The officers will then continue, “And is there a man here who is wavering in resolve and afraid? Let him go home right now so that he doesn’t infect his fellows with his timidity and cowardly spirit.” Deuteronomy 20:8 (MSG)
When I was a kid, my family was into swimming. My siblings and I swam competitively. My sister was a diver. We played water polo. Our vacations were spent on a lake skiing and swimming. We were lifeguards and helped with water safety instruction. From the age of eight until my late teens, I lived in a pool year round.
But being a swimmer didn’t start well for me. When I was seven or so, I was deathly afraid of the pool. I still remember going to swim lessons and being encouraged to swim across the width of the pool, in the deep end where my feet couldn’t touch, for the first time. I was paralyzed by fear. I cried. I screamed. No matter how much my instructors assured me that they would help me if I struggled, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t do it. As I recall, I had to go home that day. It would be another few days before I worked up the courage to make my first deep water swim.
I thought of that moment when I read the instructions in today’s chapter regarding fear. I understand why those who were afraid were told to go home. Fear is both crippling and contagious. When any group faces a challenge or an obstacle, they have got to believe that they can accomplish the task before them. Often, there is a very thin line between faith and doubt. When one member of the team broadcasts their fear and lack of faith, it quickly becomes viral. When that happens, defeat is almost always assured.
Today, I’m reminded that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.