Stop Holding Onto Your Blanket

This sermon was originally preached by Rev. James Morasco on November 25, 2018.

Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.
— Thomas Merton
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fear.
— Psalm 34:4
Be joyful always. Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Did you ever wonder why children sometimes attach themselves to objects such as blankets or stuffed animals for security? I know I had a favorite stuffed dog when I was little. My daughter’s favorite was her “blanky”. One time she got sick all over it in the middle of the night. We had to cut off a corner piece for her to hold onto or she couldn’t go to sleep.

According to some child psychologists;

"The major function of security objects is to soothe in times of stress," says Elyse Lehman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at George Mason University. They're also often referred to as transitional objects, because children use them as a bridge to the significant people in their lives when they're separated from them. It's no wonder some kids make a point of never being without theirs. Security objects are seen as playing an important role in a child's development, since they can help them learn the tricky business of self-comforting.

Just what magical comforting powers can a blanket or bunny hold? One theory is that children gravitate to cuddly choices because they seek an experience that feels like being close to their mother. "It's a matter of texture," says Patrick Friman, a clinical psychologist and director of clinical services and research at Father Flanigan's Boys' Home, in Boys Town, NE. "Children are often attracted to silky smooth textures that remind them of their mother's skin and hair."

Now that’s a great theory, but it doesn’t explain why a friend of ours had a child that became attached to his toothbrush! And no, he didn’t become a dentist when he grew up!

Sarah Ban Breathnach tells of a business trip her husband took to the beach, where she and her daughter enjoyed the mornings while he attended workshops. One afternoon it was announced that there would be elephant rides for the children in the hotel parking lot. Her daughter, Katie, was delirious with excitement. Sarah told her, “Life is always full of wonderful surprises if we’re open to them. Some mornings you get up not knowing what will happen, and you get to ride an elephant that day!” When they got home, there was an invitation for Sarah to join a group of journalists on a trip to Ireland. She was tired of traveling, and not really a spontaneous person, so she told them she would probably not go. Her husband, overhearing her, said, “So, you’re not going to ride the elephant?” She decided to go.

Living passionately involves a lot of pressure and risk. I mean, what if you fall off the elephant? A writer named Ambrose Redmoon wrote: Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. You might be afraid of all kinds of things, but if one of your kids were in danger, you’d be fearless. Also, don’t you want to live believing that God is bigger than whatever you’re afraid of? You have to make a decision to stop letting fear win: stop holding on to your blanket of insecurity and anxiety. Show up with everything God has given you, and join the battle against whatever opposes the redeeming work of God in this world. Take yourself less seriously and God more seriously!

Isha Das of the Assisi Institute puts it this way:

The entire human race suffers from an anxiety disorder: we all carry within us layer upon layer of fear, which is the primary source of human suffering. Fear constricts our minds, bodies, hearts, and spirits. To the extent that we are constricted, God’s light is not free to penetrate into the depths of our consciousness. Sooner or later, we must confront our fears. The first and most important fear we must confront pertains to God. Despite our apparent sophistication, many of us still harbor within the depths of our psyches a primitive fear of God in the context of hell, judgment, abandonment, disapproval, rejection, or indifference. Forever watching our backs, we are afraid to trust God’s goodness. The good news is that spirituality is the ever-deepening process of discovering God’s inexhaustible generosity, wonder, and love. Yogananda tells us, “You are a child of God. What have you to fear?”

I think we forget that everyone in this world has some kind of insecurity. Often those of us that seem to “have it all together” are, in reality, just holding on. They spend so much time and energy trying to look “normal”, that we are surprised when something happens to expose how they are really feeling inside. But we shouldn’t be surprised. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said; “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

It’s no wonder that we look for “things” to hold onto in this world to give us some sense of security.

