There is a lot in life to fear. Death and taxes – am I right?! Fear is a powerful human response that can let us know when we are in danger. The amygdala in the brain is typically associated with how we process fear. In the Academy Award winning documentary Free Solo, the subject of the film, Alex Honnold, climbs the treacherous three-thousand foot high rock face of El Capitan without the use of ropes or safety equipment. In one part of the film his brain is tested and the results are that he had little to no activity in his amygdala. He is fearless.
Today’s sermon was about letting go of fear. In Luke 13:31-32, the Pharisees warn Jesus to flee because Herod is trying to kill him, to which Jesus replies, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.'” Jesus’ life is being threatened but he is unafraid. He is on a mission and there is nothing that will stand in his way, not even a death threat.
I do not obsess about fear in my life, but I am afraid of all the usual stuff: the future, my children’s safety, losing a loved one, and so on. There are also other hidden fears that I do not consciously acknowledge but otherwise drive my behaviors: insecurities, underlying emotional trauma, etc. Fear, generally speaking, is not an unhealthy human aspect. As it concerns one’s purpose in this world, however, fear is the chief obstacle in achieving what God put you on Earth to accomplish.
I believe God put me here to serve the poor. In order to do that well, my work requires laser focus on getting it right. My mission is clear, the work at hand is hard, and I cannot let fear of what is in my way or trying to knock me off course distract me from achieving my mission. This is hard work and requires discipline and faith – this is true in all vocations.
There’s a moment in Free Solo where Alex likens the mindset of the free solo climber to that of the warrior. The focus is singular and everything is done with excellence and without fear because your life is at stake. Whether it’s one’s actual life at risk or a life wasted because of fear, we must tell Herod, that fox, that we have work to do. Nothing will deter us until the work is done.