Thoughts on Fear

I have been an observer of fear all my life without even realizing it. It has been something that I have thought about more in the recent years as I have noticed the ways fear has manifested itself in me, and within those around me.

Fear is interesting because I think it is good to have a healthy fear of things. Being fearless is just reckless. We ought to have a healthy fear of things around us to keep us safe to a certain extent, and to help aid in providing boundaries. For children, this looks like not touching a hot oven or running into the street. As children grow up, this fear turns into common sense and wise caution as they realize what actions they should participate in that will provide the best outcome for them (ie: Not to get hit by a car by avoiding the street). To this day, Caleb tests limits on running in the parking lot, stepping into the street, and whatever else he can do to live it up in his little life. The child is chalk full of determination, wit, and bravery. Right now, he is afraid of the dark. He didn't used to be, but this began during his third year of life. He has a night light on, and has to have his door open when he goes to bed at night. I tell him that Jesus is with him, and he doesn't have to be afraid, but I have no idea how helpful that really is for him. I don't want to aid fears and give them power, but I also understand how it is completely normal within his development to experience these things.

Caleb showed me a healthy fear that he has when he climbed up a tree with my help at the Irvine Regional Park. He sat up there in the branches, having met his goal of doing what he saw the big boys before him did. He told me that he was scared, and that God wasn't with him. I told him that God have him the bravery and determination to climb that tree, and then I helped him down. Once he was back at the base of the tree, he told me that God was with him again. I hope as he grows, he internalizes that just as God was with him in his safe place at the base of that tree, he is also with him in the fear. As he grows up and his fears change and evolve with him, I hope to show Caleb that while it is okay to be afraid, we shouldn't give fear a hold in our lives.

Sometimes the things that bring us fear, paralyzes us in some ways, like phobias. These are irrational fears that can cripple us in ways that don't make sense to other people. These fears are forces in the lives of those who struggle with them, but not at all an issue to the others in their lives. It can be very frustrating to have phobia. I have had Emetophobia, which is the fear of throwing up. When I was a child, I remember hiding in my closet as my sister threw up in the bathroom. Interestingly enough, I handle actually throwing up with the way I handle any bad thing. I just deal with it. But the fear of it happening to me or others, is what was really the issue of this irrational fear I have had. And this is something I really struggled with. One time I was in our dorm in Engstrom at APU. Jessie mentioned she was feeling sick, and I panicked. I began packing a bag and thought, "Heck, if she is going to be throwing up here, I am taking off." I was about ready to drive back to Orange County to get away from her and all that nastiness. Then she asked me what I was doing, "Packing a bag", I said. She laughed pretty hard as she realized what I was doing and she told me she didn't mean she was getting the stomach flu. I have lots of stories to show this irrational fear as played out in my life. And I have done so much better with this now. Phobias are an obviously extreme example of fear. But there are lots of common fears, like fear of heights or even gross spiders.

I think the crux of what concerns me about fear, is the place we give it in our lives and the way it filters our vision of people and the world. Through the lens of fear, we see less of the humanity of people, and more of what we perceive might be scary about them based off of some differences in their appearance. I also think that fear affects the way we respond to people and how we might treat them. Fear affects our reactions to varying situations, and the way we handle ourselves and what is going on. Depending how prominently we live with fear in our lives and if we do, it can affect all of these very important things without us even realizing it.

Right now, there is no greater example then with what happened in Georgia on Tuesday where a woman was able to talk a gunman down from shooting in the school. She felt fear, absolutely. But she spoke out into this mans humanity, and reasoned him down from committing a horrific act. She did not respond out of her fear by freaking out, or showing this fear to him. She emphasized with him by sharing her story. She shared her love. You can read about it here: Click. This example might be more extreme, since it is not every day we encounter people like that, but even in the way we view the people we encounter in varying situations makes a difference. Is it through a filter of love or seeking of beauty? Or judgement or criticism? Or fear? Most likely all of them, since we are only human. Haha

I know someone dearly who is in her mid thirties, and afraid of the dark. It's not like a phobia, but she has told me before that she will turn off the lights, and run out of the room. I think in instances like that, being intentional in choosing not to be afraid is worthwhile. Stand in the dark. Try to talk yourself down off of what is scary about the situation. I have done this before. I realized how creepy the dark was and how I didn't like being alone at at home at night. Before Caleb, I had always lived with other people. First family, then roommates. Then when Caleb came along and we got our own apartment, it was the first time I was alone every night. The dark became spookier, and being alone was more unnerving than I had ever remembered experiencing. I didn't like this role change of fear that I noticed within me. I knew there was nothing to be afraid of. And I made it a point to sit with this fear. In the dark. And be okay. I didn't let myself run out of a dark room, I walked just as I would during the day. And I worked passed it to where I was fine with myself alone in the house and in the dark. I took those fears captive, and it was a lot easier to than it was with my phobia.

I guess my point is, I have made an effort to not live out of fear. I wont allow myself to be afraid over things like a helicopter flying overhead with a search light. This has happened a number of occasions actually. One time, the spotlight shinned right onto my apartment and right on my balcony. I just got up, made sure the door was locked, and kept watching my movie. There's no need to react out of fear or be afraid, just cautious. Conducting our lives in a manner with prudence and caution is important and wise. We don't need to live out of fear. I haven't felt like a really fearful person, maybe because I have felt God with me. Or maybe because I am usually unphased by a lot of things that happen. I certainly have fear, and I think we all do. But it manifests differently for all of us. And being scared over little things that might be more frivolous, only spreads fear to our children and even those around us. Perhaps saying frivolous is unfair, because fear is relative to the person who has it. But either way, some things, we really can overcome. I think in this way, we can walk with more assurance, confidence, and freedom.  Living in a way that is not driven by fear is freeing. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. It's okay to be scared, because we are human, and it is part of the human experience. I just think that we should check on the role we give fear in our lives, and how that affects our response to people, the world, our children, and ourselves. Perhaps this can help in not allowing fear to have a role in providing limitations in our livelihood.

I grew up in a very fearful home and never realized it. Now I see it clearly, and to this day, struggle with some of those realities. I also struggle with the family members in my home who still emanate fear. I have to block it out, and work to not further spread the fear they pour out.

The words of Psalm 91 come to mind as I think about fear-

[He who dwells in the Lord, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. Surely, he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness..." ]

I also love this part of Psalm 139. It may not be meant to talk about fear, but these words are a reminder of God with us, and it has made me feel less afraid before.

[Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if i settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I saw, "Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me, " even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.]

In the bible, there are over 300 verses about fear. I haven't read them all. Whatever I have read has just been happenstance. But it seems true that God really hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but of sound mind and wants us to live not of out fear, but love and wisdom.