Daily Worship

The story of a boy who went forth to learn fear

Rhona Cathcart February 03, 2020 0 0
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Psalm 111: 10 (NRSVA)

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practise it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures for ever.

There is an odd, not very well known, fairytale in the Brothers Grimm’s collection called ‘The story of a boy who went forth to learn fear.’ The tale unfolds of a young man who sets out to learn to ‘shudder’, or feel fear. In spite of being faced with all manner of frightening things, he continues on his fearless — and damaging — way. In the end his exasperated new wife pours freezing water over him, enabling him to ‘shudder’ but still without fear. He remains unable to connect actions with consequences, unable to learn or to grow. Absolute fearlessness is not bravery, but sociopathy. Fear enables us to learn and mature, to become responsible, courageous and loving.


Almighty God,
For many of us, fear comes at night, when all is still and quiet and there is no activity to distract us.
Fear is not something we welcome. Its spiky lessons are not ones we wish to learn.
Yet without fear, we hurt ourselves and others. Without fear, we cannot take responsibility for our choices. Without fear we cannot love, because to love is to risk loss. 
You do not wish us to be frightened, Lord, but you do wish us to be free to love and learn. 
And so,
Blessed are the fearful, who recognise the power of your works, for they shall know what it is to be tucked beneath your wings.
Blessed are the anxious, who lie awake in the quiet hours of the night, for they shall be fed by your promises.  
Blessed are the timid, who are unsure of their worth, for they shall remember your wonders, and know that your grace and compassion cover them.