What is fear to you?
- Is it the monster in the closet that looms over you in the middle of the night?
- Is it those butterflies that won’t stop fluttering in your stomach?
- Is it that dread you wake up with, morning after morning?
What do you do with fear?
- Do you run away from it?
- Do you run straight into it?
- Do you pretend it’s not there, blocking it out by doing something that makes you feel good (whether it’s good for you or not)?
Fear comes home
Fear was my constant companion the year my father was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. At first I blocked out my fear by turning to food therapy, bingeing on junk food. My exercise regimen went out the window and and my weight shot up. In the end I felt worse rather than better.
Meanwhile, my dad was dying and there was no time to waste.
Turning towards fear
There comes a point when the effort to avoid fear (and the ensuing burden of guilt) exceeds the fear itself. Caught between a rock and a hard place, I knew it was time to change course and head straight into the fear.
I can’t imagine how anyone can do that alone. Even as you seize control of the situation, the fear remains.
When I was a teenager, I read a book late at night while babysitting that scared the sh*t out of me! It was about a famous nightclub fire in Boston that killed hundreds of people. The book in its urgency moved quickly and I couldn’t stop reading even as I grew nauseous from dread and fear. Finally I had to put it down. I never closed my eyes the entire night.
For several years after reading that book, I would not go out to eat in restaurants. I could not mention the name of the nightclub (The Cocoanut Grove on Piedmont Street). I remember seeing a wonderful movie at a Boston theatre only to have it spoiled by seeing a framed newspaper on the wall with screaming headlines about the fire. Any hint of a mention of that fire made me feel physically ill.
Running into the fire
One day I was with my husband-to-be at our family home (we were early into our relationship) when I was seized with a compulsion to tell him about that fear. I hurried upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom, crying, rocking back and forth, clutching my stomach and calling out to God for help. I was being asked to literally run into that fire by stating my fear out loud. I didn’t think I could do it.
But eventually, I came downstairs and told him. He was a little perplexed as to why I was so emotional. In the telling, I felt that fear dissipate–it no longer had a hold on me. God had been beside me, helping me to run straight into the fire of my fear, and that fear no longer controls me.
Learning from the past
Recalling that incident, I changed course and faced my fear head on with my dad. I wanted to tell him that I loved him, but I was afraid! Afraid that it would signal to him that there was no hope of recovery. Afraid that somehow he would not accept my love for in our family, we never voiced those feelings openly.
As before with confessing my fear to my husband, I turned to God in prayer, begging for the strength to tell my dad I loved him. Scared and shaking, I told him. By then he could not respond verbally but the look on his face said it all.
No one is spared from fear
When the scriptures tell us not to fear, it doesn’t mean we won’t experience fear for surely, we will. Jesus himself was prostrate with dread and fear in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion. Through his prayer to his Father in heaven, he regained his courage; motivated by love for humankind, he fulfilled his mission.
God does not spare us but he does walk right beside us. Sometimes he carries us. Each time I made the decision to run into fear, I took the hand offered by God and we ran into it together. Fear is no match for that kind of power.
Do you have a fear you need to face?
What first step can you take today to begin to turn towards that fear and seize it?
I’d like to leave you with a song I discovered just yesterday from a wonderful artist, Tasia Lund who sings, “Don’t Be Afraid.”
Recognizing and overcoming fear is one of the recurrent themes of River of Grace–I invite you to read the book for yourself.
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