Tradition is something many of us hold dear to our hearts. Sometimes
traditions last for a long time, or they can be short, transitory
episodes of one’s life that when looked back upon, are remembered more
fondly than traditions that go on year after year.
When my wife Donna and I started attending the Oregon State fair, we
enjoyed the variety of things to see and do, the animals, exhibits,
various foods, entertainment, and of course the people who make up
much of rural Oregon.
Naturally we wanted our two oldest grandchildren, Chelsea and Jake to
go with us at about the time they could begin to appreciate and
understand some of the things that drew us there. Somewhere in those
years a tradition began, and as Chelsea and Jake became older, and
other activities would not allow them to accompany us, they were
replaced by other eager grandchildren, who found out that grandpa and
grandma were paying for all the rides, food, and goodies that were
allowed them by their parents. Many were the times, when Donna and I
were leading three to five little ones around the fairgrounds from
ride to ride, and food booth to food booth. And when we left the
fairgrounds, usually when it was growing dark, we would all troop,
generally in a happy mood, to the car with whatever souvenir those
small hands could carry.
It was on one of those early forays to the state fair that I learned a
lesson from Jake that I have never forgotten. I have only recently
come to realize the truth of what he told me that day .
It was a beautiful August evening, the sun was below the western
horizon, and all of the evening lights were turned on in the
fairgrounds. It was a brilliant and colorful end to the day. I
suggested that we ride the gondola cars, an aerial tram thirty feet
above the ground, over to the other side of the fairgrounds. Jake and
I captured a gondola and my wife and Chelsea took the one behind us.
It was one of those magical moments in time that you get with your
grandchild alone, that you can talk with them of many things, and you
have time for it.
As we were moving at a leisurely pace, high above the fair-goers, we
could see all the movements below and around us. The rides, lit up
around the grounds, were easily visible. As Jake and I chatted about
the day and the activities of the summer, I couldn’t help but notice
in the distance the brightly lit Ferris wheel. I pointed it out to
Jake and as he looked at it I asked the question: “Jake, would you
like to go on that Ferris wheel?” He turned directly to me, his blueeyes looking into mine,
hesitating, as if thinking about what he
thought I might want to hear, and then said “no”. He turned away, and
I asked him “why?” Turning back and without hesitation he said
“Papa, we all have our fears”.
How profound for a second grader. We certainly do have our fears.
Some are real and some imagined. Nonetheless, real in our own world
view. Fear will stalk us, try to overtake our souls, and inevitably
paralyze us from living, if it can. Most of us have trouble
describing the emotion of fear adequately, but we all know when we
feel it. It can be a cold dread that sweeps over us, a foreboding
feeling that something is not right, or a sense that something bad is
going to happen. It is the unknown of something, the uncontrollable
“thing” out there, the unseen.
Fear is almost like a person. You can see him in other people’s eyes,
their actions, and their words. Fear has sat with countless soldiers
in foxholes , in prisons, in dark alleys, in homes, on the athletic
field, and in Ferris wheel seats. It sometimes runs right at you, or
is in the form of an inanimate object, like a baseball coming at your
head at 90 miles and hour, or an elevator door. It is proportional to
one’s situation, but none the less, very real. How we respond to fear
is a good measure of the internal peace that we may or may not possess.
Sometimes fear is good. It can keep us out of trouble. We can fear
things or situations that are seen as well as unseen and make
decisions not to engage in an activity for fear of harm in some way.
That was Jake’s fear.
In February of 2009 I experienced a ventricular fibrillation attack of
the heart that was a near death experience. Fortunately, I had a
defibrillator device in my chest, implanted the year before because of
previous heart problems, that brought me back from certain death. I
describe this experience as “Ten Seconds From Eternity”, the time it
took for the entire episode to play out.
I don’t know when it hit me, but at some point in the following days
I began to feel tentative about myself. A thought would come that the
next step, the next word, anywhere and anytime, could once again be
the overwhelming cloud of unconsciousness I experienced. It was
especially evident when I approached the elevator doors in my office
building, the scene of my attack.
I returned to work searching to find a reason for what happened since
the doctors said that it was an “unknown episode with no known cause”
and it could happen again. I thought that an electrical field around
the building elevator was the culprit, setting off my device since I
had previously been instructed not to operate chain saws or power
equipment close to my chest, or even lean over a running auto engine.
