Email Devotion, Pentecost 3
But a dragon lies in ambush for the traveler; take care he does not bite you and inject in you his poison of unbelief …. In your journey to the Father of souls, your way lies past that dragon. How shall you pass him? You must have ‘your feet stoutly with the gospel of peace,” so that, even if he does bite you, he may not hurt you.
–St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 313-386, C.E.
We took our grandson to Dutch Wonderland on Saturday with his parents. The weather cooperated and we had a great time. One of the quieter options of the day was sitting at a small “theater” of seats for a “Meet and Greet” with Duke the Dragon, the primary mascot of D.W. It went great, other than the meet and greet part. The beast is six feet tall, and looks like he carries about 320 in weight. Our little Sam wouldn’t go near him. He was having none of the suggested “meeting and greeting” … unless standing eight feet away and modestly waving counts.
It got me thinking about some of the things I am afraid of: guns … Brussels sprouts … paper wasps (caught a nest with a hedge clipper once, and they “papered” my face) … swimming in water in which I cannot see the bottom … public speaking (yes, really) … and fire and brimstone Methodists. I could find a few others, I suppose, if I thought a little more. Some of my fears are personal, others are fears I have for others. None are crippling fears, but they do give me pause. There are fears of the “unknown” that are more insidious, and fears of things that are spiritual in nature.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem called this last experience (Spiritual fears), “passing by the dragon,” (see the quote above). C.S. Lewis, had a milder version, in which he spoke of “stealing past watchful dragons,” referencing his own childhood struggles with the great spiritual tenets of the faithful life, like suffering, obligation and reverence. And thus, my thinking continues, as I ponder those classic parts of our faith lives with which I struggle. What are my dragons, I wonder? Grace, sometimes … I struggle to accept it for myself. The Holy Spirit … you’ve heard me ponder this before, if you’ve been with me a while. The Devil … I think we do fine drumming up evil all by ourselves, without needing any help. There are others, but these are a few that regularly float to the surface.
What are your dragons, I wonder? When does the feel of hot breath on your neck raise your anxiety? What does the sound of a scaly tail dragging along the woodwork do to your heart rate? Why does the smell of burnt sulphur make you want to run for the nearest fire extinguisher? In spite of the fear that may arise, remember that you never walk alone. The God to whom you pray each day accompanies you and strengthens you, even for those situations that bring anxiety with them. We are not promised that we will have no fears, but we are offered the companionship of God to help us work through it.
Gracious, Heavenly Father, You already know the worries on my heart. I pray that You will give me the peace that passes all understanding in the trials that are ahead. I am scared about what the future holds in my career, family and finances. I give these worries to You Father and ask that You will carry me through this difficult time. Your agape love surpasses all love that I could possibly give. I thank You and praise You for Your patience with me. I love you Father! Amen.
— Derek Hill, A Prayer in the Face of Worry