When I first got the news that Hurricane Nate was going to pummel our southern shores this weekend, my head reeled. I felt like one of those inflatable punching dolls that pop back up as soon as you knock them down only to get another blow to the head.
“Holy Mackerel!” I said, right out loud. “What next?”
What was next, it turned out, was a vivid memory of Uncle Ron’s stern, booming voice informing me in no uncertain terms that he had studied the Bible extensively and could assure me there was no such thing as a holy mackerel. I felt roundly chastised at the time and took great care never to mention the fish in my uncle’s presence again. It took me years to realize he was teasing me.
I always smile when I think of Uncle Ron. His deep voice may have been intimidating, but he always had a twinkle in his eye.
Maybe that’s why the phrase “Holy Mackerel” came to mind when I pondered the stream of mind-boggling events that’s been confronting us lately. It was to remind me of Uncle Ron and how he taught me that fear could be a foolish response to life’s confusions. You see, my Uncle Ron was a learned man, possessed of great intellect, humor and wisdom. If I hadn’t interpreted his voice as threatening, I might have had some interesting and enlightening conversations with him.
And so it is with life. News of fires and earthquakes, hurricanes, terror acts, and floods can be frightening.
Life ain’t for wimps. It comes with its bruises and blows. But it’s we who decide whether to respond out of love or out of fear to what’s happening in the world around us. Choose fear and you could be cheating yourself out of a great conversation with life. Choose love and you open the door to unlimited possibilities.
Author Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.” And courage is nothing more than keeping on even in the face of fear. We come equipped to survive, so we respond to threats by going into full-alert mode. And that’s a good thing. If a tiger’s coming at you, you want to notice it and get the heck out of its way. But once you’ve done that, or have determined it wasn’t a tiger at all, you gotta switch back into love-mode even if you’re still charged up with adrenalin and suffering from knocking knees. There’s always something beautiful out there that you can do. Pick a flower. Smile at a stranger. Pet a dog. If you just cower in a corner because somewhere in the world tigers roam, your world gets awfully small, and you with it.
But get back out there and love, baby, and pretty soon all that energy that was fear converts into amazement and gratitude and a willingness to engage in life, whatever it brings. Look at it and whistle, “Holy Mackerel!” at its string of surprises. Then get yourself some mustard and have that fish for lunch.