I have a confession. I used to be afraid of the dark. I’m not talking about as a 6-year-old. As a young teenager, I was petrified, but I was usually too ashamed to admit it.
Around the age of 18, I’d outgrown a lot of that, but when alone at home, I’d unexpectedly be filled with terror that someone with ill intent was in our house. I could quote all the scriptures. “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” “Perfect love casts out fear.”
My fears didn’t want to budge.
I can remember contorting around corners and inching around like I was some super spy in a mission impossible movie. It was getting ridiculous, but it was as though I could not break out of this stronghold without doing something radical to draw a line in the sand. So, I did one of the weirdest things I’d never heard of.
I went to the scariest place in the house. In the dark. With my eyes shut.
If you’re wondering where that was, I’ll have you know it was my parent’s walk-in closet. (No judgement, right?)
My heart pounded as though I were in a life-threatening situation. I forced my eyes to stay shut, though they screamed to open, so I could defend myself. I wanted to crouch or put my hands up to box. Instead, I raised my trembling hands to the ceiling and in my shaky voice started to worship God.
Fear lost its grip on me that day. At least that kind. 20 years later, I now realize that there is no season of the soul where fear is not lurking at the door, hoping for the nod. Whether fear raises its head as anxiety over the opinions of others or the landmine of motherhood, fear sure has a funny way of making humans do strange things.
I’ll never forget the hot, summer day my dad almost caught our house on fire. The dry Oklahoma grass out back quickly ignited in a grill incident just inches from our back wall. Although I was in my room and didn’t hear all the commotion that ensued, I learned later that my dad had alerted my mom to call 911. In complete panic, she picked up our home phone (Yes, we still had those.) and asked herself out loud, “What’s the number for 911?!”
We chuckled afterward, but really, I’ve totally done that in some form or another. Can you relate? A life lived in fear is a life lived in flight or fight mode. When fear surfaces in my momma heart, I am prone to kneejerk reactions or obsessing about controlling outcomes. Whether fear is expressed in defensiveness, passivity, aggression or a resolve to be lonely rather than risk our fragile hearts, this much is true: It’s for freedom Christ has set us free. Fear is not our portion. Christ is.
So when fear whispers, I don’t have to shirk in shame because I feel afraid. I can remind myself that Christ has overcome.
When fear rises to the surface, I don’t need to drown out my anxious heart with busyness. I can take an honest look in the mirror, and like a child on her Father’s lap, I can acknowledge and pour out the concerns of my heart.
When anxiety or apprehension impede my clarity, I can opt out of isolation. I can reach out to my spouse, a friend, or a mentor, and take a step of faith to live in community.
Above all else, I can engage with Truth. Every fear, every anxious thought is a royal opportunity to become even more rooted in the Truth that makes men free. I will feast on His Word, ever-living, ever-effective in the battle between my ears. I may not always see the walls come crashing down in front of my eyes, but a life cultivated in Truth is always taking ground, even if we can’t see until later that in those quiet prayers, those bold declarations, those times in His Word, that all along, fear was – and is – losing its grip.