WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Fear Can't Last Forever

By Robin Tanner

“The best way out is always through.”
—Robert Frost

This is an in-the-middle story so it's for the best if you do not expect a resolution. There are so many resolved stories where the crisis passes and the triumph is clear. Sometimes we need a tale shouted from the whale belly of worry.

When the letter arrived from the state of New Jersey, it had all the markings of official news. We were informed that our two-week old infant was tested for a range of medical conditions while he was in the hospital: fifty-seven, to be exact. It was mandated by the state. “Oh yes,” I thought, “I do live in a state of regulations.”

And then came the line: “The test needs to be repeated.”

It was followed by all manner of assurances that nothing was necessarily wrong—but we should, the letter dictated, contact the hospital or our pediatrician immediately. I began catastrophizing. I even searched the internet for a list of the fifty-seven conditions. I did everything but call the pediatrician.

Seeing my fear-of-the-other-shoe-dropping syndrome, my spouse called the pediatrician, who informed us that the hospital did the test. In a Shakespeare-worthy plot twist, the hospital informed her that I had to be the one to call to schedule a repeat test.

And here we breathe anxiously two weeks later. I have yet to call the hospital. I’m not sure of the penalty for breaking this law, but I’m convinced it can be no worse than the potential news.

So, this is a story of in-the-middle sent out to all those in-the-middlers. For those at the edge with a cheering crowd shouting, “It will be fine!” For those in the belly of the whale, feeling daylight coming in through the blowhole, trying to wind up the courage to burst toward daylight. For those holding a phone, staring at the keypad, trying to promise, “I will...tomorrow.” For those wondering how their story ends.

But here's a shout of good news from the whale’s belly: fear cannot last forever. Not if we let one another in.


Beloved who are companions in whale bellies of fear and terror, let us gift one another with the grace of solidarity in these days, and the courage to push together until day breaks. Amen.

About the Author

Robin Tanner

Robin Tanner is a Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, and activist who serves as the Minister of Worship and Outreach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey.


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In a dark room, a lighted mobile over a baby's crib throws colored stars of light onto the walls.

Audio Version of "Fear Can't Last Forever"

Listen to Robin read her reflection.