I am not always aware of the fear “napping” in my soul. The other day I was reminded. Let me tell you a story about me that I’d rather not, but know I need to. It’s a “soul-selfie” in it’s most un-doctored form; the kind that makes you look like you just rolled out of bed.
I was having lunch with a friend the other day. Feeling pretty normal and unflustered about life. All was well. As I stood up to leave, a person who I have felt very wounded by got in line. She didn’t see me. I had a moment where my stomach flipped over, but she didn’t see me so I wished her well in my head and headed to empty my tray. “That wasn’t so bad”, I thought. “Maybe I am getting better at this forgiveness thing”. As I turned around, I caught a glimpse of someone joining her, who was a part of the falling out. She was heading for the exact area I needed to go to empty my tray. I paused, prayed, and proceeded to walk over, meet her at the door and say, “Hey there. Nice to see you. Hope you and your family are well. Have a great day!”.
Oh wait…that’s what I wish I. would have done. Or at least something in that vein. Instead, what I did do, was ran. I saw her coming and without any pausing or praying, I proceeded to shove my tray into my confused lunch-date’s hands and said, “Please throw this away for me, I gotta go!”, and I fled to my car and locked the doors (for extra protection). I was reacting out of a fearful spirit that I thought I had overcome.
Here are some of my thoughts on fear as I unpacked this event in my head a couple days later; Oh, the crystal clear benefits of hindsight.
I have a visual of what fear looks like that helps me see it for what it is. Let’s call it a “he” for the sake of this blog. He is a little imp, devilish and devious, who behaves like a toddler having a tantrum. He is out of control, bigger and stronger than even a grown adult can handle most days, confounding to those around him, exhausting, raging with chaos, all-consuming, exasperating, bulldozing and bratty and mean. When he is like that, I do a lot of praying and meditating and reading and talking to counselors and mentors and friends to get him calmed down. I have been doing that consistently for the past several years. I actually thought I might have have finally given him the big heave-ho.
But then…then something happens and I realize that he wasn’t gone at all, he was just napping on my living room floor. I had been tip-toeing around him so as not to disturb him. Like we do when a child finally wears themselves out and falls asleep in their car seat. Side note — my parents often tell me the story of a time I was inconsolably crying and fussing (when I was little, not like, yesterday, just to clarify) while traveling (as I screamed and raged on blankets on the floor of the back seat because that was way before seat belts mattered) When I finally wore myself out enough to fall asleep, they didn’t dare risk waking me up by stopping to change drivers so they made the switch while in motion. Fear is kind of like that. He seems harmless and small while sleeping, but when he gets disrupted, run for the hills. I realized that though I thought he was gone, he was really just taking time out to recuperate. I forgot about Fear, and when I wasn’t paying good attention, I tripped over him and woke a sleeping giant.
So–how do I deal with this Fear guy? Can I kill Him once and for all so I can stop scanning rooms for people I might need to flee from? Let me say that I have done hundreds of hours of work in an effort to rid myself of Fear, but so far, my best efforts have just lulled him to sleep. What I am finally realizing through much reading, prayer and open-mindedness, is that he is impervious to death but eviction is a strong possibility. As author Beth Moore puts it, I have been focusing more on the strength of my stronghold than the strength of my God.
I have left a cushy place for Fear to rest instead of filling my “house” with more considerate and helpful guests like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, trust, bravery, forgiveness, compassion, grace, self-control, passion, faithfulness. When those inhabit my spaces, Fear gets squished out. There’s simply no room for him.
I have a few ideas about how to make this shift in my life. I’ll get back to you on those in a few days. For now, I will begin by NOT giving Fear more attention than he deserves. He’s already monopolized this entire blog. Enough of that already. I’ll be in touch soon.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about THOSE things. (Philippians 4:8)