DON’T PANIC!

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Pan, the noisy, goat-footed Greek god of the woods, was the source of mysterious sounds and loud music, inciting contagious, groundless fear in people and in animals, hence the word “Panic.”

By the mid 1950’s, the figurative term “Panic Button,” had become a familiar part of the English vocabulary.  Now, it is not unusual to see advertisements for real panic buttons made available to the elderly or physically impaired for use in emergency.

I have always considered myself to be a cool customer.  I am either that calm, optimistic gal, that I claim to be, or like the proverbial ostrich, my head is buried in the sand.  Fact is I am not easily ruffled.  However, I do recall a time—the time when I burned up a whole field.

In my opinion, there is not really much good to say about summertime in “THE VALLEY OF THE SUN,” in Arizona, where I live.  “Miserable” is the word that comes to mind.  Someone has said that there is only a screen door between here and hell.  When it’s 118 degrees, I’m almost tempted to believe it.  No one, in his right mind, could enjoy a picnic, here, on the Fourth of July.

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Yet, the Fourth of July was an exciting day.  There was watermelon, fried chicken, and homemade ice cream enjoyed in the cool, damp comfort of our old evaporative cooler, and don’t forget the fireworks.  I loved the fireworks.  After supper, on the fourth, My Mama, little sister and I walked across town to Rendezvous Park and sat on the grass to watch the magical display.  Even in the heat of the night, the fireworks, against the darkened sky, were mesmerizing.

On the Fourth of July, when I was almost twelve years old, I had my own “FIREWORKS.” Really!  I did.  I had a handful of little red fire crackers about three inches long, and I was dying to set them off, but doing so within the city limits was against the law.  So, my girl friend and I walked to the end of the street, jumped across the dry irrigation ditch, and landed in a large vacant field overgrown with dried weeds.  We were no longer in town.  We were, now, in the country.

I had come prepared for this exciting adventure.  I retrieved a match from my pocket, struck it and lit the end of a firecracker, immediately tossing it away from me into the dried brush.  Instead of exploding, making that pop, pop, popping sound I had anticipated, a fire blazed up.

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“Help,” I yelled at my friend, as I began stomping at the flame.  “Hurry, help me put this out,” but she immediately went into panic mode falling on her belly on the ditch bank, wailing like a banshee.  The more I stomped the wider the fire spread until I gave up in terror.  She was no help, and there was no possibility that the fire engines would show up.  We were no longer in the city limits.

The fire, swift as lightning, gobbled up the dead brush until the whole field was ablaze.  Homes bordered the field on two sides, and suddenly, as if by magic, men appeared with wet burlap bags, “gunny sacks,” beating at the flames.  They worked diligently, in the hot July sun, until any semblance of fire was gone.

I stood on the far side of the field, watching the drama, knowing that it was my fault.  I had burned down the whole field all by myself.  There was no one else to blame.

What would they do to me?  Surely they would come shaking their fingers in my face telling me I had endangered their homes.  But no!  Without a word, they just went home and so did I.  I never breathed a detail of this escapade to my parents, but in the dark of night, I wondered when the police would show up, when they would cart me off to jail, how much the fine would be.  My life was over.  I was sure of it.

My fears, however, were groundless, and life went on as usual.  As far as I know, no one ever knew I had accidentally set that fire.   No one knew I was an ARSONIST!  The episode was soon forgotten.

We all fear certain things.  My sister panics at the thought of flying.  Others fear heights or closed spaces.  My nephew fears germs and will not touch another person.  These fears may be groundless, but they are no less real causing dysfunction and misery.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message) says, “Don’t panic.  I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

The next time life overwhelms you and you feel like pressing that “Panic Button,” remember, if you belong to God, He holds you close with a firm and tender grip.  Have no fear.  He will not let you go, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow

 

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