9.16.2010

Things That Startle

I hate being startled. Barney Fife never seemed to like it very much, either.

You can tease me, you can tickle me, you can tell me jokes that aren't funny, you can talk my ear off. But please. Don't ever hide behind a door waiting to jump out at me. My nervous system will not appreciate you. At least, these days it won't.

When you're a kid, getting startled is kind of fun. Take hide and seek, for instance. When the hider and the seeker finally met face-to-face, it was a deliciously shocking 3 seconds of screaming. Pulling the shower curtain back in a dark bathroom to find some kid hiding behind it...just incredibly hilarious, right?

One time, my cousin and I sat in my room reading a ghost story called "Don't Look Behind You," a story that would make any 10-year-old resolve never to turn around again. I got up to leave the room for a minute, venturing down the hallway, past open doors that were gateways to dark room. Rooms that had never bothered me before - but all of a sudden seemed ultra creepy.

From the darkness somewhere, I heard this nasal, other-worldly voice from somewhere closeby saying, "Don't look behiiiiind you!" That was all it took for my knees to give out. I literally collapsed on the floor, unable to stand up, like one of those chicks in the Friday the 13th movies. Later, we laughed for hours about how she had sat back there in my room, holding her nose while saying the phrase that we had shuddered over minutes earlier. The weird thing is, even though I almost passed out from fright, it was ridiculously fun. Kids love to scare each other.

As you get older, though, it's not so fun. For example: canned biscuits that pop like a gunshot when you peel the paper off are a SICK JOKE. A little warning please, Pillsbury? Like maybe, giant letters that say, "BRACE FOR IMPACT"? Because nobody wants to admit they're scared of biscuits. Yet here I am, doing just that on the world wide web.

Another frequent startle-inducer in our home is the kid-standing-beside-your-bed-staring-at-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night. Parents, you know what I'm talking about. You're asleep, but you just have this sense that someone is closeby...so you pop open your eyes, and there are two little eyes staring back at you. Really close to your face. It's enough to make you hit the roof.

I am alarmed when the phone rings after we've gone to bed. I am alarmed when one of my children lets out an ear-piercing shriek. I am even alarmed when a TV program gets interrupted for a "special report" because it's usually something horrible. Between national security concerns, the sad state of the U.S. economy, and Iran's obsession with nukes, there are an awful lot of startle-inducers around these days besides canned biscuits.

But then there's Psalm 27:1: "The Lord is my light and my salvation - so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?"

And we are also told not to be surprised as the world becomes a more desperate place. Expect it. But expecting it is kind of like seeing someone jump out at you...and you remain nonplussed. Because of this hope....there's a fortress. A light. Salvation. He's the anti startle-inducer. As someone once said, "Nothing has occurred to God." He has made known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is yet to come (Isaiah 46:10). Nothing, and no one, is beyond his reach. Remember this post from a while back? Do not forget that there are everlasting arms underneath us, come what may in this world.

So I might still jump when the biscuits pop or when some joker jumps out at me. But for the seriously alarming things, the disturbing things, the things that might cause one to quake in their boots...Psalm 27:1 is a great promise to bank on.

One that won't fail like Bear Stearns. Or the wisdom of man. Or even the human heart.

Until next time,

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