I felt that there was a time bomb sitting in my chest, waiting for the
right circumstance to detonate it. I thought there must be a rational
or physical reason in spite of what the doctors said about this
trauma. The only solace or comfort I felt was knowing that I had a
“paramedic” in my chest, but I was still fearing another traumatic
episode because of the violent nature of de-fibrillation.
I approached the elevator doors where “it” all happened. I hesitated,
stretching my right hand for the up button. Then I felt something in
the base of the neck and it began to go up into my head. I stepped
back in fear, thinking that “I was right”. I stepped back a few more
feet, my head cleared, the elevator door opened and I rushed in to
escape the area, not thinking that if there was an electrical field
force of some type, it had to be in the elevator also. I stepped onto
the third floor, relieved and realizing it was my body responding to
The feelings of the first day diminished over the next two days. By
then I was charging up to those big doors praying that the they would
open immediately, which they did to my relief. Then, one week later,
I had to wait. The elevator is not a fast one. It is the slowest in
America. I often told fellow riders that you could brew and drink a
cup of coffee before you went the three floors, up or down.
When the elevator doors would not open immediately, my fear processes
started and then stopped, as the thought came to me, “who is in
control here, is it God or is it the author of fear?” Knowing this, I
finally felt freed up and have been able to boldly approach that
elevator with a reminder of God’s presence.
The scriptures are full of references to fear. The Angel of the Lord
said “fear not” or “do not be afraid” to Zechariah, to the shepherds,
to Mary, and to Joseph. The beautiful 23rd Psalm says “ I will fear
no evil, for you are with me” and the 27th Psalm starts with “The Lord
is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear, the Lord is the
stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”
Fear can be impelling to death, or it can be as insignificant as the
fear of failing a task. It doesn’t matter, fear is fear. And it
causes our body to respond in strange ways, like paralysis, tight
muscles, crying, nervous laughter, a tense neck, we all identify with
that. The Bible tells us in 1st Timothy 1 Vs.7. “God has not given us
a spirit of fear, BUT a spirit of POWER, of LOVE, and a SOUND MIND”.
Is this just a feel good verse, or can it be a reality in our lives?
How do we deal with this spirit when we know it is coming upon us and
the flesh gets in the way?
When Jake and I were in the gondola talking about fear, his immature
mind couldn’t grasp the thought of his fear as being silly, and out of
proportion. It was out there and he didn’t want anything to do with
it. I couldn’t just say, “ Jake, get over it, God will take care of
us”, because it still happens to me, to all of us, and at different
times and circumstances in our lives, especially at night. As a player
and coach in athletics, I knew what fear could do to a player. The
step is not as quick, the intensity is lower, thinking functions
diminish, rationalization occurs, and if things are going to go wrong,
Psalm 91 speaks of dwelling with the Most High, resting in the shadow
of the Almighty, the declaration that He is our refuge and fortress, a
God we can trust, and in vs.5,
“We will not fear the terror of the
For me fear penetrates most deeply in the dark of night. It is that
same fear that drives me to the Lord more intimately with my own
tears of worship, lying on my back, my arms up raised, singing in my
mind to not wake my wife, and praying to our Lord for His will to be
done in my life.
Fear is not always an isolated event . It spills over to those
closest to us. Over the last ten years, since my heart attack at age
57, my wife has had to face her fears, like the five times that she
has followed an ambulance with me in it, and what a phone call may
bring. Fear does not have to defeat us. First John 4:18 says that
“perfect love drives out fear.” Who represents perfect love? I give
you one guess. You are right, good job! Fear is real and lives in us
almost daily, but it will not defeat us if we know who our redeemer is.
Fears will come and go depending on the circumstances. BUT, are we
more than conquerors? Romans 8:37 says “in all things we are more
than conquerors through Him who loved us”, and Vs 38 & 39 , “that
neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present
or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Isn’t that powerful? They are my
favorite life verses.
I pray that someday I will have another gondola-like experience with
Jake, or one of the other seven grandchildren, when they turn to me in
their innocence to express their fears, . . . or even their joys,
hopes, and dreams of life.
Mick Hergert March 2009