – ultra heavy, right? Let’s get heavier – You are going to die, one day, one way or another. If you meet any person that is alive anywhere in the world there are two things you will share in common; you were both born and one day you will both die. They are the great connecting points of humanity. So back to the plane. My fear of flying was rooted in my fear of death. If I got on a plane and gave up my control of flying the plane, and that plane crashes, I would also die. So, if I avoid the plane then I avoid death. This is true for small things and the worst case scenario – a person that is afraid of bugs is afraid of bugs because they are creepy and might be poisonous. That could kill you. Same thing for snakes, tigers, large elephants…you get the idea. Even public speaking – a lot of people are afraid of public speaking because they get so anxious they are afraid they will have a heart attack. No joke. Maybe your fears are smaller and you can push through them, but what about those crippling fears that take us over and take us out? There is something bigger, here. Why are you afraid of dying? I needed to dig heavy into that question. I didn’t like the answer, but it was something I needed to hear. Though I lived my life as a Christian, my faith was more like an atheist. I prayed, but never really trusted it to work. I hoped, but in people, jobs, and financial success but not in heaven. I loved, but conditionally – not sacrificially. So, yes, I was a Christian but not a person of faith. And my fears reflected that because if I wasn’t so afraid of dying then I could overcome my fears. But as it stood, I loved this life on earth more than my hope was in heaven. It isn’t a bad thing if you are a little sad or afraid of dying – we have people we love on earth and things we like to do. Plus, heaven is a bit unknown and the unknown can always cause some anxiety. But what if your hope outweighed that? What if your hope in the promise of heaven was more? What if, though you enjoy your life on earth, you were excited to meet Christ in heaven? To enter into that love? What if you resolved to live every day to the full because you didn’t know how many days you were going to get? The hope in heaven doesn’t take our eyes off our earthly priorities (namely of loving God, loving others, serving the poor, and striving to follow Jesus and be holy) but it does liberate us from fear. It gives us permission to go on adventures. To get on the plane, proclaim your testimony, pet an elephant – whatever – because we have hope in something greater than this life. Fear is atheistic because it makes something bigger than God – whatever your fear might be – and says that death is too horrible to face because we wonder, “What if there is nothing after this?” And that is where we start to become atheistic in our faith – rather than having hope there is doubt in what comes next. This is where fear creeps in. One day you will die, so will I – it is the great connecting point of humanity. But it is also what connects us with Christ, who took on our humanity. He was also born into human flesh and he died. He knows the process, but shows us hope: He rose from the dead and promises that, when you live in Him, you will, too. Even as I finish this blog, we have passed through the weather, the sun is breaking through the clouds, and the flight is smooth. There is hope beyond whatever fear you are wrestling with – it is found in Christ. Be not afraid – He has big plans for you.