Fear, Fish Bait, and MRIs: Encouragement for Facing the Unknown

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Creepy.”

Historic entrance of Mammoth Cave, from inside. It becomes very dark once one enters the cave.
Historic entrance of Mammoth Cave, from inside. It becomes very dark once one enters the cave.

Last year, one teen learned the hard way that you should never say you’re paying attention if you’re not. Never. The lesson was completely terrifying… at least it was for her. Everyone else in my youth Sunday school class had a blast.

After my first few Sundays teaching, most of the teens had come to understand that they’d better be ready for anything. My lesson plans involved everything from Nerf weapons to Viking hats and battle-axes. Needless to say, once these teens fell into my clutches, there was no more sleeping in class. Of course, that was especially true during our icebreaker games.

On this particular Sunday, one teen clearly had not yet come to understand the perils of being one of my students. Instead of staying on the alert, she was blithely texting away on her phone as I began the lesson. She assured me she was paying attention, and I didn’t force the issue. If she kept it up, her day would come eventually. Unfortunately for her, her sister ensured it would be that day.

The girl’s older sister was paying rapped attention, and a devilish grin spread across her face as I introduced that week’s game. I’d based it off of the SyFy TV show, “Total Blackout.” If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a competition where contestants try to identify items in the blind, literally. As the title of the show implies, the entire game is played in totally darkness.

It’s amazing how terrifying a bunny can become when you don’t know what it is. Check out the YouTube clip to see what I mean.

The moment came to ask for volunteers, and I bet you can guess what happened next. The older sister’s hand shot up instantly, and she eagerly volunteered her younger sibling for I.D. duty. “Here we go,” I thought.

Suddenly, the younger sister came up for air. Her eyes left the cell phone long enough to realize we were all looking at her.

“Would you like to play?” I asked. She looked bewildered for a moment, but then she remembered that she’d assured me she was paying very close attention. Whoops. Better cover.

“Uh, yeah. Um, sure. Sounds like fun.” Just like that, her fate was sealed. Suddenly, I had a feeling that there would be no more texting in my class…

Naturally, I couldn’t teach Sunday school with the lights blacked out, so I’d improvised a number of identification challenges the night before. The first one came in the form of a large black protein power jar with the label pealed off. To make the plastic container that much more ominous, I drill bug jar air holes in the lid. Finally, I placed some artificial fishing bate in the jar along with a touch of water for maximum slime. This was going to be good.

I presented this black, menacing, enigma of jar to the girl and unscrewed the lid. Finally, I instructed her to stick her hand inside. The look on her face was completely priceless. She suddenly went pale, and I could see the whites all around her bulging eyes.

“Wait, what? Uh, um… what’s in there?” Naturally, I didn’t tell her, but I did “remind” her that identification was the name of the game, literally. She’d have to stick her hand in the jar and tell me what was inside. Yeah, that wasn’t exactly what she wanted to hear.

For the next several minutes, she’d repeatedly stick her fingertips into the jar before getting an overpowering attack of the willies. She’d jerk back, flap her hands in the air, and hop around nervously saying, “Ew! I can’t believe I’m doing this! Ew! Ew! Won’t you at least tell me if it’s alive?!” Nope, though I did tell her I was reasonably sure “it” wasn’t going to hurt her… probably.

The older sister relished every moment and added fuel to the fire by egging her little sister on. Knowing that her older sister would NEVER let her live it down if she didn’t go through with it, this poor gal finally took a deep breath, clenched her eyes shut, and plunged her hand down into the bottom of the jar…

“AHHHHHH!!! It TOUCHED me!!! Something TOUCHED me!! It grabbed my hand!! It’s alive! AHHH!!!”

Somehow, I’d gotten the impression that she’d had enough.

Yes, I finally showed her the fish bate. Her “three-headed creature from the black lagoon” was in fact a half dozen plastic earthworms dressed up in a scary black jar of uncertainty. She couldn’t believe it. She had to look in the jar herself before she’d believe that I didn’t still have a pocket-sized Godzilla hiding in there somewhere.

Believe it or not, I don’t torture teenagers strictly for pleasure (though perhaps I do enjoy that job perk more than I should). This Sunday’s lesson was on fear. More specifically, how we can deal with the fear of the unknown.

It turned out to be a lesson I needed myself not too many months later. As I watched my mom get set on an MRI table, that cavernous circle of a machine suddenly looked an awful like the mouth of that black jar. My mom was going inside, and we didn’t know what we’d find.

I didn’t know what the diagnosis would be, but thankfully I knew someone who did. God had the answers. He was still in control. As the scan went on, I held onto the scripture I’d shared with my students.

“Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
For each day he carries us in his arms.” Psalm 68:19 NLT

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 NRSV

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NRSV

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 ESV

I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t know what we’d find. Fear of the unknown takes on a life of its own, but there was one thing I knew. I knew that God was with me. He was holding the jar and telling me that we were safe. Death would never have the victory. Whatever we might find lurking in the MRI, it had already lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).

No matter how big the unknown, we don’t have to be afraid. Christ has already had the victory, and he’s the one holding the world in his hands.

Thanks for reading. I hope this story has encouraged you as you face your unknowns. For more uplifting stories, please check out the rest of my blog. You can sign up for email updates of new blog post as they become available.

Always remember, if you have accepted Christ into your life, you are safely in God’s hands. To learn more about inviting Him into your life, visit PeaceWithGod.net


Thanks again for stopping by. God bless you on your journey.

Audrey Cunningham

Special thanks to Debbie L. for helping to inspire today’s blog post. You can check out her response to the “Creepy” challenge here

Let’s keep the “dark unknowns” theme going shall we?

Debbie L. and I have shared what unknowns creep us out. I’d love to hear some of your own creepy brushes with the unknown! What were you most afraid of, and how where YOU able to deal with it? We can never have too much advice when it comes to facing our fears, so please feel free to share your own thoughts!

5 thoughts on “Fear, Fish Bait, and MRIs: Encouragement for Facing the Unknown

  1. Aw, thanks for the plug! This was GREAT! You’re in your element with these teens! Way to go! And the MRI hole….hummmm, I’ve been there. Yep, creepy and waiting for the result….great analogy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most importantly, I hope it keeps them connected with God! The world is such a confusing and distracting place these days. We need the sure foundation our faith provides more than ever. Thanks for reading, Travis!


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