Casting Out Fear

Nestled on my favorite side of the couch with a well-worn quilt on a quiet Saturday, I make quick work of the book on my lap. I haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time since childhood, and the plot has grown dim over the years, yet I still vividly remember my fascination with the story. I don’t know what has drawn me to return to it now—a need for comfort? A craving for wonder? Whatever the reason, here I sit, once again preoccupied with heroine Meg Murry’s stubborn mind and steadfast heart.

Meg’s imperfections make her instantly endearing. Petulant and sullen, she often assumes those around her are against her and that if her concerns are to be heard, she must advocate for herself. Her wariness, compounded with the realities of high school, makes it hard for her to feel enjoyed and hard for her to trust. Yet her fierce and resilient love pushes her across galaxies for the people who matter. 

Like all great heroines, Meg’s story knows evil. The book opens years after Meg’s father has gone missing, although Meg knows in her heart he is still alive. She nurses daily hope that she will see him again, so much so that she picks fights with anyone who attempts to convince her otherwise. So when three highly peculiar beings appear and bring Meg news that her father is indeed alive but has been taken by a sinister darkness, Meg receives the information readily and is intent upon saving him. 

Meg’s new friends refer to the darkness holding her father simply as “It.” “It” is invisible to the naked eye and practices a power that is difficult to quantify with language. With Meg’s father gone, the earth has become a place where “It” freely roams, but Meg is not sure what that means until she, her brother, and her friend are delivered to the world where her father is being held captive and experience what it is to live in a place entirely under the control of “It.”  

On a world ruled by “It,” everyone is entirely uniform. In this eerie realm, there is complete harmony because everyone complies with the single story and worldview of “It.” But not Meg. That’s not to say that she isn’t tempted: the force of “It” feels suffocating at times. Wouldn’t it be simpler not to fight? Yet stubborn love grounds Meg and ultimately saves the day.

Meg’s story strikes a familiar chord within me. I have found the weight of a single narrative in our own world to be particularly loud and oppressive in recent days. I’m not talking about a single ideology or mode of behavior, like Meg witnessed. I am talking about the threat we all feel pounding upon us ceaselessly; the rage that erupts on any given day, hampering our ability to feel tenderness for the person beside us who is living a different story; and the control we keep reaching for in a world that has felt chaotic and dark for too long. 

We all may not perceive this world or its problems in the same way, but if we each grow quiet, I think we might agree that a heavy darkness has been hanging around us, a darkness that has left us quick to demand everyone agree with our one story.

Why is it that that my one story feels so important? 

Honestly, I think my story has been the grounding “rightness” ordering my growing fears and keeping them from overwhelming me. 

My understanding of the world has guided me with a sense of truth as everything continues to feel hard and a bit hopeless. 

Lately, I find myself reflecting how our current ability to perceive the truth has been shaped by our fears. As I listen, it seems most of the fears we carry are the same…

We are afraid for the lives of children and their chance at a bright future.

We are afraid for those being silenced and oppressed by power.

We are afraid that if we do not remain vigilant, the life and people we love will be swallowed by violence and death. 

Sitting with Meg Murry and thinking of my fears, I can feel my muscles contract. There’s a tightness at my shoulders and in my hips that no amount of yoga fully unlocks. There’s a racing in my mind that no amount of prayer can quiet. Knowing what’s right may help contain my fear, but it doesn’t seem to be drawing me closer to my Creator, the people around me, or even my own heart. It seems there are deeper truths I need to access in these unprecedented times. 

Maybe you feel that too.

Imperfect Meg offers us a different path: the path of love. The writer in 1 John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear, because fear involves torment. He who fears is not perfected in love.”

If I know anything, I know you have felt tormented this year. We have been robbed of joy, and we have known heartache and worry. And yet…

There is love in this world, and there are billions of souls worthy of love, including you.

A wise woman once told me that when the world gets dark, all that is required of us is to do the next right thing. What if, instead of championing my narrative at every single turn, I allow myself to do the next loving thing with the person in front of me? Not to silence my convictions. Not to cease in the fight for justice. And not to minimize violence or its consequences. But to choose love for you, here and now, and to hope you choose love for me.

If love is the very fabric of God, then I think it’s enough to shepherd us all through fear. And if ever there were a moment to risk love, I think the moment is now.

Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 31 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.