category: Poetry

Fear and Its Friends: A Poem for Lent 1

By Rachael Keefe

Fear has a lot of friends and doesn’t hesitate to bring them along.

Fear and Its Friends: A Poem for Lent 1

This poem was written for Living Table for the first week in Lent 2024. Their theme for Lent is "From Fear to Hope" and uses Amos as a guide. Fear and Its Friends is inspired, at least in part, by Amos 3.

Fear’s best friend is Deceit
together they will rob you of joy
and convince you it’s all your fault

if you listen to Fear
you’ll find yourself in isolation
jumping at proverbial shadows	
thinking all hope has been swallowed
by that monster who lived under your bed
for years, maybe years longer than you’ve
ever admitted

it starts with one small thing –
you’re afraid you aren’t good enough
or people won’t like you much
the next thing you know
you’re afraid of strangers
and the more different from you they are
the more afraid you are

the more you’re afraid
the more likely it is that Fear 
introduces you to Anger
and Anger burns in you
scorching relationships and
driving you to all kinds of things
to put out those flames
ineffective attempts 
to mask the emptiness
in which Fear lives and thrives
leaving yourself hollow
as TS Eliot once described

soon Anger will invite Hatred
you’ll hate everything that is new
or different 
and those people
who take what you think is 
rightfully yours
before you blink again Fear
is whispering 
with the voice of Deceit
and your misery is not your fault
it’s theirs
you know, the ones who have what you
should have
and take up resources that 
should be yours
and change the world around you 
to be something new and different
and you end up huddled in the
emptiness with Fear and Deceit 
and Anger and Hate
thinking thoughts that make no sense
outside of your own head

Fear wounds from the inside out
without hesitation 
now you have Shame and Guilt crowding in
with the others 
leaving no room for you

you might even cry out to God
and ask what is you have done 
to deserve such company as Fear and its friends
to surround you with emptiness as the wounds fester

don’t be surprised if God responds with silence
that pushes you toward Hope
Hope for change
Hope for some kind of healing or wholeness
that drives out Fear and Deceit and Anger and Hate
and Shame and Guilt, too

because it wasn’t fear after all
it was Despair
it was Self-doubt
it was forgetting that you are Holy
and holiness lives within you

there is no place we can go
where God is not already there
even the hollowed-out emptiness of Fear 
and all its friends
cannot extinguish the Light of Love 
at your core

grasp hold of it and the Hope that shines from it
raise it up out of your depths
and watch Fear flee
with all its friends in rapid pursuit

it is true, after all –
Love casts out all Fear

Fear has friends
A pale human face framed with multiple sets of hands pushing in on it. The eyes are wide and the mouth is slightly open. Image licensed from Envato Elements.
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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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