He was heaving and I was scared. What was the cause of this sadness from my seven-year-old boy? What disrupted his sleep and mounted him on fear and panic? The conversation began-
“What’s wrong John? Why are you so upset?”
No words. Only sobbing.“Johnny, I can’t comfort you and help you unless I know what you’re thinking about. Please tell me.”
He just buried his head in my lap and the weeping and shaking continued. After several minutes of continual urging, he finally uttered,
“I just can’t tell you. I can’t say it out out loud. It’s too bad.”
Twenty minutes earlier I had put him to bed. Just like every other night, we had our bedtime conversation and cuddle and all was well. What had transpired between then and now? I backtracked trying to remember the details of our bedtime chat and then I remembered his last question to me…
“Mom do you wish you were in heaven so you could see Anna?”
I told John how much I longed to be with Jesus face-to-face and how I love and miss Anna and can’t wait to be with her, but that I am extremely happy right now and want to be right where I am.We talk about Anna and heaven often. I had no idea that this question would so quickly snowball into such a real and deep fear of death. John was afraid I was going to die.
I remember at that same age worrying that if I had a bad thought, that meant, it would happen. I also remember doing ridiculous little things to counter act these bad things like, if I skip every other stair on my way to bed each night, then my mom won’t die. Maybe I was a little obsessive compulsive, but either way, fear and my own little remedies to combat it plagued me as a child. The enemy had convinced me that I was in control of good and bad- that I was responsible for life and death.
The conversation continued:
“Johnny are you afraid I am going to die?”
The heaving got bigger and his head nodded a yes back and forth across my legs. He clutched me as if to say, “don’t leave me.” My heart broke. I understood this fear all to well, and I hugged him tighter making sure he would feel each beat of my heart. And then I said,
“God has a good plan for mommy’s life, and there is no need for you to worry. The enemy is trying to rob your joy and peace by making you focus on death instead of life and causing you to feel afraid.”
And then we did what we often do with his anxiety and we prayed and thanked God that He was present with us and John visualized putting his worries in the box Jesus holds in His hands for worries like these. I peeked, observing John with his eyes shut tight, his hands extended out in front of him. My heart swelled as I watched Him reach for God, knowing this was no technique…this was real. It was quiet for a moment and then John said,
“He is smiling at me mommy. Jesus is smiling at me.”
Peace- like a flood it invaded the room and we were both floating. I lay with John brushing blond locks from his sweaty brow and thanked God for this precious one I get to love and nurture in the truth.
And now it’s time for a confession…this mama is not so different from her son. Worry and fear often seize me. And that ugly lie from childhood- “you are in control of life and death” it berates me still. Perhaps this is why the guilt was so brutal after Anna died. And perhaps this is why I catch my breath each night when I watch my sweet ones close their eyes.
All this- it is big and it is deep. Thank goodness there is a simple answer, though experiencing the results may require the biggest leap of faith you have ever taken.
John relinquished his fear to the only One who can truly carry his burdens and then he saw Him smile and there was peace.
Our God is the bearer of all burdens and His love begs to insert peace into the places in our life where the enemy injects fear. I didn’t tell John I wasn’t going to die. I don’t know the answer to that. What I did, was lead him to relinquish his fear into the hands of love, and that love smiled back and peace invaded his heart. He traded fear for peace. Not logic, not an answer, not control or reason.
He gave up fear with faith and Jesus did the rest.
“There is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear. Fear has to do with punishment. The ones who fears, is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
In a little boys bedroom with a red stripe painted around the wall and sports posters and pennants, I observed the driving force of Almighty God sending fear away as we called on His name. And in that moment, we were made perfect in love.
I have held death in my arms. I have watched my dear friend as she watched her child die. Is death possible? Do bad things happen? Are we ransacked by grief and pain and do we wonder, “Why, God why?” The unfortunate answer to all of this is a painful yes. But let me tell you what else I can say yes to…
Have I experienced the miracle of peace invading me when earthly circumstances should only have yielded pain? Have I experienced bubbling over joy since the loss of my baby girl? Have I been so overcome with hope that my vision of heaven is as real as the house next door? Have I seen Jesus smile at me and have I handed Him fear and gotten lost in His magnificent love? Is death the end or is this pause just going to lead to the real life…the one we were all created for? Have others in grief been comforted by the comfort I have received from the very hands and lips of Jesus?
From the lowest valley and from the highest mountain my answer is yes and yes and yes!
I can control nothing except how I respond to life and death. And this response, this leap of faith, this peering at love, has been the most miraculous and breath taking leap of my life.
I am 34 years old, and I package my fears and extend them to Jesus and His worry box is perfect for problems like these…
We live and breathe and fall asleep under the loving and watchful eye of the only One who is in control. Life, death…it all ends in the final chapter where no more tears and no more pain and no more fear are the words that end, rather, begin our new story. It’s a whole new way of writing, happily ever after, and all we previously feared will flit away on a heavenly wind.
Do I struggle with fear? Yes. But what I fear more than death, is life without faith in the One who drives out fear and makes me peaceful and perfect in love.
Thank you Johnny for showing me how fear dissolves in child-like faith and for inviting me to the same.