“What are you afraid of?”

I come awake instantly, memories of nightmares following me out of fitful slumber. It’s already bright out, so I know that I’ve overslept, but I don’t use the alarm clock on my days off, so that’s not a huge deal. The dog is gone, so I know Beth’s up and has fed people; I don’t hear them, so I know that they’re out on their morning walk.

He’s there, my Lord God, my Husband, my Beloved. He was there when I woke hours earlier, out of the nightmare, shaking and sobbing and hysterical. I don’t usually dream like that – my dreams are often adventure-y, are often upsetting, are often nightmare-ish, but they rarely come with the emotion that turns them into nightmares. Last night it was all about swarms of zombie ants, which in the bright light of day, may sound laughable, except I have a difficult time with swarms of non-zombie ants, on the best of days. There is no other species of animal in the world that does to me what ants do – and even then it has to be a specific situation. On the whole, I find ants fascinating, and I can handle them in small numbers – though even that depends on particular subspecies. Carpenter ants? Oh hell no, and so zombie carpenter ants that formed chains with their bodies by half-eating the ant in front of them, and then swarming, and then getting on me and I could feel their hard, crunchy bodies –

Hence the sobbing and the shaking, and a good half an hour shaking myself off and checking for ants in my hair in the middle of the night.

And so, He is with me, because terror is terror, and in that state my guard is down, and why wouldn’t He use that to slip in a bit more firmly, more deeply, more obviously?

Before I can toss my blanket back, He wraps around me and pulls me closer into an embrace. He holds me, does my Beloved, and whispers to my heart, “Wait. Stay. Don’t get up yet.”

I snuggle back into the blanket and I close my eyes to feel Him better, to hear Him better, to understand the words His heart speaks to mine. The house is quiet and still. Rain drips from the roof outside. I breathe, and I wait.

“What are you afraid of?” He asks, and it’s such a silly question. His presence, the press of Him against me, the reminder that He is here, that there is no space between us, that I am His, that my very pores drink Him in, illustrates just how silly of a question that is. Or rather, highlights how silly it is to even entertain that fear.

What do I have to fear? I can’t pretend that I’m afraid of losing Him; I’m not. Am I really, really so attached to a name, that I fear losing that, even as He assures me that I won’t? Is my trust in Him so flimsy, so brittle, that I balk when He invites me deeper?

Snugged close, held dear, basking in His presence, I can admit the things I’m ashamed to admit, the things that seem small, that seem like they’re beneath me, that I should know better/be better/be beyond.

Held dear, I can admit that I find the idea of having to learn a whole other set of complex histories and cultures in a part of the world I’ve mostly ignored to be daunting, and I don’t want to do it. This upsets me to realize, because when did learning the stories of other people become something I don’t love doing? When did the idea of learning about things I don’t already know become intimidating and off-putting? I’m ashamed of this, and it’s not a good reason to refuse His invitation.

Held dear, I can admit that I’m reluctant to move forward in this because I don’t want to have to deal anymore than I already have to with having white privilege. I already don’t pay attention to the Hellenic folks who clamor that non-Hellenics cannot worship the Hellenic gods, because I don’t believe that the gods ‘belong’ to people; rather I believe that people belong to gods, and that the gods call whom They will. I am not ever going to a person who will dare to stand between a Power and a person They call to Them. I cannot abide it when the Heathens do it, and I can’t abide it when anyone else does it.

But it’s also important to me to not be an asshole, so I can’t pretend that cultural appropriation isn’t a thing, and I won’t pretend that it’s not on my mind every single time I start pursuing this Vishnu connection. And I remind myself of this while I drag my heels in about learning history, context, and culture of the peoples who worshiped and worship Him – and I hope this helps me guard against sounding like I’m trying to pretend I’m something that I’m not.

And these few things are the bulk of my fears in this – which I think is really more reluctance than fear, come to that. So I name them for Him, and we examine them together, and I’m held fast and close and tight, wrapped in His presence, and He asks again, “What are you afraid of?” and I know that these things will not hold me, they cannot keep me, I can only go where He leads me.

Mindfully. With awareness and compassion, as He has instructed me all along. What else am I to do?

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