The Whistling Boy

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There is an old story of a boy whose walk home from school took him through the local graveyard, a shadowed, brushy, and forebidding place. Each evening as the boy passed through the graveyard he would whistle. Someone commented to him that they were impressed with his nerve, that he could walk through the spooky graveyard so carefree and even whistle. The boy answered that he was scared every time he went through the graveyard. He didn’t whistle because he was carefree, he whistled because he was afraid of what he might hear if he didn’t.

Whistling boys (and girls) are everywhere around us today people who are scared, unnerved by the circumstances of their lives, and trying to make enough noise to avoid confronting the threats they think might be there. Making a lot of noise, whether whistling in the graveyard or turning up the car radio so you won’t be bothered by an odd engine sound, is not a solution to fear, but acquiescence to it. Fears that are masked are still fears, and fears are debilitating. Trouble that is ignored is trouble still. It is far better to face ├»ur fears, to know them for what they are.

The heroes of the Bible, including Moses and Jesus, are often shown telling people not to be afraid, and explaining why they don’t have to be. The Bible is a book of courage, a book of honest confrontation with those things that frighten people. God’s solution for fear is not whistling to avoid unsettling noises, but light to reveal what’s really there so it can be faced effectively. The Bible teaches that the world and its inhabitants have real problems, but problems that can be faced, coped with, overcome. The road to peace, internal and external, is a road that must be travelled with open eyes and open ears, and confidence in God’s reliability.

Many things in the world of 1996 tend to produce fear in people, including not only real societal problems but also the very way we distribute information about them. But fear is nothing new in human experience. Every generation of human beings has had its fears, its overwhelming threats. The ancient answer to fear is still the best answer, and the only universal answer. “God has said, `I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, `The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

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