Disclaimer: In no way is this post intended to be a political commentary or a social critique of a community that I love dearly, it's merely, an open processing of my own sinful and idolatrous heart.
Recently in Port Alberni there was a wildfire on Dog Mountain. The fire grew rapidly and filled the community with smoke (affecting the air quality) and at times even raining ash. Understandably, the community was concerned and desired that every resource available be used to combat the fire. Frustration was added given the bitter irony of some photos showing the fire burning in the background and the Martin Mars Water Bomber sitting on the shore since 2013 when the contract with the BC Government expired and had not been renewed. The Mars Bomber has been the pride of Port Alberni for many years. The brochure online gives the history of the Bomber:
The Martin Mars was built as a long range US Navy Troop and Freight transport aircraft to fly from the continental United States to the Hawaiian Islands. There were originally 6 built of which Coulson Flying Tankers owns the last 2 remaining. Between these 2 aircraft they have flown over 8000 fire missions throughout British Columbia, Canada dropping over 182 million liters of water/gel/foam.
Coulson Aircrane purchased the last 2 remaining Martin Mars water scooping aircraft in 2007. These aircraft (Hawaii/Philippine) were operated for the last 47 years in British Columbia by a private consortium of 5 forestry companies. Since Coulson has purchased these aircraft, the Hawaii Mars has worked in British Columbia and California in 2007, 2008, and 2009 for the British Columbia Forest Service, CAL Fire and the United States Forest Service.
With such a history and resume, it baffled the community why The Mars was not in the air fighting the fire. Individuals took to social media demanding that the BC Government sign a contract and send in The Mars to rescue the community from ruin. As the Mars Bomber ran a test flight people were running outside ecstatic that The Mars was back in time to save the community. In the end, it looks like The Bomber is not going to be used on Dog Mountain, despite the signing of a new one-month contract because, thanks to the brave men and women on the ground fighting the fire, it has been contained.
I don't claim to know the ins and outs of the politics and/or the best practices of fighting fires, nor is this post even about the fire, The Martin Mars, or politics.
What surfaced in my heart this past week has been my lack of faith in God for my salvation, manifested in fear.
How does fear reflect my heart?
Fear Breeds Idolatry
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” - Exodus 32:1
The Israelites needed someone to look up to and began to believe that their leader, the one who mediated on their behalf, was not coming back. Out of fear and impatience, they demand from Aaron (Moses' brother) to supply another god for them. I too am a worrier. In my mind, if it can happen it will happen. I am in a constant state of "Murphy's Law." I'm consistently in fear of situations that could go wrong, going wrong. I will receive a text from a friend saying they want to talk. Immediately, I fear that they are mad at me for something I did or said.
My son has recently been having allergic reactions to something in the backyard, either mosquitos, or maybe pollen. Until we are able to get him in for an allergen test I have been in immense fear of him having a reaction and his breathing being restricted. I am in so much fear that at times I almost treat him like bubble-boy. In the midst of my fear I look towards everything else to deliver and save. I look towards limiting my son's interaction with the outside world. I look towards everything else but God.
Now, I am not saying to throw wisdom out the window. I am not saying that I shouldn't protect my child, especially if there is a possibility of his air being restricted. What I am saying is that I fail to first go to God and trust that God is sovereign. Instead of trusting in God, I live in disbelief that He is mighty and powerful. In fear, I look to anything and everything else that is tangible and visible to save. I work in my power to force a result that I desire. In fear, I, like the Israelites (and like you) replace God for an idol.
Fear Breeds Forgetfulness
And [Aaron] received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. - Exodus 32:4-6
I am always perplexed by the lack of faith of the Israelites in the book of Exodus. One moment they see God work in miraculous ways, from rescuing them out of Egypt, to the parting of the Red Sea, to guiding and protecting their way by a pillar of fire and smoke. Yet we still see fear crop up the moment Moses is gone for too long. This fear leads to a forgetfulness of who has truly saved them in the past. Notice in the text above, they ascribe their deliverance from oppression to this golden calf. To make the transition complete, they begin to offer it burnt and peace offerings. Offerings that signified their devotion and appreciation for salvation and deliverance have been misplaced upon an idol, and not on the Lord who truly acted.
Yet we are no different. Once fear overtakes it is easy to forget all that God has done in our lives. We begin to look to some idol as a functional savior. Jerry Bridges gives a great description of what a functional savior is:
Sometimes we look to other things to satisfy and fulfill us—to ‘save’ us. These ‘functional saviors’ can be any object of dependence we embrace that isn’t God. They become the source of our identity, security, and significance because we hold an idolatrous affection for them in our hearts. They preoccupy our minds and consume our time and resources. They make us feel good and somehow even make us feel righteous. Whether we realize it or not, they control us, and we worship them.- The Bookends of the Christian Life, page 72.
It is difficult to be patient and wait on the Lord. Forgetting who truly saves leads us to look to functional saviors for deliverance.
Fear Breeds Opportunity
I know it sounds odd but I welcome these times of fear. While it does not happen straight away, fear gives me an opportunity to respond in faith.
Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. [...] While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” - Mark 5:22-24; 35-36
When fear rises up one sees the condition of their heart. We all struggle with fear, all of us. Highlighting the lack of faith we have in our times of fear only pushes us to abandon our functional saviors and cling to our real Savior. Fear points to our need of the Gospel because fear is void of it.
When fear arises, we must look out for the idol that has been created, remove the idol, and run to Jesus alone for our salvation.
No one is immune to fear. It is a natural reaction. Left unchecked, fear can breed idolatry and forgetfulness in the goodness and work of God. Yet, our recognition of the fear can also be an opportunity for repentance, a turning away from our functional saviors to our One True Savior. Allow fear to be an extension of God's grace. With it, you can deal with an area of development in your heart. Ultimately, it is an act of God's grace to draw you closer in faith and trust in Him.