In March of 2017 I lost my oldest son to suicide. He took his own life in my home. I left to pick up my second oldest son from work and when I came back my oldest son was nowhere to be found. I thought he had left to go for a walk, but I was wrong. He was dead in my garage. It would be hours before my husband would discover his body.
From the moment that Anthony was born I feared him dying. It was by far my greatest fear. I had nightmares about it and when he started driving, I would text him anytime there was a wreck reported within 100 miles of where we lived to make sure he was ok. I worried constantly about his well-being and then one day my worst fear became a reality and he was dead.
As I looked at him in his casket, I realized that all the fear I had carried his entire life was gone. The thing I feared the most was right in front of me and I felt fearless. That would only last a little while before it came back even worse. I became scared of everything. Of driving over bridges, of one of my other kids dying or the worst-case scenario: my grandkids getting sick.
People who say things like, ‘We should not live in fear!’ have not lost anything traumatizing enough. – Leticia Ochoa Adams
You know what is awful? Having a global pandemic happen when you are perpetually scared that someone else in your family will get sick and die. Turns out that pandemics do not help ease your fear and worry about people you love dying.
In the second chapter of Philippians St. Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This appears to go against the current mantra: “We cannot live in fear,” so frequently invoked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supposing they are at loggerheads: Whose advice do we take?
People who say things like, “We should not live in fear!” have not lost anything traumatizing enough. If this world does not scare you, then you are not paying attention. Somehow people who are not scared normally are able to distract themselves into ignoring the suffering that others live with every single day. This also makes it easy for such folks to live in denial about our own moral responsibility for alleviating some of that suffering.
We will stand before God one day, and He will hold us to account for every suffering we did not ease, which was in our power to alleviate – either directly, by some act of charity or justice, or indirectly, by offering our own.
It is not because we do not trust in His mercy, but because we understand the reality of our sinfulness that we should fear Judgment Day. – Leticia Ochoa Adams
He will ask us what use we made of His gifts to us: Did we use them for our own benefit? Did we use them to dismantle systems of oppression to alleviate suffering in this world? Did we ignore issues that cause our neighbors to suffer because we didn’t notice them until a pandemic put a spotlight on them – better late than never – or did we protest only for shops and hair salons to open again, so we could go back to ignoring our neighbors’ plights?
We should be scared, only, scared of the right thing.
If we are not, then are we working out our salvation? Because according to St. Paul working out our salvation should come with trembling and fear. Not living in fear means not losing anything and Jesus taught us that our salvation would come with sacrifice of our lives. Comfort brings a life without fear, but salvation does not.
Fear of catching a deadly virus or losing someone you love to a deadly virus is a real fear. It is a reasonable fear just like the fear of God judging our souls when we die is a reasonable fear. It is not because we do not trust in His mercy, but because we understand the reality of our sinfulness that we should fear Judgment Day.
If “not living in fear” means you trust in God, then that is reasonable as well. What is not reasonable is demanding that life go back to normal, especially when “normal” means we no longer have to see everyday suffering and can more easily avoid being confronted with our obligation to do something about it.
If that is normal, God save us from it.
Leticia Ochoa Adams writes from Texas, on life, death, grief, suicide, faith, motherhood, doubts and whatever (else) happens to be on her mind.
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