Don’t touch that dial (knob, lever or handle)
“Don’t touch that dial!”
That well-used sentence was familiar during my earliest years in front of a television set in the era when you actually had to go to the TV and turn the dial to get another station.
Now “Don’t touch that dial!” has a whole new meaning. Beyond the safety of our own homes, we are wondering, who did touch the doorknob last? That light switch in the public bathroom? Did I wipe my fingers over the sleeve of my shirt after wrestling the oversized dog food bag into the grocery store cart, and, if, so, do I need to drop the shirt into the washing machine as soon as I get home?
Here’s another question. Whose hands are sore because you’ve washed them far more than you’ve ever washed them before?
During the Easter Sunday sermon last week, I spoke of Mary Magdalene at the tomb (John 20, verses 11 and following). Much like the fear we can experience with our health when in public these days, Mary experienced fear.
Mary may not have named that she was fearful in the moment, and it’s certainly not the emotion that opened her floodgate of tears, but fear, specifically, projected fear, was there. She wondered what anyone in the throes of acute grief wonders. “How will I ever make it without him?”
Yes, Mary’s tears spilled from the pain of separation and from the pain of how her friend, confidant and teacher died so horribly, but somewhere in those three days, and perhaps right there at the tomb, she thought ahead. Not having Jesus in her future crushed her all the more.
Maybe we can get past the here and the now (or fool ourselves into thinking we can get past the pain of the here and the now), but to suspend great hardship? Pain for a day may be okay (it isn’t), but pain for a season, a year, a lifetime?
It’s one thing to grieve in the now. That’s awful. It’s quite another beast to grieve for what will come.
But Mary does something we can do, too. The NLT version of verse 11 reads, “Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.”
Mary didn’t just stand there. She didn’t just let grief consume her. She did something about it. She moved forward. She stooped. She looked in. As a result of her actions from fear to faith, she met and heard from the angels. Then experienced the one she had mistaken as the gardener who, when she heard him say her name, became the very one she wanted to see—Jesus.
Mary did not remain motionless. When we move from fear to faith, we don’t have to be motionless, either. We can use our faith—as shaky or as splintered as it may be in the moment—to move past our heaviest fears. In doing so, we will see—we will meet—our Jesus.
Yes, be absolutely concerned about washing your hands. Yes, be cautious and mindful of your health in public spaces. When your stomach swells in projected fear (which it will do), breathe. Stoop. Look in. Specifically look into (or recall) the Word of God to experience the presence of Jesus who will not only call your name but also calm you.
Great scripture about calming fears is available. Here’s one from Isaiah, the prophet who spoke of Jesus centuries before his birth. He offers these words from God. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”