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Rev. Klockers: In anxious times like these when windmills become giants

by Rev. WALTER KLOCKERS
| April 2, 2021 1:00 AM

Our bodies have a built-in network that is used in times of distress. It is employed when there is a physical threat. However, this can also happen when we face heightened anxiety.

This network is referred to as the “fight, flight or freeze” response.

I believe we can see it within Peter’s actions from the Gospel of John.

The following verses are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible:

John 18:10 – “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.”

This was fight. Peter tried to prevent Jesus from being arrested.

John 18: 25-27 – “Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.”

As I see it, Peter’s denial was the beginning of his flight response, distancing himself from Jesus.

John 20:19 – “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”

Here, Peter, and the other disciples, were frozen in fear, huddled in the upper room.

You and I, we live in a day and age of elevated anxiety, in the midst of a pandemic and entrenched polarization associated with it.

In the midst of anxiety and quarantine exhaustion, we may say or do things that are not our normal way of operation. Has this happened to you? Are you a little more grumpy than usual and less loving? Do you have a shorter fuse? Are you a little less patient and personable? Have you become more judgmental and less tolerant?

If we are willing to admit, there is a present danger based upon the above.

At this time, I believe, our perceptions of truth may run the risk of becoming skewed; perhaps we’ve experienced too much isolation, rumination, and frustration, to think clearly.

The character Don Quixote, in the musical “Man of La Mancha,” tilted at windmills, believing them to be giants.

Anxiety can do this. In our stress, we may be convinced we are dealing with giants, when in fact they are actually windmills. Anxiety has led us to think differently than we normally would.

Does this apply to you? If so, take a deep breath and resist doing damage to relationships fueled by the societal stress we all now face. Why not wait until we are out of this mess and take another look at things?

Peter’s name might have meant “rock,” but he was human, flawed and wired like we are. He, too, experienced high anxiety that resulted in fight, flight and freeze. Peter knew the truth later on, however: that what Jesus said was true.

For us, truth about issues and our relationships may also take time to discern – far better examined when there is level-headedness and we’re feeling less anxious and more at ease.

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.