Sometimes I feel like I spend my life pretending to be unafraid.
Fear has always plagued me. I don’t know if it treats everyone this way, but I feel like it accompanies me everywhere. On a happy, joyous night, it lurks in the corners, reminding me these times are fleeting, and could end without warning. On a night when I am weak or vulnerable, it sits down and makes itself at home, sprawling out among the contours of my mind, until I can’t see straight. So I try to pretend it’s mind over matter, a mental game, an opponent I can outwit. But fear is a sly and wily fox, and one noise, one missed call, one bad dream can send me down its spiraling tube.
I don’t know what causes it. Maybe it’s the scares we’ve faced in health and in close calls- cancer, tumors, car accidents. Maybe it’s even in the wake of sickness, when the person is well, and there is room to fear its return. Maybe it’s the pull I feel to fill in the unknown, and the presupposition that what is unknown is bad.
I can remember one night when I was eight years old, unable to sleep for fear. A cold, dark shadow of the unknown, the uncertain, of loss, of dread, of what happens after death, plagued my tiny mind until any feeling of “good” or “safe” felt like a put out lamp. My sweet dad heard my crying, and came in to see what was the matter. After listening to my doubts, my worries, my questions of who was God, he took me over to my second story window to watch the sinking sun.
He told me to pretend that he was holding me in a fireman’s grip over the window, and I was dangling by that one arm. He said, suppose I got tired, and let go of his arm- what would happen? I looked out the window and back at him. Nothing, I knew, because he would still be holding me. And, as my father, would he look at my hand, and see that I grew weary, and let go in return? I knew the answer- no. He loved me too much to drop me.
Sometimes I wonder how I’ve been a Christian so long, and can still fall back into that eight year old night of paralyzing fear. I wonder how, one moment, I can know such a powerful truth, and feel it throughout my bones, and the next, be shriveled in a great ball of worry, too consumed with what if to cling to what is.
But, in every time I’ve let go, grown weary, wondered or doubted, I still haven’t hit the ground. Somehow, I am still hanging by that second story window, still being held by a Father much stronger. He’s got me, he loves me, and I cannot put myself outside of it.
There are hands beneath me, which grab and pull, and try to make fear consume. A battle for my soul, and were I my only ally, I know it would be long past over. But there is another who speaks for me, and who fights on my behalf.
Fear can fight and claw at my shoes. It can hang onto my leg and cause me to look down, to take my eyes away from what is real and true. I am often too weak, too feeble, to resist its temptation and imagination. But fear cannot take me farther than that. I’m still hanging out that window in a fireman’s grip, held fast by the love of my Father.
And, judging by the firmness of that grip, it doesn’t seem like he’s letting go anytime soon.
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation.”- II Samuel 23:47