In her book Breaking the Power, author Liberty Savard says that she was pretty rough in her youth, but when she became a Christian, God transformed her and gave her a ministry. So she was excited to give her parents a 50th anniversary party, because it would be an opportunity to show old friends and family how she had become “an amazing woman of God.” She prayed that this day would reveal to everyone in her family how God can change a life. Although she lived over an hour away from the party venue, she got ready in plenty of time. One last spray to her hair to set it, and she would be off … except that she grabbed bug spray from under her sink instead of hairspray. Quickly she showered again, but now there was no time to do her hair. She hopped in her car, and it wasn’t long before she realized it was overheating. She turned off the air conditioning but still, something was wrong. She had to keep adding transmission fluid every few miles. She got to the party a tiny bit late—frizzy hair, oily hands, red face. She would just take a few moments to freshen up. However, there was a problem! In the heat her large jar of face cream had exploded and everything in her overnight bag, including makeup and hair brush and hair spray, was covered in white goop. Her only option was to just go out and enjoy the party. There was nothing else she could do. She determined to have a great time and laugh anyway! Later she told God she had covered the day with prayer, and it felt like it all had gone terribly wrong. She had wanted to make such a good impression. She felt like God said, “Most of your family and friends remember how angry you used to be. They may never hear your testimony, but they saw living proof today of My power to change a life by the way that you handled this situation with humor and grace. I answered your prayers. Well done, daughter.”

Anybody can be joyful when things go well. Sometimes God “stirs things up” so that, through our responses, we can showcase His transforming grace and joy.

Remember, we never know how we have affected people! Have you ever been having a lousy day when someone says something to you that just makes you feel good? It may be something insignificant, but it’s exactly what you need at that particular time. Having God as our security blanket won’t remove the challenges we face. On the contrary, it may expose challenges we never knew existed before our eyes were opened. But it also gives us the reassurance we are not alone on this journey. We need to recognize God in every human being and take the opportunity to walk together. This means using God’s love not only with those we know, but more importantly, those we consider “strangers” or “enemies”, locally, nationally and internationally. In today’s world, there really is no excuse for ignorance as we are all aware of the suffering of others, many times as its happening. We shouldn’t let our fear overcome our “security blanket”.

In the book Second Calling, Dale Bourke writes that years ago, she attended a conference. When it was over, her friend Bruce offered her a ride to the airport. As they were about to leave, another man asked if he could join them. As they drove away from the hotel, she and Bruce asked the man where he worked, and he mentioned a Christian organization. Bruce said, “I have fond memories of that group, because I attended a retreat of theirs one time, and that’s where I became a Christian. It was in 1972 in New Hampshire.” Bruce went on to explain that eventually his whole family became Christians and went into Christian work. His sister was a Wycliffe missionary and Bruce himself became publisher of a major Christian publishing house, which brought many significant Christian books to the public. Bruce finished the story with a flourish saying that the retreat had had worldwide impact when you think about it. The man was silent. Dale and Bruce thought that maybe they were boring him. Then the stranger quietly said, “I led that retreat. It was my first time as a conference leader, and I felt like a total failure. Until this moment, I have always believed it was one of the biggest failures of my life.” Dale Bourke wrote, “What had seemed like the simple act of offering a ride to a stranger had turned into a powerful reminder that God uses our efforts whether we realize it or not. I may spend the rest of my life doing things that don’t seem at all successful. Yet only God knows the purpose. I am called simply to be faithful.”

Right now, you may feel like a failure in what you’re doing. Just be faithful. It’s not your job to figure out if what you do (or what you did in the past) matters. That’s the work of the Spirit. Your job is to do your part. Doing what we are called to do is the point.

Remember our New Testament verse for today:

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always. Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

It reminds me of a saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – “Pray continually and sometimes use words!” I interpret this as meaning - live your life as a prayer. Let others see you as an example. Love everyone, especially those deemed unlovable by the world. Drop your security blanket and walk with me. It’s never easy, and the results aren’t always what we expect, but then again, it’s not important what we expect – we are not in charge. May the God of your understanding comfort you on this journey through life!