Therefore, we shall not fear

Published 8:22 am Friday, October 23, 2009

The psalmist wrote: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we shall not fear though the earth be moved, and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2)

With the announcement of the coming closing of the paper mill, it seems that the earth is moving under our feet. Eleven hundred people will lose their jobs. Our friends, family and neighbors will lose comfortable livelihoods. The county will lose one quarter of its industry. The city of Franklin will lose its identity and stability as the city that was nurtured in the shadow of the mill. And our new community identity has yet to emerge. We simply do not know what our future city will be, but we know that for a while we will experience life as loss.

In times like these, it is easy to panic. It is easy to assume that the worst things we can imagine are exactly what is going to happen. It is easy to let our minds race, and be overcome with nightmares, or even worse, “day-mares.” It is easy to allow ourselves to become consumed with anxiety.

To that, the psalmist says “Be still, then, and know that I am God. …The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Be still. Know that God is always with us. God, not the paper mill, is our stronghold.

In his remarkable book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams wrote about a fictional guide to surviving in an often hostile universe. Written in 1977, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” was the story of an electronic book long before the current “kindle” electronic book was ever dreamed of. Written on its cover were two words in large, cheerful, reassuring print: “DON’T PANIC.”

In the 18 years I have lived here, we have endured two floods, a hurricane which tossed trees into our houses and snapped telephone poles like toothpicks, the tragic death of three scouts and their scout-master, the demise of Union Camp as a company and eventually the shuttering of our city’s corporate identity.

I have learned from the floods that, as the bumper sticker says, “You can’t drown a great town.” I have learned from the trees that Isabel rudely injected into people’s living rooms that houses can be rebuilt. I have learned from the deaths of the scouts that no matter how horrible the tragedy, grief and loss can be overcome through the amazing compassion of God’s people. And I expect to learn from the closing of the mill that God’s people always have an identity, and that our fair city will rise like the mythical phoenix from the ashes.

Be still. Know that God is with us. God is our stronghold. Don’t panic. Know that our identity is a gift from God that cannot be taken away. And get ready for another resurrection. For it is God’s good pleasure to make all things new.