Justin Anderson is married to Emilie and has three kids, Lily, Cole and Penny. He is the Lead Pastor of Redemption Church in San Francisco, CA. He is also more devoted to Arizona State University football than his wife would like him to be.
Dear Lily, I’m scared too. It’s important that you know that right at the start of your sentient life. You are 5 and it’s about time that you heard that it’s ok to be scared. Many kids spend their life being told that “everything is OK”, that “there’s nothing to be afraid of” or worse, “grow up and be a big girl”. None of this is true. Everything is not OK, there are lots of things to be afraid of and even big girls are afraid. Unfortunately, I’m only learning this lesson now, at 35, and I want to protect you from 30 more years of thinking that being scared is a bad thing.
The truth is, this world is a scary place and your limited understanding of it is even scarier. Someday you will learn that the shadows aren’t monsters, that loud trucks probably won’t careen onto the sidewalk or that most of the new people you meet at church aren’t dangerous (at least not in the obvious ways). While it’s true that many of the things that scare you now won’t still be scary as you grow up, they will just be replaced by other scary things like rent, relationships, final exams and thinking about your kids growing up. Which brings us back to me.
I mentioned before that you are now 5, which means that your mom and I are figuring out all of your school options. Last year, we enrolled you in the public elementary school in our neighborhood, which is by all accounts a good school. We heard that they were holding a carnival to raise extra money for the school so we went to check it out, hoping to meet some other families. The carnival was about what you’d expect, mostly just kids screaming and running around, half-heartedly playing poorly constructed carnival games that were grudgingly manned by the dads who obeyed their wives. This was all fine until the “entertainment” started. What followed is what I can only describe as a “cross-dressing, clown burlesque show”. I’d rather not go into too many more details because this is a family blog.
In that moment, I knew a fear that I had never known before. I felt like I was losing you, or at least losing control of you. In a flash I pictured you sitting in class listening to a teacher I barely knew (but might be dancing in front of me…) telling you how the world works, what matters, what’s true and giving you a vision for who you should be. And I was afraid. I stayed afraid for the next several months which is why we homeschooled you this last year. The truth is that I’m still afraid.
If you ever actually read this letter, I want you to hear me say two things to you. First, it’s OK to be afraid because the world is a scary and broken place. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you don’t have to stay afraid. This is the lesson that I’ve had to learn this year and am still learning. The world is broken and scary but God is more powerful and his love for us trumps the greatest evil that this world can present us. Psalm 27:1-3 says, “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?” This verse tells you and I two things; first, there are scary things in the world and second, if the Lord is our light and salvation and our stronghold, we can face down anything: shadows, bad boyfriends, final exams and even dancing clowns.
I love you so much, forever and ever.