When John was little he struggled a great deal with fear and anxiety. Dropping him off for his first few days of pre-school was like dropping him off in the woods alone at night. He was terrified of what would happen in my absence. I was his complete security. So I developed incentives. I came up with enticing rewards. I cut a piece of his childhood blankey for him to keep in his pocket. And we talked a great deal about battling fear and how God is always with us and how He can be trusted. I wrote one of my favorite scriptures down on a piece of paper and put that in his pocket too. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” Psalm 56:3. But can a four year old really understand all of this? Can he really put his trust in God?
On the fifth day I began gearing myself up for the typical screaming and flailing, but John looked at me confidently as we began walking up the sidewalk and he said, “I’ve got this mom.” He let go of my hand and walked off before me whispering a chant, “When I am afraid I will trust in you….When I am afraid I will trust in you!”
Suddenly, after days of talking about how we are never really alone, that God is always with us and that His truth gives us power and peace, I watched as my four year old took truth in his hands like a sword and slayed his fear. I was stunned. I was proud. I was speechless- swollen shut with love.
Where am I going with this?
I am walking along the pages of an exciting chapter of my life right now. My book will be birthed this spring and a baby this summer. I am thrilled. I am elated. I am terrified.
For weeks I have been having nightmares. Most of them have terrorists and guns and I hover over my three children as guns fire, as evil launches destruction at us. I wake sweating, knowing a battle is surging all around me, a battle between myself and the enemy, joy and fear. Who will win?
I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want this present joy to be stolen by an invisible fear, by a tormenting and taunting that comes from memories and worse yet, from a dark pursuer. What can I do?
I laid on the ultrasound table this week, clutching Chris’s hand, hoping for life, fearing death. I saw our baby, but I couldn’t see that thumping gesture of life and so I asked frantically,
“Do you see a heart beat…please tell me you can see it?”
“Yes Kate, I see it…I see it,” was the stranger’s gentle reply. And then patting my hand gently she said…”I read your chart.”
At that, I released a breath I think I had been holding onto for a month and the tears started to come. I sat in my doctor’s office after that and I shared the fear that has been swelling and she said to me, “Every time that fear comes Kate, you have to give it to Jesus. You can’t give the enemy room to work.” (Yes my doctor is a believer and a family friend). At her words I realized I had been trying to ignore the fear instead of facing it…and the fear was growing.
In the days since, I have been praying and meditating on my fear and the peace I long to have and the memory came of my four-year-old John John marching up the sidewalk chanting power. Chanting peace. Chanting the presence of God and the trust it requires to expel fear. And it worked. Truth bought his freedom that day and the rest of the year. I want to march with that kind of confidence up the sidewalk of my life. I want to claim peace and live forward with my fears bowed to the One who is good, the One who is perfect love in the midst of all uncertainty and even disaster.
Yesterday as I was praying about all of this- an image came that seized me. I saw an enormous, venomous looking monster staring directly at me. Blood was dripping from his mouth and I was his next victim. But then he twitched in such a strange, mechanical way that I realized, he wasn’t real. His feet were firmly planted- he was an object, a statue. I began laughing and I tipped this monster over and kept walking joyfully along.
Fear is a road block, intended to keep us from moving forward with the life God intends for us to live, in the way He wants us to live it. I once heard a preacher say that fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real…how true. Fear is a thief and a robber to the joy, peace and hope God intends for His trusting children to be upheld by.
For me fear is both an inward and an outward battle. Inward because, the worst has happened to me before. It’s therefore not an irrational fear. It’s now within my realm of possibility to lose a child. But it is also outward:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.” John 10:9-10 (NIRV)
In both instances of fear, I must call on the name of Jesus to rescue me. I must stand up to the enemy and proclaim whose I am and to tip over the mechanical devil that uses fear to paralyze me. I must present my fears to Jesus, and I must walk away from my nightmares and day terrors running in the direction of the cross, because perfect love casts out fear! (1 John 4:18) When I embed myself in His presence and envelop myself in His arms…I am safe from all of the fears that aim their venom at me. Of course this doesn’t mean I am free from all calamity, or suffering. That is obviously not true. But living in fear of those things is a debilitating and caged way to encounter life.
So many of you have written to me, and so I know, I am not alone in this fear battle. Perhaps you fear every moment your child is not in your grasp or sight. Perhaps you fear being alone or being abandoned. Perhaps you fear, like I do, the loss of a child. Perhaps you fear depression and seasons of great sadness that rob you of yourself. Perhaps you fear a diagnosis. Perhaps you fear your own grief or anger at God. Perhaps you fear a physical enemy…an evil strike against you or your loved ones.
It’s true, there is so much to fear and yet, what does fear add to our lives? What protection or avoidance can we achieve over circumstances outside of our control? My answer to this type of fear is this: trade knowing fear with knowing the One who gives peace and provision in the midst of this poisoned world. His perfect love expels fear (1 John 4:18) and that is how I want to live- so immersed in His love that fear cannot reduce me. But it does take aggressive measures. We do have to be willing to fight. We have to be willing to face it, not bury it. We have to be willing to pursue and to intimately know Jesus, the giver of peace!
So with a nightmare hours behind me and a glowing piece of paper tucked in my pocket, my chin is lifted high and I am marching ahead, marching into the second trimester of this pregnancy, chanting with John…
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you…”