A while back I started looking for a good, cheap rifle for deer hunting. I am a duck hunter but I go out with friends deer hunting every now and then. I have been using a friend’s Winchester 94 which I like but I would eventually like to get my own if for no other reason that being able to add a scope. Anyhow I write this to say that while I would not describe myself as a fan of guns I am not opposed to them. I have my guns for hunting (including the 410 my parents gave me when I was 12) and that’s about it.
While searching for a deer rifle I walked into a somewhat local gun shop and heard a person describing how his 8 year old daughter only felt safe enough to sleep when she had her loaded .22 pistol beside her bed. He described how some people might say that made him a “gun nut,” but he had trained her properly on how to handle her gun and, therefore, he was certain she could handle herself. All he knew was that the only way his daugther felt safe enough to sleep was with the pistol near by, so he made sure it was there for her. He added that he forced the issue of putting a flashlight on the barrel of the gun so she could identify her target before she shot it. I stood in the store slack jawed until I decide I would go elsewhere to look for a deer rifle.
Before I write anything else I want to stress that I don’t know this individual or his daughter. For all I know I could have been walking into a fictional story. I heard 10 minutes of loud conversation and that is all I am writing about. I know what I heard but I don’t claim that what I heard actually represents the truth of this individual or his family.
There is a great deal that I could write about concerning this experience. For example, the judgment of an unsupervised 8 year old in handling a deadly weapon in scary situations or the judgment of a 40ish year old dad putting his 8 year old daughter in such situations. What I would like to talk about is fear. I remember my kids at 8. In fact, I remember it fondly. Do you know who they trusted to handle fearful situations? Pam and me. “Dad” and “Mom” where the regular calls when there was something that near them that caused them fear. Otherwise they walked around with certainty that we would protect them. Sometimes, usually when they were jumping off something high, they were a little more certain that I had wished they were.
While a small amount of fear is necessary I believe that parents, and Christians, should focus more on hope. Fear attempts to protect, hope transforms. Fear of sticking your hand in a fire helps a kid. An 8 year old being so scared of an individual breaking into her house (in Central Wisconsin none the less) that the only way she can go to sleep is with a loaded gun beside her bed is another thing. As a parent I don’t like kids being raised on fear and as a pastor I worry that the church is basing its faith on more fear than hope.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit Paul wrote
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
The Lordship of Jesus calls us to walk in the hope of the resurrection. This hope leads to us to be an incarnational part of God’s transformation of the world and his ministry of reconciliation. Fear does just the opposite. Fear leads us to pull away from all that might be dangerous. Fear puts up barriers for protection. Hope encourages involvement that can lead to conversion. Fear is “us/them” because we are sure things will merely get worse, while hope is the possibility of “we” because we know that something better is possible. Fear is “I can’t take that risk because I have to protect mine,” while hope is “I can try that because I know He has my back.” Fear is a fight against death, while hope is a fight for resurrection.
I hope those of us who are parents will give our kids such security that they are able to live in hope instead of fear, and I equally pray that those of us who are followers of Jesus will live in such hope that the world around us is transformed through His power.