I got caught up in the wave of fear that came for many of us in the past year.
I didn’t realize it had carried me off so far until I stood at the train station waiting for my ride to Chicago. My pastor had whisked me away after church, arriving at the station he said, “Happy anniversary … we’re celebrating in the city tonight.”
I married my pastor 29 years ago, back when he was an atheist. Since then, our life has been an adventure taking us all the way around the globe to Mongolia, where we ran a shelter for street girls and directed a humanitarian project.
The small town girl who said “I do” learned much about the world in the near 30 years since. Our lifestyle had offered me experiences that drove out fear. Once I had a gun put to my head simply because I was a foreigner; the trigger was pulled, but no bullets were inside. Another time I’d stood, heart racing, with Chinese police searching our luggage for Bibles, suspecting us to be missionaries, and they weren’t wrong. I’d endured being lost in the Gobi Desert in the middle of the night and countless other hazardous moments.
I thought these experiences had cured me of fear, but here it was right in the center of my heart poking around, threatening to ruin the most romantic surprise date. As we found our way to our seats, I searched my heart for the cause of my fear. For the past year, every time I flipped open my laptop or scrolled through social media, I had been inundated with stories of hate, anger, rage and pain. I’ve worked to process what I was seeing and reading and what it all could mean for the world, but mostly I’ve just felt heavy-hearted.
The images of Chicago were too much to bear. Businesses torched, tensions high. I realized that I had made a decision about a place even though I had not been there the entire year. I had subconsciously chosen to believe it was dangerous.
Yes, it’s true. The statistics would agree with what I had decided, but I had come too far and learned too much about the world to be subjected to believing anything about a place before I walked and talked with the people who lived there.
Fear is a liar, especially when it comes to people. One week later, I’m writing this with proof of the lie. What I found in the city were people like me and you, and lots of them. After the past year surrounded by the quietness of our small town, it was a thrill to see the teeming streets, to hear the buzz of many voices and to be a part of a bigger story called life rather than simply a fearful media observer. On the train home I noted, “Being there with the people really makes me feel I’ve been tricked.”
I won’t let that happen again.
• Shari Tvrdik is director of communication for Cup of Cold Water Ministries, and author of the book “One Baby For The World.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.