Insipid Fear

April 7th, 2013 Comments

angry CoyoteHardly noticeable at first, it starts small. You wonder what it is, so you strain to listen. Is it just your imagination, or is it real? Suddenly, you’re wide awake, listening to every creak and grown in the house. You wonder if you should be scared, or merely curious? You wonder if what you feel is normal, or if you should be very afraid.

Like a child lying in the dark, you are paralyzed by fear. What is it? What woke you up? No, there’s no intruder, and there is no critter, the voices you hear are in your heart. Imagination? Maybe. Real? Yes. Are you anxious? Absolutely. And afraid. Yet, here in the grasp of your warm bed, there is nothing you can do about these fears. The fears are real – the circumstances that created them, well, maybe you just misinterpreted them. Yes, maybe there is no reason to be afraid – but then again, you are.

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At the age of 14 we visited my great-aunt and uncle in San Bernardino, California. During the Winter months they rented a mobile home in a park that catered to retired folks. I thought it would be fun to sleep on the deck in the warm California Winter. Shortly after midnight I woke up to the sound of coyotes. They yipped, they barked, and they growled. The ferocious beasts were on the move – and they weren’t far away – maybe within a block or two of where I lay in my sleeping bag.

I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me.

I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me. Their predatory noises got louder and I grew more and more terrified. I was scared to even breathe. The door into the house was just three feet away, but I was afraid the terrible coyotes would get me. I lay very still for the next half hour – listening as the coyotes attacked a neighbor’s pet dog (we learned the next day) and unable to move.

Since that night, I’ve learned that coyotes are relatively harmless and I’ve often encountered them in the wild. I’ve even stood next to wild wolves in the Alaskan Wilderness. But too many times, I experienced similar fears in the middle of the night. Often, like with the coyotes, those fears turn out to have no basis in fact or reason. Some situation, circumstance, or event in my life triggers the fear – and it’s usually too big and too ethereal for me to solve at 3:00 am. I am relegated to tossing, turning, and panicking.

It’s an unholy fear – one not based on anything tangible or credible. I cite the Serenity Prayer, I read encouraging scripture, and I cry out for relief. It’s a generational curse, passed on by family and ancestors who went before me. It is irrational, unreasonable, and not worth the effort – but it is real, it is stupefying and paralyzing.

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Last week I was reading in Exodus about the Israelite people leaving Egypt. It’s amazing how new things can pop out of a familiar story. But three things struck me in this story:

  • God took them the wrong way. If they had taken the most direct route to the Promised Land, they would have immediately ran into the Philistines and He knew they weren’t prepared to do battle yet.
  • He deliberately had them “wander” in the desert. It’s been said, “All who wander are not lost.” This was certainly true of the Jewish people right after leaving Egypt. God had them wander to confuse the Egyptians.
  • The people were terrified. Despite all this direct intervention from God Himself, they feared death to the core.
  • God’s plan was executed with precision. The Jews were rescued, the Egyptians were defeated, and it turned out there was never a reason to fear. It was a plan instituted 400+ years earlier, and on this day, it all came together – miraculously.

(OK, four – but who’s counting?)

I experienced something very similar in the last couple of weeks. A plan that was coming together perfectly, for a role I am perfectly suited for, but as the conclusion neared, I, like the Jews, became paralyzed by fear. It was as if I was 14 years old and surrounded by killer coyotes again.

But unlike the past, I did not resort to dysfunctional behaviors or thoughts to hide from the fear. I didn’t deny the fear, I accepted it. I didn’t mask the fear with food, TV, or other insane addictions. I just sought the Lord, surrendered it to Him, and learned to be still in His presence.

I finally came to the point where I accepted death as an option. Would it be painful? Yes. Would I like it? Probably not. But I trusted God to do what was best.

Amazingly, miraculously, in the end, at just the right moment, God came through and I accepted the role that I’ve prepared for  my whole life. Amen.

  • PS: Here’s my most recent experience with coyotes.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. For me waiting produces fear. Somehow when something… anything is happening I see it as things going forward, being dealt with, progress of some sort. But waiting, silence, nothing, just being still.. that is when fear is manifested. And yes, it is generational, but you know what is amazing about that? So is your acceptance of fear, you not denying it, but taking it to God. What a gift for your children! God is incredible in His timing — thanks for the reminder — I need it right now.

    1. gwalter says:

      That is a fascinating insight Celeste – that waiting can produce, or incite fear. I’ve never thought about that, but you’re right.

      Thanks too for the encouragement of breaking cycles and passing on functional thoughts and behaviors to my kids. My Darling 8yo Daughter has some phobias – one being spiders. Lately she’s been imagining spiders in various places – mostly above or in her bed. This will lead her to crying out in fear and being rescued. The other day I told her to turn on her light and check, to face that fear head on, and to crush any spiders she finds. Last night she did just that and ran screaming into our room after she turned on the light and found a real spider on the ceiling. She was terrified.

      I claim this as a victory. She was still scared, but at least she wasn’t afraid to turn on the light.

      Bless you in your forward journey!

  2. My verse for today was Matt. 28:5 – The the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. Instantly I was reminded of all the times God tells us – really commands us – to not be afraid. This tells me it is a common struggle for us as humans. Yet, it is not how our Father wants us to feel or live. I love how God coordinates thoughts for me each morning. The devotional “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young expounded on this today. “You are min for all time; nothing can separate you from My love. Since I have invested My very Life in you, be well assured that I will also take care of you….Each moment you can choose to practice My Presence or to practice the presence of the problems.” God doesn’t just tell me to not be afraid – He offers His presence so I will not fear.

    I find it interesting that the church has so just a list of things that they believe God tells us not to do — some correctly and some from man’s perspective not God’s — but seldom is “fear not” or “do not be afraid” on the list. Yet this command of God is perhaps repeated more than any other in His word.

    Amazing that you are teaching your daughter to face her fears. Just as you – her earthly Dad — is there when the “spider” in her life shows up, may she learn her Heavenly Dad will be too. My heart bleeds for the incorrect view of God I gave my daughter. I pray everyday that He will change that. And when I get the chance, I show her the God I know and love now.

    Bless us all — especially our children as we journey forward together.

    1. gwalter says:

      Great thought! And you’re right – I think I read once that there are 365 incidents of God saying “Do not fear.” One for each day of the year.

      And you’re right, of all the things we are told to do, or not to do, rarely is this fear issue addressed. This is why I feel inspired to write about it.

      BTW, God is bigger than our parenting imperfections. And even He, the perfect parent, has children in rebellion. Thanks for the affirmation on my parenting though!!

  3. […] This post originally appeared on Gary’s blog, here. […]

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