The year was 1975 and the Brewer was a nine year old with a heavy Texas accent and a mind full of mush. My folks took me to the Seminary South movie theater in Ft. Worth to see a film that would have a profound effect on our culture, our generation and yes, even me.
JAWS is not a movie about deep human insight and it doesn’t have any kind of profound philosophical message, yet there probably is not another film that made a bigger impact on any one society.
Thirty-two years later, the impact is just as effective as it was back then. It doesn’t matter if you are in fresh or salt water, that famous John Williams sound track starts to play in your head. We no longer feel safe in the water.
While the fear may be very real, the threat is really not. There are over 10,000 miles of American coastline. Millions of people swim in those waters and every year there are fewer than twelve shark attacks. Most of those are provoked and usually only one or two are fatal. None of that matters though when you are the guy in the water and the JAWS music is bouncing between your ears.
The odds of you being eaten by a shark in American water are astronomical. I tell myself this every time I swim in the ocean, because I’m convinced I’m going to hit the shark lotto.
While all of us worry about sharks, we very seldom worry about things like lighting strikes. I think the threat is very real when it comes to lighting. In 1985 alone there were 600 people killed in America by lightning and over the past 100 years there have been over 24,000 people lit up and sent to eternity with a thunderclap. Those are just the people we know of.
Attacks by grizzly bears are relatively rare and sporadic. Yet I’m scared of a big ol’ bear getting me when I’m in a national park. A total of 162 bear-inflicted injuries were reported from 1900 through 1985 in Canadian and American national parks. The truth is there were only 19 human deaths from grizzly attacks documented in the national parks in North America and an additional 22 deaths in Alaska outside the parks.
In my mind, there must have been thousands killed by grizzlies over the past century but it’s just not true. In the history of the United States there have only been 20 reports of death by black bears and only 13 by mountain lions.
For each person killed by a mountain lion in the past 100 years, 300 people have died from bee stings. I’m not scared of bees, but when I’m in Big Bend National Park I am thinking about mountain lions. Yet the truth is that for each person killed by a mountain lion in the past 100 years, 750 people have died when their cars collided with a deer. That’s not something I fret over. For each person killed by a mountain lion in the past 100 years, 1,100 people have been killed in hunting accidents.
I could go on and on but the bottom line is that a lot of our fears are really not warranted at all. In fact a lot of the mental battles we fight are over things that are not even existent. We tend to exhaust ourselves on fantasized battlefields of endless “what if” rabbit trails.
So much of the strife in our very limited brain space is over things that are not even actually going on.
I call these imagined threats, “Dragons”. A lot of dragons I have fought have not been battles over what people actually thought about me, but were battles over what I thought people thought about me. I’ve exhausted myself on things not even real.
Biblically, the devil comes in the symbolic form of a serpent trying to deceive us, and a roaring lion bringing condemning accusations against us. By far though, the scariest form of the devil from hell is that of the dragon. The beast that is mentioned thirteen times in the New Testament shows up in our lives as an overwhelming threat that wants to chew us up and spit us out. The thing about dragons….they are not real.
Just like the John Williams score playing when you go swimming in the river. Just because fear and strife are real, does not mean the threat is real. Knowing the truth makes you a dragon slayer. I refuse to waste my time and energy on battles that don’t exist and in doing so I am better equipped to win the real thing.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."