Who’s Afraid of (Virginia Woolf)…?

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I am a fan of Virginia Woolf… but this play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is about deeper things.

Wikipedia gives us the brief summary that this play was about “who’s afraid of the big bad wolf … who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. The play demonstrates ‘how his characters must rid themselves of falsehood and return to the world in which they must live.'” (Source). As humans, we love creating false illusions.

I think we are living in a time that requires deep discernment. This is not a post with a political agenda. And don’t @ me. (Been a registered independent my whole voting history because I think of myself as a free thinker). I do think we must confront the fact that we are in a time when fear rules the day (and many decisions). People are afraid of illusions, and they are also afraid of living without them.

Fear has been a running theme and thread in humanity since Adam and Eve decided to have a fruit salad that wasn’t theirs to consume. And those of us who have lived through these past two years have been submerged in it. It feels like we’ve been choking underwater, and now we have that pain that comes to the nose when water comes in (if you’ve been swimming (and are a poor swimmer), you know the feeling).

Fear has been a constant narrative being pushed on us by authorities, by news coverage (both sides), by neighbors, professions, etc. People are saturated in a strange paralysis of fear. People are making blanket decisions based on fear. People control because of fear. There is no fear in love, and true love requires total freedom, we see in Scripture (1 John 4:8).

We have varying circumstances around the world. Lockdowns, mandates, resistance, control, fear. Some benefit. Some lose. As someone who has studied both journalism and law, observing international (and national) events has been fascinating, distressing, and at times, shocking. Humanity’s story is old as time.

And despite the disasters we sometimes inflict on ourselves and live through, we have a constant instruction in Scripture that states, “Do not fear.” Scripture doesn’t encourage us to operate in fear but the opposite.

In a time when it’s easy to succumb to fear and the uncertainty that is held by the future, I want to point out a couple things:

God is faithful. I was reading a post by Bianca Alosi-Serratore, a lovely Australian gal who has been posting throughout the lockdowns in Australia. My heart goes out to her and our fellow Australian friends. I loved what she wrote:

“Don’t be afraid, do not fear. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Be ready. Stand strong and remain in hope. When lifeless things are pulled up from the ground, deep wells will burst forth and water barren fields.”

Bianca Alosi-Serratore

Freedom is yours. And I am not just talking Nelson-Mandela mental freedom, but the fact that as people, we are the ones who give away our power. We always have a choice. And sometimes, people choose to have someone else make the choice for them. The truth is, though, the responsibility always lies with us.

Fear wears many masks. Some are so afraid of the virus. I have seen first-hand how deeply and psychologically people have been affected. Some have been touched by the fear of losing their jobs due to the fact that they aren’t afraid of the virus. Fear comes in many ways. The threats are coming in many ways. Fear– it’s part of being human. I don’t think that fear is the problem. It’s ingrained in our fallen nature, so what gives? What matters is what we do with our fear. As humans, we wrestle with it and have to decide what place, if any, we will give it in our lives. What does “living life” look like, I was discussing with a friend, not long ago. That will look different to different people.

We each have to sit and wrestle with whatever fear arrives to us. We must decide what matters more.

We must check our willingness to participate in reality, rather than the illusions or beliefs people want to impose. It would be sad to live a life based on an illusion (created by oneself or another). It means you are operating and making decisions based on something false. [Shallon Lester, a journalist who loves to analyze relationships (and does it well), points out that this is why something like betrayal or adultery is so painful, because we make decisions based on a “reality” that is not real but an illusion.] Which means…

At every step of the way, we must pray for discernment. I think we have confused wisdom and discernment for whatever seems right in our eyes or whatever is prevelant among those we want to be esteemed by. We must, in all humility, pray.

The Common Battle

Fear changes us, and it changes how we operate. Fear can lead us to behave in unthinkable ways. As someone who studied genocides and human rights violations (two certificates, guys, and one is from the International Bar Association), fear has often been weaponized by a group of people who are unafraid to execute some disastrous plans. It’s a repeated fact. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. No matter what side of the political spectrum you find yourself on, I would say fear is something you have to fight against in this day and age. We are all in this battle.

Taking My Shoes Off

Through my Bible study course at Arise, I was meditating on a part in Scripture where Joshua is getting ready to lead Israel forward, and God instructs them on how they will conquer Jericho. See, they needed to get to Canaan and the question was, how the hell were they going to get across Jericho? You know what settled into the camp? I’ve got one word for ya, fear. Joshua is their leader; poor kid– God only knows what was going through His mind. And he was a brave one, y’all.

Let’s take a look:

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:13-15 ESV

See, before God tells Israel their instructions to march around Jericho for six days and blast their trumpets and shout– the Commander of the Lord’s army (the same who appeared to Abraham and Moses) finds Joshua and tells him to do something asked of Moses, previously (Ex. 3:5) — to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground.

Taking off one’s shoes was a sign of humilty, reverence and respect. (Jesus was humble enough to take off our shoes and wash our feet). The Bible study instructor points out that it’s interesting to see that when God is about to call these leaders into unknown territory (with a really odd set of instructions), He asks them to take off their shoes. Shoes are a symbol of all that is familiar; a way of arriving to something or somewhere.

God calls us to step up in moments that are shrouded in uncertainty, and oftentimes, our fear. He calls us to this, and the first thing He asks us to do is to take off the familiar and what serves as security, and He asks us to obey and trust Him.

I hope that in these times of uncertainty and fear we may find ourselves standing in His presence. May we seek it, continually. May we find freedom in it. And when we are there, no matter what circumstances look like around us, may we realize that no matter how odd the instruction may be, we are standing on holy ground. Holy ground is found in the uncertainty, with the Commander of the Lord’s army before us.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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